Government faces the proverbial crossroads so often that it is almost not worth using the metaphor. But one advantage of a moment of crisis, like our recent economic downturn and budget woes, is that it leads to wholesale review of how we run the day-to-day business of government.
In IT, this has led to centralization, simplification and support for transparency, mobile devices and self-service websites. This is a drive for efficiency, but it is also recognition that we can improve government services and adjust to the new constituent – even during difficult times.
One significant discussion is the constituent relationship management (CRM) approach that leverages IT offerings, allowing for data, documents and workflow to be together in a single solution. Government staff can understand and use data and documents that may have been collected somewhere else in the organization but are relevant for the tasks at hand. Basically, the silos of information that have plagued government for decades are broken down. These systems are now using a case management approach to ensure that constituents get better service. With data, documents and business processes in a single application, any staff person can provide more complete assistance to constituents interacting with their city or county.
When health and human services embraced case management, they did so because they recognized that they were improving the efficacy of programs by having a complete picture of the clients they were assisting. They knew that having the complete story empowered case workers to provide better service.
This idea, so critical for human services, has broad application across government. So how else could it work? Imagine that you are starting a business in your community. Perhaps the first thing you do is get a building permit, but you also need some business licenses, and later you will need inspections and perhaps a variance, etc. A unified case management approach can help any staff be aware of the various transactions involved and have a complete picture to help you navigate government processes.
The result, I believe, is better service, a way to provide more complete assistance and faster economic development.
Case management as a philosophy for improved government service can be applied in most departments and agencies because so much of what we do in government cuts across multiple departments, from the example of the new business start-up above to code enforcement to vendor management to contract management to planning processes. Each of these, and many other areas, can benefit from the complete picture, a record of communication, data and documents and workflow automation.
Efficiency for constituent-facing programs is critical for improving government service, but the efficiency it offers in our new smaller government units is also important. Having all the information you need to make a decision in a single place will save countless frustrating hours for staff that need information in order to take action. And, if that information is combined with digital documents and workflow timers to support compliance, you have created a technology solution that improves efficiency and requires fewer people.
Whether you call it CRM or case management, the philosophical approach of putting the complete picture in front of a staff person and empowering that person to deliver services efficiently and effectively is critical to transforming government. And, since it addresses today’s concerns of reduced staff and funding while improving future efficiency and constituent service, it is a profound option for government.