Providing effective human services is difficult, and the nexus between the problems of illegal camping in the Parkway and the ineffectiveness of local homeless services located in the Richards Blvd/12 Street area has been clear for some time; but the use of strategies as noted in this article from Harvard could help.
No two technology projects are alike. Program area, geography, population served—all of these factors make any effort to implement innovative technology in human services unique.
Despite these inherent differences, however, conversations with over 100 stakeholders surfaced several foundational principles that undergirded successful projects. Drawn from our recent report “Gaining Ground: A Guide to Facilitating Technology Innovation in Human Services,” these principles include: (1) acknowledging the close links between business process reform and technology innovation, (2) promoting strong communication throughout the organization, (3) fostering cooperation between program leadership and technology leadership, and (4) finding ways to scale efforts to both manage expectations and produce incremental progress.
1. Business Process and Technology Innovation Are Closely Intertwined
As human services agencies leverage new technologies to improve their delivery of benefits and services, many of those we interviewed noted that there is an opportunity to consider the business processes that those technologies are intended to support. In many cases, interviewees treated these two aspects of innovation as inseparable and complementary. An administrator in South Carolina observed that process change is instrumental in unlocking the potential of technology, saying that “the technologists realize the innovation they can bring is from process change and process innovation.” Process innovation frequently demands new technology tools to assist new practices, and modernizing technology often opens opportunities to improve upon the existing routines of agency staff.
2. Open Communication Is Vital to Success
Large technology projects simply cannot advance without collaboration within agencies and, often, across a wide community of stakeholders. To sustain this collaboration, many of those interviewed stressed that reliable and robust channels of communication are of paramount importance. “The ones that are successful don’t necessarily have more resources, [but] they see the right pathway to get to their outcome, they attack it and find a way to explain it to their people,” observed one federal official. A county official agreed, noting that “communication and culture change at all levels require a lot of time and engagement.”
These open channels of communication serve to integrate the different constituencies necessary for technology innovation in human services. For example, ensuring that staff feedback is sought and incorporated helps to secure staff buy-in to the project and enriches the resulting technology tools. Strong communication also gives technologists the guidance needed to design effective technology and the opportunity to share thoughts with administrators about what sorts of interventions are possible. Additionally, communicating with elected officials can recruit champions for technology innovation in human services who will work to ensure broad political support for these projects.
Retrieved July 10, 2014 from http://datasmart.ash.harvard.edu/news/article/the-innovation-fundamentals-486