Consulting company sets 26-month timeline for Kansas unemployment insurance modernization


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TOPEKA — The company brought in to direct modernization of the beleaguered Kansas unemployment insurance system is plotting an ambitious course with a timeline of 26 months.

Tata Consultancy Services, an information technology consulting company, was brought on to address a mainframe relied upon by the Department of Labor since the 1980s. A flood of unemployment claims during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent fraudulent claims pushed the system to the limit, prompting legislators to seek immediate updates.

Jai Siani, the unemployment insurance program executive for TCS, laid out the timeline, a one-phase approach, to the Unemployment Compensation, Modernization and Improvement Council on Tuesday.

Some members of the panel were skeptical.

“I started doing this when you still had to mail and fax stuff and faxing was rare, so I’ve seen all these systems come up and I’ve yet to see one that comes up in 26 months,” said Jeff Oswald, a member of the council. “Have you met that goal yet?”

“We have not done any of the previous implementations in 26 months, but based on what we have learned from those implementations and the specific understanding that we had for Kansas, we are confident 26 months is what it will take for us,” Siani responded.

The IT consultant and services company contracted has worked with several other states — Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Mississippi, New York and Wyoming — to modernize systems. 

John Griffin, director of Americas business development for TCS, noted Wyoming had a turnaround time of 31 months. Griffin told the council its input would be key in representing not only what the state is looking for but what the people of Kansas may want.

“Big projects fail because of a lack of visibility and a lack of governance,” Griffin said. “This council is part of that governance process, so that there’s a regular routine, reporting on schedule on risks and on issues.”

TCS’s parent company and headquarters are in Mumbai, which raised questions from legislators like Sen. Caryn Tyson, R-Parker, about who would be working on the project. Griffin assured legislators the intent was to keep work on the project within the country.

Other legislators had questions about the specifics of the forthcoming system.

“I think one of the highest priorities is that this platform has job search capabilities and resumes and tracking individuals as far as job search requirements,” Tarwater said.

Tarwater’s desire falls in line with a recent legislative effort to push Kansans back into the workforce. The veto override of House Bill 2448 will require people ages 18 to 49 without a disability to enroll in a job training program to qualify for federal food assistance.

“In (Mississippi, Maine, Missouri, and Wyoming) we do interface with the workforce system,” Griffin said. “We usually interface with the job search to be able to, so we can bring some of that data together to view it. But it’s not natively part of our system currently.”

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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Derek Nester
Derek Nester
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2021 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.

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