Siebel upgrade eases Human Services strain

A 2011 Siebel Public Sector systems upgrade is set to make life easier for case workers in Department of Human Services NSW, according to its CIO, Kerry Holling.
Written by Paul Corning, Contributor

A 2011 Siebel Public Sector systems upgrade is set to make life easier for case workers in Department of Human Services (DHS) NSW, according to its CIO, Kerry Holling.

Kerry Holling

Kerry Holling (Credit: NSW government)

It is hoped that nearly 4,000 case workers and other employees in the department will spend 20 to 30 per cent less time updating case records starting in 2011, when Holling's team will have converted their Siebel-based case tracking systems from release 7.8 Call Center to release 8.1 Public Sector.

The new Siebel Public Sector implementation is expected to allow DHS to improve data quality and retain rigorous auditing without requiring a heavily customised implementation.

"When we first implemented Siebel in 2003 there was no such thing as a Public Sector capability within Siebel," Holling told ZDNet Australia at the Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco.

Holling said the design of Public Sector was partly due to feature requests made by DHS.

The new system seeks to provide better guidance to case workers by standardising how some information is collected.

"The mantra when we installed [Siebel] originally was 'tools not rules'," Holling said. "We wanted to put an electronic record-keeping system in place, but we didn't want to constrain case workers too much in terms of how they actually used it. That was a reasonable decision at the time, but we need a bit more rigour around the business processes and the information that we ask case workers to capture."

To ensure a smooth transition, Holling's team has broken the upgrade into four phases. First, 15 out of nearly 400 department IT professionals are working with Oracle to complete the technical upgrade by Christmas, after starting in March of this year.

After this technical upgrade is complete, case workers and other system end users will start to employ the new system with three sets of functional upgrades being added to improve workflows and introduce a simpler, task-based user interface.

It is hoped that, when fully implemented, the new system should eliminate 20 to 30 per cent of the almost eight hours each case worker spends to input and manage system records every week. The hours saved would be approximately equal to hiring an additional 100 trained case workers.

Holling knows IT efficiency well, having served for 10 years in the private sector as Australasian CIO for Digital Equipment Corporation, then Compaq and HP. He moved to NSW's Department of Community Services in 2007. When that department was combined with six others into the Department of Human Services NSW, Holling moved to lead the unified organisation.

The Siebel upgrade is only the beginning of a three- to five-year program to improve IT capabilities at DHS. Some of Holling's upcoming priorities include consolidating three different SAP implementations into a single, integrated system, and delivering client applications that will enable a single view of customers across all of DHS's departments.

However, Holling isn't rushing into it.

"Client systems are hardest to bring together, because those lines of business, and the nature of those businesses, are quite different," he said. "So that will take a lot longer to think through."

Correction at 12:38pm, 1 October 2010: In the second paragraph, "nearly 400 case workers" has been corrected to read "nearly 4,000 case workers".

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