REDMOND, Wash., and WASHINGTON — Nov. 14, 2012 — The American Public Human Services Association (APHSA), in coordination with Microsoft Corp., today released the results of a new survey of health and human services departments and agencies nationwide. The report, “A Promising Future for HHS Transformation — The Real Impact of IT System Modernization,” includes survey findings that identify the expectations, strategies and practices that health and human services (HHS) agencies use for the planning, acquisition and implementation of their information technology (IT) systems.
APHSA and Microsoft surveyed 67 agency program leaders from 35 states at various stages of modernizing their HHS IT systems, from those who have implemented solutions for eligibility determination and benefit issuance, case management, and online self-service to those who had not yet modernized. The survey focuses on capturing the agencies’ experience with organizational transformation planning efforts, the agencies’ system life-cycle challenges, and the impact and benefits the agencies experienced from IT modernization. The results revealed that with dynamic executive leadership, due diligence and solid program management practices, departments are seeing incremental benefits expected of IT modernization, but a number of challenges remain. With those challenges, a bright path exists to achieve the desired business benefits for transformation through the promise of today’s technology.
The key takeaways from the survey are as follows:
• Forty-three percent of agencies have implemented a new HHS IT system within the past 10 years.
• Fifty-seven percent have not modernized, yet most (55 percent) plan to do so over the next three to five years.
• Nineteen percent of respondents had no plans to modernize, mainly due to lack of funding.
• Of the states planning to modernize, approximately 22 percent are very likely to consider the cloud for future system deployment.
• Forty percent of agencies surveyed experienced an implementation timeframe of more than three years when implementing a new system. Long timeframes generally correlate to agencies with a larger number of business rules and practices to re-engineer complex IT environments with multiple legacy systems, requiring extensive training and support. States with larger constituent populations also report longer implementation timeframes, but the programs themselves (e.g., Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Child Welfare, etc.) did not have a direct correlation.
Benefits and Expectations
• State agencies planning to modernize (55 percent) expect a new system to meet about 63 percent of their needs in the areas of customer-centricity, improved self-service and improved decision-making.
A full report and APHSA webinar on the survey findings can be found at http://www.aphsa.org.
Of the states that modernized, 100 percent cited the need to extend system functionality with nondevelopers, and 80 percent felt the amount of required customization and interoperability across programs and systems was not in line with expectations. These deficiencies were perceived as factors that lead to project delays and contract and scope modifications.
“State human service agencies average spending $40 million over a three-year implementation timeframe, but the time has never been more opportune to benefit from IT advances to achieve the mission of HHS agencies,” said Tracy Wareing, APHSA executive director. “As an organization, we are committed to sharing best practices with one another to ensure that human service agencies are achieving the outcomes we seek.”
Modernization Best Practices
The agencies surveyed also outlined the reasons for their successes, as well as key learnings on the planning and implementation of HHS IT systems:
• Leadership and effective cross-boundary communication is a bedrock requirement to effectively leverage technology. Today’s technology can help facilitate effective communication throughout and across organizations. However, it can only do so when organizations define clear goals for communication and work together to support implementation of the technical tools.
• Technology must be nimble and responsive to change. HHS environments are dynamic and changing rapidly. IT solutions must be able to adapt effectively to this constant change.
• Gaining cost efficiencies requires the use of benchmarks and measurement. IT deployments are long-term projects, typically taking years to complete. To ensure that projects stay on track and focused on the original, key deliverables, it is critical to define benchmarks and track against them.
“Many states are taking a forward-thinking and visionary approach to transforming their programs and modernizing IT systems,” said Laura Caliguiri, managing director, U.S. Public Sector Health and Human Services, Microsoft. “Human services agencies are leveraging technology advancements and best practices, enabling an incremental strategy to ensure immediate benefits from the new systems and are able to accommodate policy and program changes.”
States Achieving Intended Benefits of IT Modernization Efforts
IT can play a pivotal role in government redesign, delivering on strategies to connect systems and streamline data to eliminate redundancies, reduce costs and increase efficiencies of HHS, and several states are already seeing improved outcomes due to these advancements.
Florida’s Office of Early Learning and the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) are using Microsoft Dynamics CRM, a customer relationship management solution that can improve access, quality and efficiency in the financing and delivery of HHS programs. By building a foundation that can be configured to work the way an agency needs it to, whether it is on-premises or in the cloud, to help streamline processes, reduce costs, and improve staff productivity and citizen service, agencies and case workers have access to enhanced visibility, streamlined processes, and improved coordination and outcomes.
Florida’s Office of Early Learning is working with HP to deliver the Early Learning Information System (ELIS), built on Microsoft Dynamics CRM, for the enhancement of the state’s early learning programs. ELIS is a consolidated information system that manages the early learning programs used by 300,000 Florida families whose children attend the Voluntary Prekindergarten Education and School Readiness programs. The benefits of ELIS will include streamlined administrative processes, reduced potential for fraud and overpayments, data-sharing capabilities across multiple stakeholders, and easy access to child care resource and referral information.
The Tennessee DIDD selected Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Mid-America Consulting Group to help the organization operate more effectively with greater transparency, greater accountability and reduced costs — ultimately delivering greater value for the taxpayer. Most important, the Tennessee DIDD hopes to provide greater protection and significantly improve the lives of the people and families who depend on its services.
More information on states achieving the intended benefits of IT modernization can be found here.
APHSA is a bipartisan, nonprofit organization representing appointed state and local health and human service agency commissioners. APHSA is the only association of the nation’s top government human service executives, including states, the District of Columbia, and the territories, their key state program managers, and hundreds of county-level human service directors nationwide.
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