Leave no file behind
Integrators put information in hands of human services professionals<@VM>Big projects, big money<@VM>Curam: Packaged software for human services<@VM>Hot opportunities in human services
- By William Welsh
- Nov 06, 2003
The move to electronic licensing has reduced the load Virginia social services inspector Jeff Williams must carry.
Henrik G. de Gyor
Brian Pierce of BearingPoint (right) worked with Jeff Williams (center) and Mike Meikle of the Virginia Department of Social Services on creating the mobile licensing system, which runs on a Fujitsu tablet computer.
"The human services space ? is still an area where states need to pursue new solutions and projects, but it is not a free flow of money like homeland security." ? Rick Wheeler of Accenture Ltd.
Henrik G. de Gyor
Curam's human services package is expected to "explode" on the marketplace, said John Goggin of Meta Group.
It used to be that Jeff Williams, an inspector with Virginia's Department of Social Services, would have to carry an armload of documents to every child day care center he inspected. Not only did he need a 72-page inspection form for each location, but he also took along a stack of paper containing more than 500 standards for regulating day care centers.
All of that changed earlier this year when inspectors began using the Division of Licensing Programs Help and Information Network system, known as Dolphin. Now Williams carries his entire caseload on a Fujitsu tablet computer running Microsoft's XP Handheld Edition operating system.
While inspecting a site, Williams can review the facility's history and past reports, verify that violations have been corrected, determine whether the facility complies with regulations, and print inspection reports from his portable printer. When he returns to his office, he is able to upload the results to the central database while downloading updates to his caseload.
"In the past, I might have had to go back to the office [after an inspection], but now I have my whole file cabinet with me," Williams said. "A lot of inspectors have found the new system easier than carrying the regulations around with them."
Virginia's Dolphin project embodies many of the latest trends in state and local human services. The five-year project by BearingPoint Inc. of McLean, Va., and its partner, Versa Management Systems Inc. of Toronto, uses commercial software and mobile technology to make it easier for inspectors to generate the reports necessary for the state to regulate the nearly 7,000 facilities that care for children and vulnerable adults.
Everyone on the customer side seems satisfied. The inspectors like it because they can enter data quickly and efficiently, and the department administrators like it because it provides better data for program research.
The project also illustrates another growing trend: For many projects, states are moving away from costly, customized solutions and toward the kind of affordable, modular system enhancements that can generate rapid and obvious returns on investment.
"States aren't looking for vendors to do the big-bang concept," said John Goggin, vice president and director of government strategies for Stamford, Conn.-based market research and consulting firm Meta Group Inc. "Instead, they're looking for best of breed [solutions]."
Despite serious budget shortfalls among the states, spending on human services projects continues to grow because federal or state law mandates many programs, and they receive matching funds from the federal government.
"Most vendors are saying there's never been a better time for human services than now," said Rishi Sood, a principal analyst with market research firm Gartner Dataquest, Stamford, Conn. "The fact that human services continues to grow positively is quite spectacular, given the issues associated with state and local IT spending."
Gartner predicts that state and local spending on IT hardware, software and services for human services will grow from $7.12 billion in 2003 to $8.13 billion in 2006, an average annual growth rate of 4.5 percent.
The bulk of information technology spending for human services is associated with systems that support three large state programs: the welfare-to-work program known as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), child services and child welfare.
[IMGCAP(2)]Other programs such as unemployment insurance and workers compensation, while not considered core human services programs, overlap heavily with these programs because they serve similar segments of the population.
While Gartner's overall outlook for the human services market is rosy, industry executives caution that states are still looking to save money where they can. Even with federal matching funds, the states may have to pay up to 50 percent of the cost for new IT systems, a considerable amount for projects that could run between $20 million and $50 million.
"The human services space ... is still an area where states need to pursue new solutions and projects, but it is not a free flow of money like homeland security," said Rick Wheeler, managing partner of Accenture Ltd.'s health and human services practice.
In the past, state governments shopping for a human services system were encouraged by the federal government to procure systems similar to those implemented successfully in other states, said Yvette Jackson, national lead for BearingPoint's health and human services. But today, states are looking to take an enterprisewide approach by making improvements one module at a time, she said.
"Rather than replacing one stovepipe with another, states are looking across the enterprise," she said.
The trend holds true for BearingPoint's Dolphin project for Virginia, as well as a two-year, $16 million contract the company won in September from Minnesota to improve the state's unemployment insurance system. Under the contract, the company will provide business process re-engineering and technology modernization services.
