Many states are in the process of developing plans for implementing a Comprehensive Child Welfare Information System (CCWIS). These next-generation systems offer improved integration, connectivity, and reporting capabilities. However, too many of the plans for implementation of these systems fail to put emphasis on the improvements in process and management systems that can dramatically increase capacity to serve. The requirements are instead focused on automating what is; providing expanded access to the same process, the same structures, and the same reports. You know the story. We put technology before workflow redesign, and we get a sophisticated system that tells us, in a better way, what we already know: We have massive caseloads and our clients are stuck in piles on caseworker's desks. When we get the process right, we have seen improvements such as 40 percent more clients served and 70 percent efficiency improvements for specific processes, and we know the same opportunities exist for states considering CCWIS.
Overlooked CCWIS Opportunities
There are several key opportunities that should be included in a complete plan for CCWIS implementation. The discussions in the market regarding modularity and agile development approaches have drowned out the critical focus on dramatically improving process outcomes. There seems to be a hope that by shifting from a waterfall to an agile methodology we will naturally generate a better outcome, but that almost never happens. You get the results you plan for. These recommendations put the focus back on generating the capacity to improve outcomes:
Focus on process design first. CCWIS programs risk being technology-first efforts. At the outset, it is essential to take the time to reconsider how the work gets done, who completes it, how long it takes, the outcome, and, most important, how it is tracked. Too often there is a rush to move into screen configuration and design. But to be effective, two things should come first: human-centered process design and an effort to streamline processes. The use of human-centered design techniques, led by staff who understand the practice, is critical to ensure that capacity-driven innovation takes place. This approach challenges the casework process and identifies new ways to manage outcomes efficiently by considering all participants in the experience. Process streamlining identifies capacity opportunities focused on reducing the effort to produce quality...