|Focus on: Engage Customers, Empower Employees, Optimize Operations
Nestled between the James and Appomattox Rivers lies the County of Chesterfield, the fourth-largest county in the Commonwealth of Virginia1. It is home to the 70-acre Metro Richmond Zoo, the sprawling 8,000-acre Pocahontas State Park, and the boyhood residence of Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States. It is also home to over 300,000 residents, who rely on the Chesterfield County Department of Social Services to promote the wellbeing of their families and the community at large.
Chesterfield County offers a wide range of social services to these residents, including child care, financial assistance, and emergency services. Recently, the county’s Department of Social Services embarked on a journey to improve operations and implement technology solutions that better equipped them to support the needs of their growing community. As a result, the department received an achievement award from the National Association of Counties for using Microsoft technology to streamline their case management processes. And later that same year, the county was awarded the Governor’s 2017 Technology Award for addressing workplace inefficiencies through their successful and cost-effective modernization initiative. This is their real story of digital transformation.
Updating technology to achieve their mission
The Chesterfield County Department of Social Services has always strived “to provide advocacy and excellent services that encourage self-sufficiency, preserve and restore families, and protect the well-being of children, senior citizens, and people with disabilities.2” But there was a time when outdated technology kept staff from completing tasks and serving citizens to the best of their ability. According to the department’s Director, Kiva Rogers, prior to the department’s digital transformation, infrastructure had been left largely unchanged for more than 20 years.
The absence of data centralization clouded the department’s vision of the services being provided, as disparate sources made data collection and analysis especially challenging. Without modern digital tools, department staff relied on manual processes, spreadsheets, and handwritten logs, which often led to inaccurate and duplicate entries. To make matters worse, because the department offered financial assistance, the 2008 recession significantly increased their workload in a short amount of time. Feeling overworked and under supported, staff turnover dramatically increased as a result.
It became apparent to Rogers and her team that the department needed a digital solution that would empower staff, streamline processes, and improve citizen service. After researching a few competing solutions, the department ultimately decided to move forward with Microsoft Dynamics 365. The solution’s easy implementation meant that Rogers and her team could explore the features, tools, and benefits of the platform almost immediately. And for an added bonus—not only did the department stay under their original $1.3 million budget, they also completed the entire Dynamics 365 adoption with an overall net savings of $800,000.
The flexibility of the Dynamics 365 platform allowed the department to update and streamline all of their processes, including data and document storage and organization. The solution’s storage and search capabilities made it an ideal centralized hub for the management of data and documents. Immediately, employees noticed a 33% reduction in the time it took to complete common tasks, and a considerable reduction in the likelihood of a document being duplicated or lost.
“Microsoft Dynamics 365 has significantly improved staff experience. We’ve seen a reduction in turnover as result of being able to be more efficient and communicate better,” says Rogers.
While the department is currently in the process of using Dynamics 365 to transition to a completely paperless process, Senior Systems Analyst and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Tech Lead, Debra Silbert notes the solution has already led to significant organizational improvements and a boost in employee morale.
“With Dynamics 365, we can give case workers one place to go where they can see notes, phone calls, and the status of any activities related to a case,” says Silbert. “Having it all in one place is incredibly empowering and freeing for them.”
Empowering impactful citizen service through continued transformation
Moving away from manual processes allows employees to better manage their workloads and control their workplace environment. Now, instead of getting bogged down by inefficiencies, staff members can allocate that time to improving the effectiveness of the department’s services and transforming citizen experiences. The department’s transformation also led to a revised training process for new employees. Replacing traditional training methods with digital training through Dynamics 365 expedites the time it takes new members to be fully prepared to protect the wellbeing of Chesterfield County residents.
In addition to producing multiple benefits, both internally and in the community at large, the digital transformation process served as a valuable learning experience for the department. As Rogers, Silbert, and the rest of the team continue to refine services and further the department’s mission, they can use their progress to inform future initiatives and advise other organizations considering their own digital transformation journey. In fact, after news of the county’s success spread, other neighboring counties started looking into Microsoft Dynamics 365 as a possible solution for their own departments. Silbert offers the following words of wisdom to these organizations:
- Be willing to change the status quo
- Invest and plan for adequate change management
- Take the time to test the program
Since completing Dynamics 365 adoption, the Chesterfield County Department of Social Services has been leveraging a number of tools and features on the platform, including Azure, Power BI, Microsoft Teams, OneNote, Word and Excel templates, and more. They’re also currently embarking on an Office 365 adoption to enhance the technologies they already have in place.
“The Department of Social Services’ vision is to be the leader in providing innovative and exceptional social services,” explains Rogers. “Microsoft Dynamics 365 has played a key role in helping us to make significant progress toward achieving that vision.”