Michigan gets double duty out of content management

After Michigan moved its unemployment services to centralized call centers, its new content management system took on the extra job of managing the case loads.

The content management system, initially procured to store images of paper forms, was put to work assigning cases and compiling performance reports, said Chris Peretto, director of customer service for the Michigan Bureau of Workers and Unemployment Compensation.

Unemployment insurance examiners now arrive at work each morning to find a browser-based inbox with new cases, prioritized in the order they should be investigated.

Supervisors see up-to-date statistics on how many cases each examiner has completed. Both features are served up by the P8 enterprise content management platform from FileNet Corp. of Costa Mesa, Calif.

Before, the state had an average backlog of 40,000 unemployment cases, handled by 500 examiners and overseen by 40 supervisors. Each supervisor would review the cases flagged by existing Cobol programs on an IBM mainframe and assign them to examiners.

If someone seeking unemployment compensation, for example, owed the state money from previous claims, an examiner would have to study the case and determine the corrective action.

“There were a lot of manual processes—who could work on what,” Peretto said. Supervisors also had the time-consuming job of keeping statistics on how many cases each examiner handled. Like many other states, Michigan has tried to save money by shifting work from regional offices to a small number of call centers.

All three of the new call centers work from the same pool of applications, so when clients call in, the bureau needed a way for an examiner at one center to pick up a case started at another. P8 wound up serving digitized versions of the application pool to all three centers across the state’s WAN.

But Peretto also wanted to streamline the way the work was handled and reported, so he decided to build a case management system, called the Automated Work Distribution System.

Integrity Solutions Group LLC of Helena, Mont., had helped install the system. Integrity’s managing partner, Tim Peterson, was familiar with FileNet P8 and recommended it for the extra tasks.

FileNet, like many other enterprise content management vendors, offers optional tools for business process management and collaboration, said Bill Cull, FileNet vice president of government solutions.

After a pilot, the state decided in May 2003 to add the extra FileNet functions, which cost about $850,000, Peretto said.

The supervisors’ job of assigning cases is now done by the FileNet Business Process Manager, using a set of rules written by the development team.

Each night the mainframe sends out a batch file of newly flagged cases via File Transfer Protocol. The FileNet software, running on Dell Inc. servers under Microsoft Windows 2000, divvies up the cases according to each examiner’s experience and current workload.

“It’s all established” for the examiners, Peretto said. “They bring up a [case] and get a brief summary and links to all the images they have to look at.” The virtual file also has links to procedure manuals and reference materials.

Using FileNet’s Process Analyzer reporting and analytic tool, the team set up a small data mart alongside the workflow engine that logs daily activities.

“It’s unbelievable what we can do with reports now,” Peretto said. A Microsoft Excel spreadsheet shows how much work an individual or a team did over a specified period, or exactly how many cases are outstanding.

“The mainframe didn’t spit out those statistics, and queries on the mainframe are difficult, to say the least,” Peretto said. “A lot of times in the past, we were doing hand counts.”

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