The County Voice

Meeting the Challenge: Orange County is “Doing More with Less”

This blog posting and video are part of a series being produced by CSAC to highlight county best practices through our annual Challenge Awards. These awards recognize the innovative and creative spirit of California county governments as they find new and effective ways of providing programs and services to their citizens. The Challenge Awards provide California’s 58 counties an opportunity to share their best practices with counties around the state and nation. The programs being highlighted are recipients of the 2012 awards.

To review a video about  how Orange County is “Doing More with Less,” click here.

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With the recent economic downturn, Orange County’s Social Service Agency saw a startling rise in the demand for services at a time when resources were diminishing.  The Agency had to find a way to meet the challenge of “doing more with less.” It was vital to come up with a cost-effective, workable solution since the number of county residents turning to assistance was rapidly growing.

The answer was to transform from a one-to-one case worker process to a task-based service center, which allows cases to be serviced by multiple workers on an as-needed basis. But the challenge still existed on developing an infrastructure to make this change. That was made possible through the development of an automated Task Management System (TMS).

By implementing a new business model utilizing the TMS, service efficiencies have improved, lobby traffic in regional offices has decreased and perhaps most importantly, client satisfaction has increased as they now receive immediate responses from staff.

And all this was accomplished with no additional costs to the Agency since the new system was developed in-house by IT staff that redeployed existing hardware and software.  IT worked collaboratively with Social Services staff to ensure that a system was being developed that would not only meet their needs today, but have room for expansion.

“It was very much a collaborative effort,” says Social Services Supervisor Ladira Morales. “We had a wonderful tech team that came together and listened to what we needed. We all had one vision in mind – to service the customer – and from there everybody had input: clerical, first-line staff, supervision, management …”

The new system also saves significant staff time. To satisfy state and federal reporting mandates, the Agency must file monthly reports. TMS can now automate those reports, eliminating the need for manual work. Administrative Manager Odon Sanchez estimates that one full day per month for each employee and supervisor is now saved by the new system. When you calculate that the Agency has approximately 1,000 employees that use the system on a daily basis, that’s  a significant amount of time saved.

“It has saved an immense of time and money, allowing us to focus on the task at hand: better serving our customers,” Sanchez says.

Agency staff is quick to compliment the new system. “I love TMS,” explains Social Services Supervisor Marie Price. “It really holds us accountable and makes everything transparent. It really allows us to see what tasks we have to process, what tasks have been completed. That helps our customer because at any given point they can call … and we can comfortably answer their questions.”

Price points out how important it is to the client to be able to get a quick response when they call.

“Sometimes the customers we are serving, their lives have been turned upside, they are in panic mode and just need someone to tell them that everything is going to be okay,” she explains. “The Service Center model really does that because we all can embrace them and help them. That’s what we came here to do.”

But it’s the infrastructure that makes it all happen. “TMS and the Service Center are one,” concludes Morales. “Without TMS, the Service Center would not function.”

And without their task management system, Orange County would not be “doing more with less.”

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