Moldova, the Country of the recent “Twitter Revolution” is often referred to as the poorest country in Europe.  I am spending the week back in Chisinau, the capital city, where I have been several times over the past few years.  There Keystone Human Services International  has a small office and a staff of about ten people who are supporting several projects.

I am here with two colleagues from the US to implement Social Solution’s  newly acquired software TOTAL: Record, and despite the language differences (Romanian is spoken in Moldova) and despite the differences in human service systems models, I am delighted to report that the implementation is going very well.  As I mentioned in earlier posts, leadership is very important, and in accordance with that reality, I have travelled here with the CEO of Keystone Human Services International.  As in all implementations, that makes all the difference.

Strictly as an aside. Social Solutions refers to TOTAL:Record as “financial performance management” software for human services organizations.  In another post I’ll write about how they are seriously under-estimating the software product they acquired, but I’ll save that for tomorrow, I promise.  Suffice it to say that we are implementing it in Moldova, where medicaid reimbursement rules are not a driving factor. to say the least!

We are deep in the detailed struggles of all implementations—-how to define fields, activities, costs, etc.  It is the task of turning diffuse programmatic activities of helping people achieve full active lives in the community (rather than in institutions) into the bits and bytes of reportable data—-ie.  information.  I love this stuff!

This is a particularly fun project to be on—I am not usually so deep in the details of our software implementations anymore.  This one, though, will serve as a model and an inreplaceable information source for what we hope will be many more projects, so I am bringing in the most experienced staff and the most talented software application experst we have—under my watchful eye.  It’s good to be reminded how important valid and reliable information regarding human services can be; and good to be reminded of how rare it is.  I feel privileged to be doing this work.

The Human Services sector needs technology integration.  I would posit that we don’t want, or at least I don’t want, to revisit the old application debate regarding best-of-breed  vs. single integrated application.  What I DO want is for vendors to understand that we are fully functioning businesses, and that we have standard business needs.

I offer this by way of an example.  I have spent many many hours in board rooms watching vendors demo their software “solutions” that are “tailored” to the needs of human services organizations.  Usually, somewhere in the app there is a scheduling piece.  Every human services organization struggles with scheduling—which staff is available and credentialed to work where and with whom under what circumstances and funding streams . . . .It’s complicated.  But when I asked the question about how to integrate their schedule with the one we use organizationally through Outlook ( or whatever else we used at the time–Groupwise, etc)  I got blank looks.  It seems that it never occurred to them that the same employees who need to be scheduled to provide services also need to attend staff meetings, training and education opportunities, and open enrollment meetings, to name only a few.  Why can’t they use one calendar?

That’s just one example of what I mean by integrated communication.  Human Services professionals work long hours, perform very demanding work, and do it for low pay.  On top of that, vendors seem to want to place the burden on them to manage 2-3 different schedules and keep them straight.

My vision is of a system where staff have one calendar, but that it can be managed by multiple people.  Central intake can schedule for community-based therapists through the client-centric application, HR can schedule open enrollment meetings through Outlook, managers can schedule performance reviews through the HR software, and on and on.  Other industries do this, and they are better organizations for it. 

If you have accomplished this in your human services organization, please let me know.  If you are a vendor and have ideas about how to accomplish this, or disagree with the premise, let me know.  As always, I want to listen more than I talk.