Improving Workforce Development systems using Commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) Applications

10.12.20 05:30 PM By Patrick

Over the past few years, there has been increased adoption of cloud and SaaS applications from CRMs to collaboration tools for workforce development. The benefit of these applications is the ability to have more impactful features and lower maintenance costs.

Some early adopters in workforce development have implemented modern SaaS platforms to deliver this new functionality, including the Salesforce platform, Microsoft, Zoho, and many more.

These platforms’ benefits are tremendous, including deploying modern case management, access to real-time data, regional collaboration, self-service access for job seekers, and the ability to customize relatively easily. These platforms have ushered in a new era of software as a service for government and nonprofit organizations.

New platforms don't necessarily mean new value.

Unfortunately, many of these platforms are implemented under an old software services model. The value that SaaS platforms bring is the ability to be agile and implement features over time. The reality, though, is that many of the old-school IT services companies are using old approaches to implement these new software as a service platforms. These outdated models have contributed to higher costs of technology and lesser outcomes for workforce development organizations.

Overly complex custom builds

One of the common issues we have seen with custom builds for workforce development is that the systems are overly complex. Because of federal and state reporting requirements, multiple programs, and the need for blended funding, system integrators often build or configure the application to be overly complex to capture the data.

This complexity reduces user adoption and user experience, as well as increases the cost of implementation. It also can result in reporting errors or failed reporting altogether.

Because Launchpad has standardized its data model on the Department of Labor's PIRL (Participant Individual Record Layout), we can capture the data and map it to the appropriate objects and tables. 

Buy vs. Build: The benefit of COTS applications.

This is where COTS applications come in. With COTS applications designed for workforce development, government and nonprofit organizations can upgrade systems 75% faster and reduce costs by 50%. 

In a traditional implementation, a systems integrator spends significant hours gathering requirements and customizing the application based on the user's needs. Oftentimes, the system integrator has to learn about workforce development and the specific programs, and never really has a subject matter expertise. This represents a tremendous knowledge gap that has to be overcome during the implementation process, which adds to the costs.

If this happens in a waterfall approach, it can lead to hundreds or thousands of hours for a project. A traditional custom build might take 6 to 12 months to implement. 

Because COTS applications are preconfigured for case management and designed for specific industries, the customer only has to provide 25% of the requirements. They can be configured much more quickly, often customized using various workflow and automation tools that are launchable in 90 days.

Aligning and standardizing business processes

Another benefit of using COTS applications is the ability to leverage existing business processes. Although many users want to customize their system specific to their business process, often a standard best practice for workforce development case management has already been established. Additionally, by leveraging the software's current business process, you can save time and standardize across service providers and programs.

Most processes can be standardized quickly using off-the-shelf applications and then customized to meet specific users’ needs. By standardizing case management processes, you can have a more predictable outcome and improve efficiencies across the organization.

Realizing the promise of SAAS and CRM platforms

We believe the power of these newer technologies can really be transformative for workforce development and human services organizations. It’s important that these organizations understand that they don't have to leverage a 20-year-old software development model to get value. 

The buy versus build approach will always be better as long as the applications align with the agency's business model. As the software as a service industry matures, you will continue to see newer applications come out pre-built for these industries. It is always best to adopt a pre-built solution and tailor it to your needs instead of trying to build from the ground up.

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