A pair of Accenture's human services projects also help illustrate this trend. The company recently unveiled two solutions that support an electronic child support system for the New Mexico Department of Human Services. One solution lets employers perform tasks and exchange information electronically, while the other enables parents to do similar tasks electronically.
Accenture also has installed a Web-enabled licensing and support system for the Texas Department of Protective and Licensing Services. It's designed to improve children's safety by Web-enabling the licensing system used to monitor the state's vast network of child care providers.
Covansys Inc., Farmington Hills, Mich., has made modifications to human services systems in Maryland and North Carolina that did not require deploying new systems. The company provided a Web-based front end for Maryland's child support enforcement system, and technical consultation, system enhancements and maintenance for systems in four divisions of the North Carolina Department of Human Services.
The state and local market is experiencing "a wholesale change in the way human services [organizations] look at project implementation," Sood said.
He said the technology for human services programs is moving rapidly toward case-specific, customer-driven applications built on scalable platforms that allow the same architecture to be used across different programs.
Sood said the trend is toward project enhancements that have a customer relationship management or enterprise resource management flavor to them.
[IMGCAP(3)]"This will continue to drive the changes taking place over the next five years, and make it a bright spot for continuing [state and local government] IT spending," he said.
Arvind Malhotra, senior vice president for Covansys' public sector, agreed. With most child support systems having reached maturity, Malhotra said the company is seeing a wave of second-generation, customer-service-type enhancement projects in the $1 million to $10 million range. "We're seeing that trend all over the country," he said.
A natural outgrowth of this trend is the desire of state and local customers to use commercial products for a wide variety of human services programs and applications, including eligibility determination, licensing and unemployment insurance, according to analysts and industry sources.
Human services "is not a sector that has seen a lot of packaged solutions of late, but is now showing an interest in them," Wheeler said.
From a long-term standpoint, integrators are eyeing opportunities for welfare outsourcing and for interstate child support enforcement.
While welfare eligibility outsourcing is not widely permitted, some states, such as Florida and Texas, are quickly moving in that direction. Several integrators, notably Accenture, ACS and EDS, are poised to capitalize on this opportunity as it unfolds over the next several years.
Integrators also see future opportunities centered on the data shared by states that is related to child support enforcement, said John Engler, president of EDS' state and local government business. States want to make sure that parents who are responsible for paying child support do so even if they live in another state. With the increasing number of single-parent homes, a growth opportunity exists for integrators to help states collect child support enforcement across their borders, he said.
"There are so many people that are mobile now," he said. "There is an opportunity for the bigger companies to look at how to do that linkage better."
Staff Writer William Welsh can be reached at wwelsh@postnewsweek
While states are moving toward smaller systems, some types of work still lend themselves to large-scale projects. Some states, for example, are looking to establish standard platforms and applications to support multiple social services programs.
Accenture Ltd. of Hamilton, Bermuda, won a 13-year, $453 million contract this year from a consortium of four Southern California counties, known as C-IV, to provide an automated human services information system. Once completed, the new system will support eligibility determination for a wide variety of human services programs.
Both Louisiana and New Jersey are scheduled to award contracts for enterprisewide or consolidated human services systems later this year, according to analysts and industry officials.
Electronic Data Systems Corp. of Plano, Texas, is hoping to sell to other states an integrated benefits management system that the company has provided to the Colorado Department of Human Services, said John Engler, president of EDS' state and local government business.
The company won an eight-year, $92 million contract three years ago to design, develop and operate an integrated eligibility determination system to replace six separate systems. The system will support eligibility determination and case management for programs such as food stamps, TANF, Medicaid and Child Health Plan Plus.
The system is in the testing phase and is scheduled to go statewide next year, the company said.
Another large opportunity is for child support payment processing contracts that funnel payments from individuals and employers through a central unit.
Affiliated Computer Services Inc. provides child support payments management for 15 states, including Florida, Illinois, New York, Ohio, and Texas. Among the company's largest wins are a three-year, $109 million contract with the Illinois Department of Public Aid, and a six-year, $234 million contract with the Ohio departments of Administrative Services and Job and Family Services to operate the state's child support collection and disbursement unit.
ACS has second generation, Web-based projects for electronic benefits transfer for human services programs with Arkansas, Iowa and Maine. The company also is working with a number of states to provide disbursement services for child support payments via a "stored value" card solution, which functions like a prepaid debit card.
