SULINGITUK GOVERNMENT: The importance of workflow analysis

Fictional Case Study

When Sulingituk Government’s Health and Social Services department decides to implement a new case management system (CMS), they learn that insufficient workflow analysis prior to implementation can be the downfall of a new system.

Sulingituk Government’s Health and Social Services department is using an outdated CMS that needs to be replaced. Glenn, the Health and Social Services Director, meets with Katlyn, the IT Administrator, to discuss some of the major issues with the old system and asks IT to find a replacement. Katlyn then issues a Request for Proposal (RFP). Five companies reply to the RFP and after an extensive review of the proposals, Katlyn decides on new CMS software that comes from a vendor that the Government has done business with in the past, has some desirable features, and is well within the approved budget for the project. 

Katlyn schedules a meeting with the vendor and Glenn, to discuss how the new system can meet the needs of the Health and Social Services department. The vendor provides a demo of the software, and reviews the pricing options. They sign an agreement with the vendor to provide the server installation and configuration of the new system, migration of legacy data, user licences, 2 days of end user training for all Health and Social Services staff, and 2 years of technical support. Katlyn, who is the lead on the project, works directly with the vendor to implement the new system and organizes the user training sessions.  The “go live” date for the new system is 6 months from the beginning of the project.

The project goes relatively smoothly – they import all the data from the old system, confirm that everything is working as it should and that all data is accessible in the new system, and complete the training sessions for staff. However, about a month after the system “goes live” it becomes clear that the employees of the Department of Health and Social Services are struggling. Glenn is getting reports from his staff about the following issues:

  • Staff are unable to print reports in the format that they need; instead, they must export multiple reports to Excel and then merge them in an Excel workbook. This process is time consuming, so staff have started updating the “master excel list” directly instead of updating the CMS, which means that CMS data is often outdated.
  • They struggle with the navigation of the new system, which forces them to click through multiple pages or “tabs” for each client rather than having all the critical information in one place; this means that staff are missing critical information and alerts, which are buried deep in the system. 
  • The new CMS system doesn’t integrate with the financial system used to print cheques; consequently, staff must update a different Excel sheet that gets sent to Finance for cheque runs every 2 weeks, and then manually input payment information back into the system. 
  • Because the system’s security protocols severely limit the ability for staff to edit a client’s information, when errors are made staff have to create a new record. This has led to a number of clients having multiple case files in the system, which leads to errors in processing their information and payments. 
  • The CMS doesn’t issue any alerts about changes to the guardian information for minor children, so staff are struggling to keep track of who the correct contact person is for children who are in care. There have been several instances where information and support payments were sent to the wrong household after a child was moved to a new guardian. 

The issues are causing employees to develop workarounds to avoid using the system. Staff have started printing off documents and maintaining parallel paper files. Naturally, this creates confusion around who has the most current information as multiple files float around. As the errors and inaccuracies in the CMS continue to grow, staff are growing increasingly frustrated with it and are on the verge of abandoning it altogether. Already about 1/3 of frontline staff refuse to use it. 

How could this have been avoided? By looking at workflows. Although Katlyn did meet with Glenn, the head of the department, she did not take the time needed to comprehensively understand how the frontline staff in the department actually do their jobs, and what they would need from the new system in order to make their jobs easier. This oversight led to Katlyn choosing a system without having a good understanding of what operational needs the system was supposed to fulfill, including how employees were recording and using information. Ultimately, Katlyn chose a new system that was not a good fit for the department. These issues could have been avoided if there had been a greater upfront investment in understanding workflows within the department before selecting and implementing the system.