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Posted Tuesday, March 6, 2018 by Rich Bowlen

Life After the Big Bang: Exploring Modular, Agile Paths Toward Health and Human Services (HHS) Modernization [Government Business Council]

The quicker human services agencies can deliver services, the quicker people who rely on those services can begin their path to well-being, stabilization, and safety. However, outdated systems and processes often get in the way. Government Business Council’s report explores how agencies can apply technology and modernize service delivery to meet increasingly complex community needs.

Full summary:

“It’s unacceptable to remain 10 years behind the technology curve—not when there are children and families on the line. We can’t lose sight of that. They’re the whole reason we’re doing this.”

Marc Slager, formerly IT Director, Florida Department of Children and Families

Government Business Council interviewed 17 HHS experts for its “Life After the Big Bang” report that explores how human services agencies can apply technology and modernize service delivery to meet increasingly complex community needs.

Slager and the other experts agree on a point that we often discuss with customers too: when antiquated, inefficient processes make it difficult for families to access vital services, they can end up feeling more frustrated and vulnerable than when they first engaged the agency—which, of course, is the opposite of what human services providers are aiming to do.

Technology can help alleviate the problem, but only if it’s applied in a way that puts the interaction of caseworkers and their clients at the center.

Another excerpt from the report expands on this:

“Professor Stephen Goldsmith of Harvard’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation notes that many HHS systems have been designed as top-down accountability and processing systems: ‘They not only lack the ability to keep up with current technologies, but they also don’t focus on the unit of analysis they should have started with: helping the person in the field do their job better.’

In order to craft useful, sustainable HHS systems, organizations need to think first and foremost about meeting the needs of end-users: on the caseworker side, designing intuitive processes that allow for greater mobility, automation, and information sharing; and on the client side, ensuring an integrated customer experience.”

Ultimately, GBC’s report dives deeper into two models of developing and deploying technology.

One is a more traditional approach (the “big bang” theory) where it can take several years to actually get tools in agencies’ hands. The other is an agile approach that breaks down large projects into several smaller modules, which means caseworkers can use the tools—and deliver value to clients—sooner.

It’s no surprise that many states and localities have begun to prioritize the latter, more user-centric method. However, in doing so, they’ve also brought to light several challenges and roadblocks that organizations must be able to get ahead of in order for it to truly work.

“Life After the Big Bang” discusses these challenges in more detail, plus includes three case studies that highlight how states are navigating the path toward modernization.

Read the report


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