Illinois Department of Human Services keeps caseworker focus on clients

The agency extends its mainframe with IBM ECM software to unbury caseworkers from piles of paper

Published on 27-Apr-2012

"With completion of Phase1 of the IBM ECM solution deployment, the time spent retrieving case history documents has gone from minutes to seconds, improving both caseworker productivity and service to our clients." - John Rigg, bureau chief, Illinois Department of Human Services

Customer:
Illinois Department of Human Services

Industry:
Government

Deployment country:
United States

Solution:
Enterprise Content Management

Overview

Facing tight budgets, states nationwide seek ways to contain costs. A common dilemma is technology innovation. The latest software and systems promise breakthrough process efficiencies that can generate cost savings. However, it is not financially feasible to replace systems that continue to reliably support critical services. IBM helps state agencies, such as the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS), take advantage of new technologies by building out from their mainframes and other proven systems.

Business need:
Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) had more than 100 million pieces of paper stored in case files at its local offices and warehouses, taking up space and reducing caseworker productivity.

Solution:
IBM Enterprise Content Management (ECM) Lab Services helped the agency design and implement an electronic document solution that integrates IBM ECM software with the DHS mainframe system.

Benefits:
After completing Phase 1 deployment, caseworker time spent retrieving files has gone from minutes to seconds and DHS is on track to save more than USD1 million annually by digitizing nearly seven million pages of documents.

Case Study

Facing tight budgets, states nationwide seek ways to contain costs. A common dilemma is technology innovation. The latest software and systems promise breakthrough process efficiencies that can generate cost savings. However, it is not financially feasible to replace systems that continue to reliably support critical services. IBM helps state agencies, such as the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS), take advantage of new technologies by building out from their mainframes and other proven systems.

The DHS is one of the largest state agencies in Illinois, with more than 13,000 employees and an annual budget exceeding USD5.4 billion. Illinois created the DHS in 1997 to provide state residents with streamlined access to integrated services designed to help people striving to move from welfare to work and economic independence and those who face multiple challenges to self-sufficiency. Illinois provides these services through 100 Family and Community Resource Centers (FCRC) across the state.

Buried in paper
When constituents applied for benefits at local DHS FDRCs, the process produced a tremendous amount of paper. In addition to documents verifying eligibility, the agency had to keep historical records of applicant visits and on the clearance process itself.

In 2010, the agency estimated that nearly 100 million pieces of paper were stored in manila folders, either at the local offices or warehouses throughout the state. The files took up space and the paper-based processes impeded caseworker focus on customers.

Addressing the problem
The number of documents made it difficult to justify moving to electronic forms. It was not feasible to scan an image of each page and assign metadata to index the information for later retrieval.

In 2010, the agency adopted a “going-forward strategy.” Instead of attempting to scan all of the existing printed documents, DHS assessed the costs and benefits of simply digitizing new documents created at the front end of the benefit eligibility determination process.

Creating new value from the mainframe
DHS sought a content management solution that could effectively integrate with Concurrent, the agency’s 30-year-old COBOL-based mainframe client service system. “We simply didn’t have the resources to replace that entire system,” says Doug Kasamis, chief information officer for DHS. “We had to find a way to integrate the latest technology to capture metadata and store and manage electronic documents and enable ready access to PDFs of those documents on the caseworker desktops.”

The agency already had an IBM Enterprise Content Management (ECM) software license agreement with IBM through its sister agency, Illinois Central Management Services (CMS). DHS was able to extend the CMS agreement to acquire the additional licenses for an electronic document solution.

Eliminating paper a step at a time
DHS contracted with IBM ECM Lab Services early on in the solution design process. An immediate concern was project scope. The Concurrent system enabled creation of 27 forms to support DHS administrative activities. However, as John Rigg, DHS bureau chief, explains, “We understood fairly quickly when we started looking at document volume that digitizing 27 forms wasn’t going to fly right out of the gate. We needed to come back with some scaled-down scope for a Phase 1 deployment.”

Based on a reassessment and recommendations from the ECM Lab Services team, the project was scaled back to address three forms critical to the eligibility determination process: Calculation Sheets (Calcs), the Combined Application Form (CAF) and the Form 514 chronological record of case processing. To build the solution, the project team added metatags to fields on each form. The tags corresponded to data captured in the Concurrent system. The ECM Lab Services team then helped code the tools and interface to integrate ECM software with the mainframe and create demos to test the solution.

