Health agency manages budget cuts and restructure with smart software approach

Tasmania's Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars while undergoing a major restructure by eschewing costly consultants and upgrading existing enterprise software in-house.

The DHHS is Tasmania's largest Government agency and delivers thousands of services through a national network of more than 300 facilities and centres covering hospitals, mental health, dental, aged-care and housing.

In the 2011/12 financial year it was charged with making $100million in savings within a $1.8 billion budget and decentralising by establishing three new regional statutory authorities called Tasmanian Health Organisations (THOs) as per the National Health Reform.

The DHHS investigated how it could adapt by purchasing a number of additional modules and configuring its existing system in house. It also discovered numerous ways it could save money by using this technology to handle work that was previously outsourced.

The agency has used TechnologyOne's enterprise solution since 1995, when it bought just 20 user licences, and has simply upgraded and added new tools as and when required to meet its evolving needs. It now has an enterprise licence across a range of TechnologyOne products including customer relationship management, contracts and grants management.

Jim Waugh, Manager Business Systems at DHHS, said when the agency started using TechnologyOne products, they realised how much scope there was to push the boundaries.

"We have taken our inspiration from organisations outside of the health sector and started our planning by looking at our requirements, not the system," Mr Waugh said.

"TechnologyOne builds really simple and flexible software so we have been able to do recent upgrades in house and change the configuration to do jobs that we used to outsource, savings us hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"This approach also means our systems are integrated, giving us one version of the truth, which is invaluable."

One example of savings is the fortnightly processing and printing of 13,000 payslips which are generated by an external payroll system.  The printing was previously undertaken by an external supplier and in its cost-cutting audit, DHHS realised it could import the data into the TechnologyOne Financials system, format it into individual PDFs and email them out.

"This cost us nothing but time and effort and it immediately saved us $100,000 a year," Jim Waugh said.

DHHS also used TechnologyOne software to create its own Contracts Repository.  While it is still in the implementation phase, it is expected to save a further $50,000 to $100,000 per year. The contracts project was then extended to develop a Grants Solution to manage the funds DHHS provides to the many non-government organisations providing services to the Tasmanian community.

"We had documents sitting in drawers and on desks, but now we can track them all electronically. Soon we will be able to administer grants for a wide range of services within the private and non-government sectors in a full and auditable process, and offer online access for recipients and agency employees," Mr Waugh said.

"Instead of going through a whole Business Requirements Specification (BRS) process with costly external advice for the Contracts Repository, we mapped it out internally and brought a consultant in at the end to make sure we had covered everything."

Another area of focus was Housing Tasmania, which moved all assets in its $1.8 billion social housing portfolio, including approximately 13,100 dwellings and 900 vacant blocks of land, into its TechnologyOne solution.

"The old system was not flexible enough to meet the diverse needs of residential and special needs facilities and contained risks that were unacceptable," Mr Waugh said.

"We wanted the system to make life easier for mobile workers such as inspectors and maintenance staff, so we wanted enhanced asset code structures, maintenance tracking and good workflow approval processes.

"The TechnologyOne software met all our needs with modern asset management tools and improved reporting."

The new decentralised THOs also presented a unique set of hurdles, as they are statutory bodies, each have their own Australian Business Number (ABN) and will have to apply for funding from the Commonwealth based on their activities.

Although there were many months of planning, the Business Systems team only had a couple of weeks to upgrade and rewrite large areas of the Financial System at the same time as managing the end of 2011/12 financial year.

The change required multiple new ledgers and charts to facilitate Activity Based Funding (ABF) requirements, daily reconciliation and transfers between different bank accounts. All the stationary generated by the system had to be updated, multiple interfaces must be altered and purchasing redesigned - in short a major system rewrite.

The seven-strong internal Business Systems team managed this complicated transition at their busiest time of year with the help of just one external consultant from TechnologyOne, who was brought in for 20 days.

"By saving bits of money here and there by using existing software, taking things as far as we could in-house before hiring consultants, doing our own development and installing our own upgrades, we have managed to meet our savings targets," Mr Waugh said.

"We left no area of the system untouched and changed everything from staffing levels to procurement when looking for savings, but we are far from finished.

"With TechnologyOne we will introduce more modules, including its ETL tool that extracts information from any external system so we can start warehousing a lot of data and documents, which will free up time and help with compliance and reporting," Mr Waugh said.

"Every Tasmanian Government agency uses TechnologyOne, so we can share knowledge, and because the company is Australian with a local presence, we have fortnightly meetings with the State Manager to talk through their plans and find out what others are doing. It is invaluable.

"We are always looking for ways to streamline our services and make use of new technology. In fact, we have already started to investigate the cloud and have discovered similarities in how the Tasmanian Government and TechnologyOne are approaching this.

"In the health industry today change is constant and costs always rise so it is necessary to be armed with a flexible system and an open mind," Jim Waugh concluded.

Adrian Di Marco said TechnologyOne developed its software for customers to own in-house and did not rely on future revenue from consulting.

"We build, sell and maintain all our own software and because it is easy to use and flexible, our customers can make their own changes and upgrades in-house," Mr Di Marco said.

"Since the DHHS first came on board, TechnologyOne has moved from being a small business with a single Financials product to a multinational with hundreds of thousands of users. We retain those relationships because we have always focused on making our customers' lives easier."