Assessing HCD Maturity

image of maturity model rubric

The Brief

The Center for Clinical Standards and Quality (CCSQ) Information Systems Group (ISG), within the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), is pursuing a strategic goal to improve both the user and the employee's experiences by designing, aligning, and optimizing operations to improve customer experiences. In addition to ISG's divisional goals, the White House has set forth similar expectations in OMB Circular No. A-11 (2020) Section 280—Managing Customer Experience and Improving Service Delivery. The guidance specified establishes a more consistent, comprehensive, robust, and deliberate approach to customer experience across government.

ISG incorporated human-centered design (HCD) as a process and mindset in 2017, along with the use of SAFe agile. An essential part of Agile is continuous improvement, which requires continual investment in time and reflection to improve.

What I did

Rob led an initiative to assess CCSQ IT Product & Support Teams (CIPST) to determine how Lean UX and HCD practices are integrated within product, program, and service development teams.

Ideally, this initiative aimed to measure design value and impact at scale, not only towards products but also towards services and policies. The adoption of HCD is the shared responsibility that traverses contracts, contractors, and federal employees alike in this public ecosystem at CMS.

Once the model and rubric were defined, his team identified a number of product teams comprised of both federal employees and contractors. The team utilized a three-step approach:

  • Develop a custom maturity model. Requirements included designing a model that will fit the unique context of CMS and its contractor partners. The maturity model encompassed stakeholders' roles surrounding user experience of products, services, and policies. As a scalable model, it can apply when assessing design adoption within product development teams or the customer-centricity of a large organization like CMS.
  • Complete assessments with stakeholders. As part of the evaluation, the team interviewed CIPST representatives to provide insight into the degree of cultural adoption and application of HCD. In most instances, they met with three people from each team: the HCD lead, the agile release train point of contact, and the CMS point of contact.
  • Identify insights and share them with teams. The team applied an HCD synthesis methodology to make sense of the qualitative interviews. The synthesis process identified insights, themes, and identifying opportunities for continuous improvement at the team and enterprise levels.


There are multiple development organizations with tens of scrum teams at various levels of maturity. The team assessed these contractor organizations with the intent that they can use the findings to become more productive, adjust behaviors, and plan for continued growth to be more successful. As an enterprise, ISG can leverage the framework to understand organizational opportunities better and improve the usability and cost-effectiveness of its products, processes, and customer experiences. For more, see the 1.30s mark of the following video:

Future outcomes may include:

  • Increasing the predictability of a positive user experience for products and services across CCSQ.
  • Using the assessments as a baseline and method to meet the ISG goal of continuous improvement.
  • Launching an annual assessment to determine if any changes were successful and to continue process improvements.

To learn more, download the white paper.