IT, Health Care and Mobility are three key focus areas for state and local government going into 2012 and beyond. All three areas have the potential to save governments millions and improve service delivery but they can also cause significant short term headaches in this era of austerity. CivSource spoke with Joe Doherty, EVP & COO, ACS Government Solutions about what states can do cut costs and improve performance in these areas.
According to Doherty, state and local governments are running out of temporary fixes to tight budgets. “States have really gone as far as they can go with temporary measures like furlough days, layoffs. It is becoming critical for officials to look at larger issues like IT, infrastructure, health care and how to make changes in outdated systems and business processes that can’t effectively meet demand.”
IT services are still providing significant opportunities for state and local governments to improve service delivery without asking for a large budget allocation. Doherty, notes “IT consolidation including both data and call centers, can achieve immediate cost savings without interruptions in service. This can also be the gateway into cloud services through virtualization.” ACS Government Solutions recently completed a contract establishing a private cloud unifying Florida’s public email systems, a move which saved the state $15 million.
It’s no secret government IT systems are cumbersome and out of date. With many legacy systems that are in some cases 20-25 years old even small upgrades can have a significant impact. “Governments really need to approach this from a business process perspective,” Doherty says. “When you’ve got systems that are 25 years old, you’re also running processes that are 25 years old. You’ve got to take a total approach looking at IT, process, people and how to bring these systems online in a way that reflects modern requirements.”
Shared services, an approach many in state and local government circles have been talking about for years is also finally being examined in a real way. “The conversations around shared services are starting to happen at senior levels now,” Doherty says. “The difference between then and now is that they are having real conversations at a high level about how to approach this. So it’s starting from the top. Before you wouldn’t even see it at the county level and now you are – that’s the result of top-down conversations.”
Cross-jurisdictional collaboration models are also being examined in order to further extend the reach of shared services options beyond single agencies or areas. Doherty emphasizes that all of these models need comprehensive planning, “consolidation needs an endgame plan. IT needs an endgame plan. You’ve got to have officials ready to say ok why are we doing this, how are we managing the people, what is the result?”
By approaching this from a business process management perspective states can adopt a more unified approach that looks at all of the moving parts from hardware to labor.
Nowhere is this more necessary than health care. Health care and human service costs are spiraling out of control for states as demand increases and new federal requirements increase pressure while budgets continue to go down. But there are ways states can start to regain control. Again Doherty, “States need to take the funding available from the federal government for health care, medicaid, case management and get those systems upgraded. The need is there, the demand is growing and its going to become a critical service delivery issue.”
“Of course that also brings up mobility. You’ve got caseworkers in the field, other officials increasingly in the field and mobility is allowing for that. But, states are going to have to address that as well, there are device considerations, security considerations, documentation requirements.”
Doherty notes that in hard political climates getting buy in from everyone needed to make the decisions is difficult. But modern demands coupled with immediate cost savings already establish the business case for why these changes are necessary. States can also learn from enterprise best practices to implement business process management plans that are already road tested.
ACS Government Solutions recently won a contract with the state of Texas using this combined approach. “We leveraged knowledge and skills from our commercial groups to bring additional value to our bid there and the commercial/public sector combination really created value for Texas.”
According to Doherty, including lessons learned from the commercial space and coupling them with public sector focused performance metrics can create value. “In the private sector, once something is done you can move people around, that’s something you don’t typically do in government. So we’re willing to have those conversations, we’ve developed a labor process for our government clients that does that. We think performance based contracting is key in providing value for our public sector clients and creating better contracts overall.”