For people at a particularly stressful or vulnerable time in their lives – whether they are homeless, dealing with drug addiction, or a survivor of domestic abuse – reducing the often painful and frustrating process of having to tell their story over and over again to access services is significant.
VincentCare Victoria provides care, hope and advocacy for Victoria’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged people.While the IT department, led by ICT manager Suzanne Hall is small, they’re really making a difference to the way the organisation operates, and in turn helping ease the procedure for accessing help for hundreds of people in their time of need.
Over the past 12 months, Hall has led her team of four to roll-out the first two phases of the homelessness service provider’s Single Client Record (SCR) project. It is a central part of VincentCare Victoria’s move to a client-centric operating model.
“The SCR project was initiated to support this model, through the effective utilisation of IT and business processes to enable information gathered by individual programs and services to move with clients through their service history, across different programs and locations,” Hall explains.
The SCR project has three objectives: to provide VincentCare with a platform to manage client information more efficiently and accurately by reducing the numerous applications and standardising business processes; to increase the visibility of client information across services, programs and sites to assist staff to better understand and track clients and facilitate opportunities for service co-ordination; and to increase the consistency of client data captured to reduce duplicative records and increase data quality for mandatory reporting and outcomes reporting.
Achieving success has meant a major change for VincentCare’s 300 staff across 12 sites spread across Victoria from Mornington to Melbourne CBD to Shepparton.
But it’s already delivering significant value to the organisation and the people that rely on it.
“The impacts of the SCR project were wide ranging across the organisation and the majority of VincentCare staff had not been involved in a large system implementation project before,” says Hall.
It introduced new processes: for some that meant the removal of manual excel spreadsheets, while the changes were more significant for functions which had been primarily paper based.
To ensure a smooth transition Hall and her team have been busy working with staff across the organisation to involve them and train them on the new technology and processes.
They regularly attend site meetings and make visits to talk about latest updates, contribute to organisation’s newsletter and intranet, and collaborate on project work. Hall reports monthly to the executive management team and management team, her progress also reviewed by a project steering committee.
“The change management was crucial for the success of the project and focused on collaboration, timely communication and opportunities for feedback for all stakeholders. In addition, all impacted staff were invited to test the system prior to implementation. This assisted with gaining staff buy-in to the project as well as identifying operational issues prior to implementation,” Hall says.
Constraints and creativity
The careful use of funds is especially important for the not-for-profit sector, with innovation coming from staff thinking “outside the square” to solve business issues through better utilisation of existing technology at no extra cost to the business.
One example is how the use of JIRA (chosen due to its zero license cost for not-for-profit organisations) and add-ons to track software testing, issues and defects for the SCR project, and update the steering committee.
“Given the benefits of the software, high usability and zero cost, ICT utilised creative and innovative thinking to utilise the same software to solve other existing workflow and process problems across the organisation,” says Hall.
The software has now been configured to allow teams and projects to use the software for work planning, project management, automating processes and workflows, collaborating on projects and tasks, and obtaining approvals.
Following a number of pilots it could now be rolled out to other departments, such as Quality, Finance and Corporate Services.
“Over time, it is expected this solution will be implemented across a greater number of programs and processes throughout the organisation,” Hall says.
The SCR project has massively improved the experience for clients who now only need to tell their story once. It is now easier for people experiencing homelessness, people with disabilities and men and women struggling with complex needs including substance abuse and mental health issues to get the care they need.
Being able to see a client’s history has meant staff can better co-ordinate care. Managers can better track progress against targets and manage case load for their workers.
The reduction of administration for staff has enabled them to put greater focus on clients rather than on mundane tasks. It’s also delivered cost savings due to the reduced number of applications hosted, licensed and supported and lower printing costs due to paper forms being replaced by electronic forms.
It’s also done wonders for the ICT team itself.
“ICT staff have been inspired to grow in their roles through close mentoring and deliberate stretching of ability to achieve new skills in a supportive and safe non-judgmental environment,” Hall adds.