Did Someone Say 'Collaborate?'

By Martin, Bob | Policy & Practice, December 2005 | Go to article overview

Did Someone Say 'Collaborate?'


Martin, Bob, Policy & Practice


The use of words such as collaborate and cooperate is often contradictory when mentioned in the same sentence among government agencies. Competing priorities, turf battles, resources, and skill constraints make cross-agency initiatives often difficult, if not altogether unsuccessful.

Against these odds, Wisconsin recently succeeded in rolling out two new statewide systems to support the administration of health and human services (HHS) programs. The state used a cross-agency approach to improve service to the neediest of Wisconsin's citizens that also provided benefits across state departments.

Starting in 2003, the Department of Health and Family Services (DHFS) decided that the use of new information technologies would help improve service to its customers and front-line workers. The department (www.access.wisconsin.gov) set its sight on two systems. The first is known as ACCESS (Access to Eligibility Support Service), a web-based, 24/7, self-service screening portal for Medicaid, FoodShare and other human service programs. The second was CARES WorkerWeb, or CWW (Client Assistance for Reemployment and Economic Support Worker Web), an incremental, web-based replacement for a mainframe-based eligibility determination system, CARES, which DHFS maintained jointly with its sister agency, the Department of Workforce Development (DWD).

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

DHFS realized that it needed help and would benefit from coordinating this change across multiple agencies, specifically:

* DHFS didn't have a 24/7 data center to support a complex system such as ACCESS; DHFS didn't have the application development staff or the technical capability for such new technology and large systems;

* DHFS would need the cooperation of DWD since CARES WorkerWeb would also affect DWD's business processes;

* DHFS needed to provide support to more than 80 local agencies responsible for the day-to-day administration of the Medicaid and FoodShare programs.

While DHFS was forming its strategic plan, the Department of Administration (DOA) had just begun implementing its enterprise-based approach to managing IT servers and systems across the state. This approach aimed to reduce costs and improve technology support by maintaining software and hardware platforms in one location while eliminating duplicate resources at different agencies. Managing the network and hardware infrastructure for the ACCESS and CARES WorkerWeb systems would fit in perfectly with DOA strategic vision of enterprise systems management. …

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