The NSW Department of Community Services (DoCS) has been given around $20 million to embark on a project that will simplify the use of its Siebel client management system for field workers.
On November last year, the Wood Report from a special commission of inquiry into NSW's child protection services was made public. One of the issues raised in the report was around the IT systems supporting staff.
"DoCS information management technology is not adequately suited for the purpose of supporting workers to assess and intervene in the lives of children and young people, and its complexities and shortcomings continue to be a source of frustration and delay to its staff," it said.
The report recommended that one system in particular, a client management system called KiDS, undergo a core redesign. The department received just under $20 million in the last budget to fund it.
"If I had to summarise it, and it's probably a little more complicated than this, our objective is to make the system more efficient for the use of case workers so that they can spend more time in front of family and children," DoCS CIO Kerry Holling told ZDNet.com.au in a recent interview. "Our front line staff clearly have some core responsibilities. We need to make sure they're unshackled from their desk so they can deliver on those."
One of the objectives was to streamline the project so staff could use it more effectively. "Siebel as a system in its native form has a certain amount of complexity that isn't really attuned to the preferences of people who perform front line casework," Holling said. Yet the current version of Siebel allowed a layer to be built on top of the complex Siebel database and step people through the processes they needed to complete a task, he said.
It was like an airline system, according to Holling. When users book tickets, they are stepped through a simple process. "If any one of us was asked to log into the actual airline booking system that the airlines and ticketing agents use to actually do their work, we'd probably get lost pretty quickly," he said.
The formal kick-off for the project was 1 July 2009 and it was scheduled to be over by December 2011. The department has a large Siebel program office, but it will also be hiring integrators to help it with the work. It issued a request for quotation earlier this year and is currently evaluating responses.
Another part of the project will see the agency support the use of the system within other agencies, being Police, Health, Education, Juvenile Justice and Housing.
"This is quite ground-breaking work in a government context because it's very uncommon for one government department to be providing an IT solution for the use of others," Holling said.