Anglicare Southern Queensland untangling its data to prepare for the future of care

The organisation is well on its way towards closing down its last Access database, after previously having 30 scattered around.

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Anglicare Southern Queensland boasts a little over 3,000 employees that together service around 54,000 customers each year. And as its enterprise applications manager Brett Wallis said, the organisation performs a "ridiculous" number of visits each year.

Anglicare reaches out to all of Southern Queensland -- metro and rural -- across a number of different streams ranging from community service, home visits, residential care, children and families, mental health, to homelessness, to name a few.

With insight on thousands of customers and information on every interaction, Wallis said data is invaluable to Anglicare.

"What we've discovered in the last 10 years is we really need to understand the data, so we can more efficiently provide those services," Wallis told the Gartner Application Architecture, Development, and Integration Summit in Sydney last month. "It's been a big stretch. And it's been the whole industry, the whole aged care sector, has really struggled with that business development, that maturity of process. It's taken some time to get there."

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Wallis said the organisation's clients depend on its workforce having access to their data, to be able to engage immediately.

"We need to know that our professional workforce has all the information they could possibly need, at the touch of a hand," he said.

One of the developments in the last 10 years or so for Anglicare has been the adoption of mobile devices and tablets to provide staff with the right data, fast.

"That it's not just something they've scribbled down last week or two weeks ago -- the current data, right there," Wallis said.

But, as Wallis explained, that needed to coupled with a change in policy.

"We need to make sure that information is sent out to our carers, so that they're giving as good a service as possible to our clients," Wallis said. "There was definitely an 'Aha' moment."

That "Aha" moment saw Anglicare map out its entire business structure, specifically focusing on what and how many applications it was using, and if they were talking to one another.

"Once we drew out that, we realised we were in a bit of a mess," he said. "It wasn't because anyone had done a bad job in the past. It's because no one had actually taken that step back and said, 'What is a holistic landscape? What are we doing here?'. We were moving data from point A to point B, and so once we realised that, we started to dig into it."

"My favourite one was when we went from one application to an Access database, to an Excel spreadsheet, to another Excel spreadsheet, before loading it into another application," Wallis shared. "Huge, long, unwieldy process that had just grown organically over time. And so when we started looking at our entire landscape, and digging into the detail of it, we realised these are things that we need to improve on. Because accuracy was being lost every step of that transform."

These compounding inefficiencies inspired a transformation that would see Anglicare leverage the Dell Boomi platform as the centrepiece of its IT environment. According to Wallis, this allowed the organisation to foster a culture of productivity and a purpose for its people.

While he said some people within Anglicare had the same "if it's not broken, don't fix it" mentality that many organisations the world over experience, once the benefits were being realised, there was buy-in from not only the staff, but the board as well.

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The transformation with Boomi started in January, when Wallis said staff underwent training. The organisation then went live in early March. By the end of June, Wallis said Anglicare had saved more than 2,000 hours of workforce time. The following month, another 500 hours was saved.

"Business hours returned to the business. They get on doing the analysis, the thinking work, we're taking the grunt work, that sheer data entry, work away, replacing it with the ability to actually add value," he explained.

Wallis told ZDNet Anglicare had 25-30 old Access databases. It's now got that number down to three.

"In two months time, I think the last of those is going to be shut down because now we're so much more aware of what data we're moving where and how we're doing that," he added.

Throughout the process, Wallis said it was important to keep its people empowered.

"So often you'll see organisations, they'll have some kind of integration specialist, rather than go down that path we decided to train all our applications team, so that every one of them knew how to use Boomi, and they could work together, they can collaborate," he said.

"When moving data between applications, it makes sense that the people that know those applications best are our applications demonstrators."

Anglicare took its entire applications team off the floor and put them on its Boomi integration project.

"Since then, we kept their original complement of people who've done the training, we haven't trained anybody else, and they are doing the old jobs, as well as that Boomi development work, and we haven't looked back," Wallis said.

Anglicare is now prepared for a future that brings with it a lot of data, from sensor technology and the Internet of Things (IoT), as one example. It's working on the concept of master data management, and a master data hub, to be able to have a whole picture of its customers as they progress through different stages of care with the organisation.

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