Rapid deployment
By November 2010, the agency was ready for implementation. The system was designed as node-based with 15 servers at locations throughout Illinois. Deployment progressed by node, with web-based training and assistance from the ECM Lab Services team members. “For each node, we trained caseworkers one day and, in most cases, implemented the software on the next. We were fully deployed by December. It was one of our most successful deployments in the past five years, causing minimal disruption. And user acceptance and adoption was almost immediate,” says Rigg.

Today, approximately 2,000 caseworkers use the system. When a customer contacts the agency, a caseworker goes through a series of questions and inputs the responses into a dynamic Concurrent green-screen form. Based on the information provided, the system determines program eligibility and automatically generates the appropriate documents. The resulting documentation can be anywhere from seven to 28 pages long.

At this point, the ECM solution efficiencies begin. The Concurrent system automatically sends out print streams, which previously went to a local office laser printer. Now, the streams are intercepted and sent through IBM Content Manager software, which assigns metadata and stores the electronic forms in a central repository for later retrieval. Concurrently, IBM Content Manager OnDemand software converts the form to PDF format using an interface developed by the IBM team. The resulting document is accessible on the case manager’s desktop computer in near real time.

Greater than anticipated cost savings
Phase 1 of the ECM software implementation is saving a higher volume of printing than expected. Calcs, CAFs and Form 514s are now automatically filed as PDF files in an electronic customer case file.

“As part of our business case projection, we thought that these eligibility determination process forms represented approximately one-third of an estimated total print volume of roughly six million pages annually. However, based on two months’ performance, the new system has already generated 1.2 million pages of electronic documents—approximately 600,000 per month. So right now we’re on track to save the state over seven million pieces of paper annually. And that’s just by digitizing the first three of 27 forms,” says Kasamis.

In 2010, the cost for printing in local offices on small laser printers was more than USD600,000 per month. The projected annual savings with Phase 1 of the new system exceeds USD1 million in consumable printer supply costs. “Once DHS fully deploys the IBM solution to include the remaining 24 forms, the agency expects that savings to grow substantially. Our IBM ECM solution is providing a payback of three months,” says Kasamis.

Keeping caseworkers focus on clients
Not having to print documents gives caseworkers more time to dedicate to customers. Many caseworkers do not have a printer near their desks. To complete case processing in the past, the caseworkers had to go to the nearest printer, make sure every page was there and printed correctly, come back and incorporate the forms into the case files. If those files were not at the caseworkers’ desks, more time was lost searching the file room.

Now, after inputting new customer data, caseworkers pull up completed forms on their computer screens. “Time spent retrieving case history documents has gone from minutes to seconds, improving both caseworker productivity and service to our clients,” says Rigg.

Freeing up space
DHS expects to digitize the remaining 24 forms in the next 18 months, helping enable a much more efficient workspace at local community offices. After eliminating paper at the front end, the agency will start retiring document file cabinets and warehouse space every year.

“From a records retention policy perspective, we have to store files for five years. Approximately 20 percent of our files are purged annually. Assuming at least 15 percent of that volume will not be replaced with new paper, we expect to be almost paperless within the local offices in a little over five years,” says Kasamis.

This means major reductions in storage and filing costs. Based on recent figures for lease costs per square foot provided by CMS, current print volume fills approximately 24 five-drawer filing cabinets per day. Floor space lease cost for these cabinets alone is more than USD750,000 annually. In addition, the agency expects to reclaim space and further reduce expenses by phasing out expensive-to-operate printers, copiers, faxes and scanners.

Streamlining records retention and auditing
When DHS staff members had to locate and search through paper files, gathering information for state and federal audits was arduous. Electronic records allow administrative staff members and caseworkers to quickly retrieve case files without undue disruption to normal work.

In addition, purging records will be much easier. It will no longer be necessary to locate each physical case file and determine when each piece of paper in the file was produced. The ECM solution streamlines document lifecycle management, with automatic alerts to approvers when a form is scheduled to be retired and immediate desktop access to the electronic copy.

“Our success is attracting the attention of other agencies in the state. We’re getting inquiries from Central Management Services and the Procurement Policy Board. We’ve spoken with colleagues at the Department of Corrections and Healthcare and Family Services. They want to understand what we’ve done and how they might benefit from a similar initiative,” says Rigg.

For more information
To learn more about IBM Enterprise Content Management, please contact your IBM marketing representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit the following website: ibm.com/software/data/content-management

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

Software:
Content Manager, Content Manager OnDemand for Multiplatforms

Service:
Software Services for ECM

Legal Information

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