I came across an article on Govtech.com where the State of Colorado is legislating and the CIO promoting shared services to “save money.” My blog about shared services being done in State Government in the states of Michigan and California is relevant (Government Shared Services: A Recipe for Disaster). Unfortunately, states are focused on cutting costs which in a management paradox will increase them.
I am a former CIO for FSSA (Family and Social Services Administration) in Indiana. We decided during my time (2005 – 2006) there to “modernize” the Welfare Eligibility system. Consolidating the intake system to call centers, eliminating paperwork and making the application process internet friendly. A plausible idea that I supported at the time. The problem is the idea has been a disaster in Indiana, potential recipients are being hit with lost documents and missed appointments leading to calls to cancel the $1.16 billion, 10-year contract with IBM and its partners. Add to that additional staff are being added by FSSA to help clear the backlog. This is a “modernization” of outsourcing, technology and shared services that we should learn from, not cover up. After all, you won’t find this failed implementation on IBM’s commercials and website.
What I have learned in the past 3 years from John Seddon (and my partners at 95 Consulting Ltd) is that this project was destined to failure from the beginning. FSSA took the approach to automate without first performing “check“, this means an understanding of purpose, customer demand, capability, and system conditions were not a part of the original analysis. This led to poor work design based on command and control thinking top-down vs. outside-in. Had we studied the system we would have been able to design the work to service those individuals seeking welfare and reduced costs. Automation, outsourcing and consolidation is not a good place to start to make improvements. Government management needs new thinking and method to achieve better service and lower costs . . . this is not a zero-sum game (both lower costs and better service can be accomplished).
My friends in the UK have taught me that:
- economies of flow will always trump economies of scale;
- service organizations should perform check first and then pull technology, or determine the need for shared services or outsourcing;
- the hidden costs of bad or poor service are ignored by command and control thinking and understanding customer demand will help reduce costs and improve service;
- better measures can be found by looking at service from a customer perspective.
I commend Indiana FSSA Secretary Anne Murphy for suspending the roll-out of the “modernized” welfare eligibility system and taking a couple steps back. Whether she follows better thinking and method remains to be seen. This system now is costing taxpayers the $1.16 billion contract, additional staff and a whole lot of heartache to those seeking welfare.
For Governor Bill Ritter and State CIO Mike Locatis of Colorado. There is a better way. The recommendation by vendors to start with a front-back office process of sharing first and solving problems later, IT outsourcing strategies and shared services strategies are all proven non-starters.
Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public). He is focused on exposing the problems of command and control management and the termination of bad service through application of new thinking . . . systems thinking. Download free Understanding Your Organization as a System and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about our intervention services at email@example.com. Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbitt. Learn more about government services at www.thesystemsthinkingreview.co.uk.Share This: