Good afternoon. My name is Alfredo Ramirez, and I’m the director of operation analysis office with the Tennessee Department of Health.
My department provides services to millions of people across the state of Tennessee, and we’re operating over 100 different locations in all 95 counties in the state. We have over 3,000 employees, which includes nurses, doctors and administrative staff. We offer both direct and indirect services, which includes providing vaccinations, restaurant inspections, investigating disease outbreaks and distribution and administration of grants.
My role as the director of operation analysis office is to investigate all the information silos that have popped up in our division. Basically, I was their shadow IT for administrative services. IT was to focus more on the programs themselves, so, like HIV, TB, and things like that. All the resources were being absorbed by IT.
Some of my additional responsibilities in my capacity is the cost allocation of several millions of dollars of hours performed by the local health departments across hundreds of call centers. I also handle thousands of grant requests we receive regularly.
Within the public sector, information silos are nothing uncommon, but these silos have a negative impact on the way we do business for the services we provide.
We’re trying to eliminate data redundancy, reduce duplication of effort as well as centralize information that is spread across several sections in our division. We want to improve the efficiency and accuracy in the way we report our budgets, contracts, and inventory systems as well as have something user-friendly for our employees.
After our division evaluated all our business processes, we set a goal to help achieve a more integrated workflow across our budget, accounts, procurement, and records management teams.
The first thing we had to do was to look at resources that were currently available to us within the state themselves. We looked at PeopleSoft, which I’m not familiar with. It’s an application provided by Oracle. It is the state financial solution. We also have our local IT within our department, as well as the state IT infrastructure. And SharePoint, which was something that came on a few years ago before I started.
The first thing IT usually asks you to do before you approach them with anything is “Hey, look at what you currently have, does that work?”
We did just that, and none of them worked. So that’s when we turned to Caspio, which was the best choice in our case.
When working with the public sector, we had to be mindful of additional hurdles that the private sector may not face. The biggest thing is the procurement of Caspio itself.
We started off with just a purchase order, a one-year purchase order (PO) to get Caspio into our department. Of course, just getting a PO, which takes two to three months, we still had to get IT endorsement and approval for that. Once we got the PO established and we were able to procure Caspio, we went on to develop a multi-year contract with them. If we kept doing the one-year PO, we need to get IT approval each time. It would take, again, two to three months every year, even though we investigated the first time.
Once we get the multi-year contract in place, we needed to get it reviewed by our legal team. We have our internal legal team as well as the state legal team, which both were involved with reviewing the contract with Caspio.
Another thing to look at is the single year versus multi-year contracts. A single year, basically, again, it’s almost like a one-year PO, but it still requires annual re-approval versus a multi-year contract. If a multi-year contract is available within your organization, that’s the way to go. The one-year PO is only good to get that off the ground because it can take several months just to get the contract in place and approved.
Another consideration was invoicing. Either you do an annual invoicing or monthly invoicing, depending on how your agency operates. What you should do is talk to your accounts management team to see if they would accept the payment or would they pay an annual invoice versus a monthly invoice.
One of the biggest projects I encountered was the development of an inventory control system. After we had procured Caspio with a PO, I had already created an application for tracking invoices that our department receives. These are from hundreds of vendors that perform services for us or on our behalf.
I was approached by upper management to develop a system for tracking the department’s more than 20,000 assets. The original proposed solution was given to IT or was proposed by IT, and they were developing it. It was still in development after a year and a half.
Not to blame IT, but as the needs of the agency or the stakeholders kept changing, the business requirements themselves kept changing. At that point, the project itself ballooned to about $100,000, and nothing was ever really produced from that.
After a year and a half of production and still failing to meet the business requirements, I was told, “Hey, you got three months to build an inventory control system and put it in place and get it going.”
With Caspio in place, I was able to do just that. I was able to do it in two months, which gave me a month to, basically, accommodate any additional business needs from the upper management.
Some of the biggest features of the application itself is the assignment and confirmation workflow. We’ve never said, “Hey, I gave John this laptop. John confirmed he received this laptop.” You know, some people may have done it by paper, but, for the most part, I give you a laptop, I hope that you’ll return it at the end of your stay.
With this in place, a person gets assigned equipment, they get an automatic email, we say, “Hey, log into the system, confirm you have this asset.” And so now, with off-boarding processes in place, we can print this off and say, “Hey, do you still have these lists of assets you confirmed you received?”
In addition to the automated emails I talked about, we have user-specific login. And then a biggest feature is a self-audit.
Twice a year, we require all employees to log into the inventory control system to reconfirm they have the asset. Basically, this is like almost a full audit or a full physical audit twice a year of over 20,000 assets across 95 counties, hundreds location. This keeps the system accurate and up to date. It also helps to identify equipment that has had gone missing so that we can file a lost and stolen report right then and there versus two years after the fact.
Here are just some screenshots of the inventory control system itself. We tried to keep the design as simple as possible because, after all, we are state employees. The first thing a person sees when they log in is a list of all their assets that has been assigned to them.
Since we started using Caspio, our division was able to take on more different challenges. We were able to develop a contract tracking system that was previously built in an access database across different spreadsheets.
By building solutions with Caspio, we were able to reduce the work performed by eight employees to just two. This allowed the other six employees to focus more on reviewing contracts and data entry. This helps support a multitude of health programs to get their contracts in place faster.
With the inventory control system, we now can account for over 97% of our assets. We built out a monthly financial reporting system, which reports back to the public health programs directors such as those over at HIV, TB, vaccination programs. They’re able to see all the grant money they receive and how much they’ve spent thus far, so they can be more on target with their deadlines.
With Caspio, one of the biggest projects we’re hoping to take on now is a grant management application and sub-recipient monitoring. Rather than just use Caspio to handle our own internal needs, we’re using it so that we can be more useful to the public as well. When a person applies for a grant, they can do so through Caspio. When they receive invoices, they can do so through Caspio, as well. We’re bridging the gap through the way we interact with the public themselves. Thank you.