Focus on: Optimizing Operations, Empowering Employees, Engaging Citizens

Drew was tired. It’d been hard before, caring for his mother week after week, but this season something changed. Her dementia was slowly taking over, a shadow creeping across her memory. Most days he felt lucky when Mom just remembered his name, but lately he’d settle for a subtle glint of recognition in her eyes when he entered a room. Sure, Mom had her good days—days where she’d remember yesterday’s activities or the names of Drew’s children, but more and more it was like she woke up in 1972, a familiar but distant reality.

Drew couldn’t manage a better life for his mom alone. Although they both received full support from their friends and family, he knew it was time to face a difficult truth—Mom needed professional help, and that reality led them to the California Department of Social Services.

“Mom, I want you to meet someone.”

Drew brought his Surface to the kitchen table and sat down. A few seconds later a high ping signaled an incoming call, and Drew opened his Skype window in response.

“This is Jean. She works with CDSS at a facility a few miles from here. They specialize in helping people who sometimes have trouble remembering.”

Jean graciously answered Drew’s questions, and walked Mom through everyday life at her facility. They talked about morning breakfasts with fresh-squeezed orange juice, Thursday night Hearts tournaments, and regular visits from local therapy dogs.

Drew could feel the tension relax in his shoulders as Mom started to smile. They still had a long way to go, but Jean was kind and patient, and her knowledge of her field gave him more confidence in this decision, even if he was still a little nervous. He knew the transition certainly wasn’t going to be simple, but Jean and CDSS’s transparency helped make it a little easier.Serving the Most VulnerableWhen your day revolves around serving the most vulnerable citizens of your community, it’s difficult but critical to maintain a healthy sense of optimism. At the California Department of Social Services, 4,200 people are tasked with aiding and protecting nearly three million underserved residents of the Golden State — including 1.2 million CalWORKS recipients (CA’s state welfare program)  and 1.5 million children, adults, and seniors receiving of out-of-home care.  Available foster homes throughout the state have declined over 21% since 2012, so when case workers like Joanne have 5,600 licensed homes  to serve over 62,000 children,  maximizing resources becomes critical. Joanne is already stretched hour to hour, with aging equipment that forces her to travel from her home in Fresno to the main CDSS office in Sacramento.

Joanne and her coworkers needed relief, a way to extend their capabilities and improve their services to not only better meet their citizens’ needs, but to improve their day-to-day outlook and relieve the pressure of every high-stakes decision.

This is a real story of digital transformation.

Going digital to boost efficiency and reduce costsWith literal lives at stake, it is key for CDSS to operate as efficiently as possible by limiting redundancy, improving efficiency, and saving money, all while aligning their citizen service offerings with other state departments. That means moving away from paper processes, files, and memos, improving the communication process, increasing employee mobility, and starting their own Digital Transformation.

This search for efficiency brought CDSS’s Chief of Operations Susan Slaven to Evolve 365, an end user training platform for Microsoft Office 365 that guides customers in their Office 365 transitions and provides support throughout their digital transformation.

“There is a growing demand for people to work outside the office. In order to do that, they need the hardware, but also the software,” Slaven explains.

Enabling employee mobility and collaborationThat’s why CDSS, Microsoft, and Planet Technologies partnered together to equip agency employees with the tools and training for a fully-mobile digital workforce. With Surface, Office 365 for U.S. Government, SharePoint, Skype for Business, and other tools, CDSS is empowering its employees to work remotely, collaborate seamlessly, and communicate easily without getting tied up in red tape.

The decision to move away from paper documents and embrace Office 365 for U.S. Government has made a significant impact on Susan and her team. Instant access to case documents, regardless of the user’s location, means faster processing, improved organization, and overall greater service for California residents. Office 365 for U.S. Government runs on Microsoft Government Cloud, which offers industry-leading compliance features, including HIPAA for healthcare data and IRS 1075 for Federal tax information, and specifically caters to the needs to U.S. government agencies. It also creates significant savings in paper goods, storage, and productivity, allowing state employees to focus on serving their citizens rather than navigating a paper trail.

CDSS’s steps toward digital transformation have allowed California state employees to collaborate in real time and demonstrate enhanced productivity from the office, at home, or on the road, through Surface and Skype for Business. According to Slaven, “The ability to be at the capitol and modify documents in real time and send them back is huge, because we didn’t have that capability in the past.”

“We can build collaboration sites and allow the advocates and counties we work with to provide more material online to process requests a lot faster,” says Slaven.

With Azure-powered citizen portals, case workers can now monitor user activity and make necessary adjustments on the fly. This has been particularly impactful when reviewing citizen engagement at senior care facilities. Family members can easily access and address state-operated facilities, review their staff and amenities, and provide direct feedback related to the care of their loved ones. These new accessibility options use Azure-driven web interactions, ratings, and performance management to generate greater organizational transparency.

Helping citizens make the right decisionsSlaven continues, “In the past, if a citizen had an elderly parent that was sick and needed to go into a facility, they would have no resource to go to. We put the full directory of care homes out on the internet and allow folks to write their reviews so that they can make a solid decision on where to put their parent.”

The digital transformation at CDSS isn’t just helping a government agency file reports or IT folks manage a server load—it’s impacting the everyday lives of millions of people through smarter services.

“Agencies used to work in silos. More and more they are working in collaboration with each other, Slaven explains, “Office 365 is showing us where we can collaborate using the same systems and the same tools to get the work done in a collaborative fashion. Agencies are starting to communicate and work together on helping citizens. These tools are going to help us collaborate in a bigger way.”

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