A number of systems integrators are finding steady business providing child support enforcement solutions that withhold income for child support, maintain and track required documents, and provide a Web-based front end.
Covansys Inc. of Farmington Hills, Mich., has a two-year, $17.5 million contract with Ohio to operate the state's child support computer system, while Blue Bell, Pa.-based Unisys Corp. has a $12 million contract with Massachusetts for a child support enforcement system.
Brian Wing, vice president of electronic payment services with ACS' Children and Family Services, said many human services information systems are outdated and in need of technology refreshment.
"Even if they were developed 10 or 12 years ago, they are dated at this point," he said.
Curam's human services package is expected to "explode" on the marketplace, said John Goggin of Meta Group.
A new technology framework holds considerable promise for human services agencies committed to bringing an integrated, enterprise approach to their operations.
A commercial software platform developed by Curam Software Inc. of Dublin, Ireland, specifically for human services offers more efficient operations at reduced cost to government entities, according to analysts and industry officials.
In the past, human services agencies could only hire custom software developers for their applications, but this recently changed when the federal government lifted restrictions on the use of packaged software, according to Curam.
Even so, Curam's product didn't take off before now because it was running on an obsolete platform, said John Goggin, vice president and director of government strategies for the Stamford, Conn.-based market research firm Meta Group. That's all changed.
"It's expected that Curam's [product] is going to explode on the marketplace because the company has finally fixed its infrastructure issues," he said.
This summer, Curam rolled out a better platform that uses open standards and can integrate with financial and document management applications, Goggin said.
The company's framework provides 25 percent to 30 percent immediate functionality for human services systems, industry officials said.
Goggin said the framework was invented by social service workers in Ireland who left their jobs to build the product.
"It was social workers who built the framework so that the functionality mapped to the culture. Curam is different because of the core [knowledge] that they brought to it," he said.
Curam has partnerships with a number of leading systems integrators, including Accenture Ltd., American Management Systems Inc., BearingPoint Inc., Covansys Inc., IBM Corp., Tier Technologies Inc. and Unisys Corp.
Tier Technologies is using Curam's framework as an integral part of an unemployment insurance benefits system for the state of Wisconsin, said Tom Nutile, a company spokesman. The company also is planning to use Curam's framework on bids for five similar projects in the near future, he said.
Unisys also is including Curam's framework as part of its bids on a comprehensive social services system for Louisiana, and a statewide automated child welfare automation system for New Jersey, said Holli Ploog, vice president and general manager of Unisys' global public sector programs. Curam offers an affordable enterprise framework, she said.California State and Consumer Services AgencyProject:
California Child Support Automation System State Disbursement Unit Services Term:
3 to 5 years with annual options Estimated value:
The California Child Support Automation System project is establishing a pool of qualified companies to participate in the design, development, conversion and implementation of a single, statewide child support automation system. The project is now initiating a second procurement for services to establish and operate a disbursement unit.California Health and Human Services AgencyProject:
Family Temporary Disability ProjectTerm:
14 months Estimated value:
The California Health and Human Services Agency wants a contractor to provide integration services for the Family Temporary Disability Project. The project will use a Web-enabled system using existing mainframe claim processing applications and document imaging technology.Georgia Human Services Department Project:
Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information SystemTerm:
The Georgia Human Services Department is seeking proven child welfare information system software that is capable of meeting technical specifications and various requirements, including federally mandated requirements, adoption and foster care information system requirements, National Child Abuse and Neglect System requirements and Georgia's unique requirements.Iowa Department of Human ServicesProject:
Management Information System for Child CareTerm:
Undetermined Estimated value:
The Iowa Department of Human Services may release an RFP for a management information system for child care with a higher level of automation that will provide several benefits and better use of limited child care funds. Mississippi Department of HealthProject:
Upgrade Women, Infants and Children DatabaseTerm:
Undetermined Estimated value:
$1 million RFP:
The Mississippi Department of Health is planning to hire an information technology company to help upgrade its database system.New Jersey Human Services DepartmentProject:
Consolidated Assistance and Support SystemTerm:
The New Jersey Human Services Department's Division of Family Development plans to issue an RFP to implement a new consolidated assistance and support system as part of its effort to re-engineer and integrate all of the division's automated systems.New Jersey Human Services DepartmentProject:
Women, Infants and Children Program Smart Card PilotTerm:
The New Jersey Human Services Department's WIC program plans an RFP for a pilot study of a smart-card based delivery system. It is anticipated that a variety of other health and human service programs may join the initiative after completion of the pilot.