IBM Analytics Helps County Deliver Social Services

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2010-10-25

IBM Analytics Helps County Deliver Social Services

LAS VEGAS-IBM has announced that Nevada's Clark County Family Services Department is using IBM business analytics software to improve the delivery of social services and ensure compliance with new state regulations.

In an interview with eWEEK, Eboni Washington, a supervisor in the IT department who oversees the business intelligence management and performance management initiatives for the Clark County Family Services Department, said IBM has helped Clark County generate more than $7 million in new revenue in less than 18 months.

IBM announced its deal with Clark County at the company's Information On Demand (IOD) 2010 conference here on Oct. 25.

Clark County is the 15th-largest county in the United States and provides regional family and social services to more than 2 million residents. The Family Services Department is the local public agency whose role is to help keep children safe, as required by the Federal Adoption and Safe Families Act. The department runs numerous services-from child protective services to foster care services to adoption services-all of which require a large amount of data input and access.

IBM analytics has streamlined data access and reporting processes for the Clark County Department of Family Services and helped the department closely monitor case worker compliance with state policies and legislation more easily. Previously, keeping quality of services on pace with the population growth in Nevada was a significant challenge for Clark County, Washington said. The spreadsheet-based data collection process in place was time-consuming and put a heavy burden on employees. With the added requirements of needing to integrate with a statewide automated child welfare system and benchmark new services, the department needed a solution that would make reporting easier, help the department comply with new regulations and measure business performance.

Lori Higdon, a business analyst with the department, said Clark County contracted with IBM and PerformanceG2, an IBM Business Partner, to eliminate multiple spreadsheets and hand-counting of information-practices that led to confusion and errors. The staff no longer needs to manually keep track of all their case management system information and, instead, can devote time to providing services to families and children.

It used to take the programming staff 14 hours to build a report; it now takes half the time with IBM analytics software. With thousands of ad hoc and daily reports run annually, this adds up to an enormous amount of time saved for employees.

"We had to migrate from a customized application to a statewide system," Higdon said. She said they knew they would lose a lot of functionality in the migration, "so we began to look for an analytics solution that would integrate with the existing system."

Getting Social Workers On Board


"One of the biggest challenges," Washington said, "was getting social workers to buy into what performance management is."

Thus, the analytics software was needed to help the management team identify bottlenecks and improve business processes. For example, the IT team worked with department executives to design a series of reports for monitoring and measuring critical benchmarks. Using these reports, executives can now check a variety of measurements such as whether open investigations are being completed in a timely fashion, how many face-to-face contacts have taken place with victims of abuse and neglect, and the average length of stay for children in out-of-home placements. Furthermore, the staff can also run reports on federal funding as well as on net gains and losses with licensed foster homes to track department operations and performance.

"Despite a fast-growing state population and struggling economic climate, we were able to boost our quality of service and also generate more than $7 million in new revenue using IBM analytics," Washington said. "The IBM and PerformanceG2 solution has been instrumental in helping us identify more federal revenue sources."

Washington said that using the IBM software, one Clark County supervisor identified an additional revenue source and the county was able to develop a report that ensured that children were provided with certain services, leading to additional revenue.

"There are certain benchmarks that have to be in place," Washington said. "Before this we had a lot of children not being seen each month. And now we have an automated system, rather than some workers keeping a hand count of whom they have seen and what they have done each month."

"Today, local governments across the U.S. are challenged to improve citizen services with fewer budget dollars," said Anne K. Altman, general manager of IBM Public Sector.  "Clark County's approach illustrates both priorities can be achieved. The IBM analytics technologies used by the Family Services Department will decrease waste and fraud while improving responsiveness, accessibility and accountability to citizens."

The Clark County solution is powered by IBM Cognos solutions and implemented by PerformanceG2. To view a blog post from Clark County's Higdon on business analytics, click here.

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