The following is an email sent to The State Worker from LogicBit Software CEO Frank Rivera in response to our report on the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing’s switch to his company’s HoudiniEsq case-management software.
We’re publishing Rivera’s initial email unedited and with his permission:
I read your piece in the Sacramento Bee. It is a good read and accurate, but I think DFEH is being sold short just a bit.
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What DFEH has accomplished is remarkable, Jon. I have been implementing software for almost 30 years and I have never seen a team work so hard together to accomplish what they set out to do in just under a year, and mind you, on time and on budget.
It was a huge undertaking to move an organization as large as DFEH to a completely new system and while doing so implementing new policies, workflow and procedures that would allow the organization to better track and process complaints. This organization takes their job very seriously. They always have the public’s interest at heart in everything they do. It was refreshing to work with DFEH. While it is true that DFEH had budgetary constraints and from what I understand a hiring freeze, despite this and all the politics they prevailed and this is why.
A key factor for moving to a new system, other than the fact that the existing system was at its breaking point, was that DFEH needed a way to improve internal processes and improve resource utilization. The new system allows management to better track staff performance (a real sticking point with just a few state employees at DFEH). The transparency was extremely important for DFEH management and the director because if they can’t see the causes of bottle necks or how the cases are flowing through the system, they can’t make improvements.
A fact that you may not be aware of is that cases would sit on desk until just before deadlines. This was inefficient and a waste of DFEH resources. You couldn’t even search for documents efficiently; full text indexing of all the paper and data being processed was practically nonexistent. Some staff members would report that they were at capacity when in fact their utilization was very low. "You have 20-30 cases sitting here assigned to you but what are you doing right now?" I asked one of the staffers when we began requirements gathering. The response I got was shrugged shoulders. The new system is capable of not only tracking staff performance, but also auto assigning complaints to staff based on the language they speak and their skill set. It is true that workloads have increased since implementing the new system, but DFEH management can tweak case assignments to meet each staffer’s work ethic or case load with ease and have done so many times. The new system allows DFEH to really see what is going on internally. You can’t blame anyone for wanting to see into their business more clearly.
I read that a staffer reported that they weren’t trained and I would have to disagree. DFEH scheduled 64 hours of standard training and 24 hours of PRA training before going live. These sessions were available to everyone and mandated by DFEH. In addition DFEH has scheduled as many as 15 additional training sessions since go live and periodically schedule them from time to time even today. Some DFEH staff members are even joining in on our weekly company webinars. I think you will find that those who complain likely just have a problem with changing the status quo. I don’t say this blindly; here is an email we received just two months ago.
"Houdini has made my life so easy, that at times I forget that there are people behind the scenes that make it happen!" - Angelina Endsley - District Administrator DFEH
Jon, I’m not writing you to defend my software. I’m writing you to defend all the DFEH state employees who truly give a damn and pour their souls into their jobs. If anything DFEH should be applauded for what they have been able to accomplish given the tight budgetary constraints and all the politics along the way. During this process they never lost sight of what their mission is or why they wanted this new system: to serve the residents of California better. I think all state agencies could learn a thing or two from those who work for the state agencies of California.
Don’t sell DFEH short. What they have accomplished is remarkable for an organization their size in just under a year. DFEH didn’t spend $400M like the feds did with the Obama Care web site. Currently DFEH puts the feds to shame. DFEH has hundreds of employees or or as many as 1,200 concurrent users if you count the public who use the system every day. Of course there have been bumps along the way. No project of this size has ever had a smooth transition, but they went live and on schedule and on budget when they said they would. DFEH can now monitor and collect vital information they couldn’t before. All of this effort for no other reason than to find opportunity to improve their service to the public.
Jon, I love your article because it is transparent. I think you will find that DFEH is cut from the same cloth.
Frank Rivera CEO
LogicBit Software - Research Triangle Park, North Carolina