In-Depth

The State of Texas -- Workforce Information System

State information systems groups are coming into the forefront as the federal government hands over control of welfare distribution to the states, forcing states to overhaul their internal processes for delivering aid and services to those in need. The State of Texas recently completed a similar effort by integrating access to its welfare-related systems, enabling case workers to spend more time with their clients and less time managing information.

Prior to implementing The Workforce Information System of Texas, or Twist for short, a Texan who needed financial support from the government would have to travel to multiple offices to get food stamps, apply for Welfare and get job training. Twist makes case workers learn only one system, instead of the six disparate data entry/access systems previously used. The new system updates all legacy systems simultaneously and allows case workers to cull through Texas’ vast array of data sources in a single search, Kotal said.

Kotal’s group of 24, including some outside consultants, used Emeryville, Calif.-based Sybase Corp.’s PowerBuilder and Sybase 11 database to build the "all in one" front end. Remote offices, of which there are 28, some covering as many as 34 counties, are tied into the central offices via the Internet and IP protocol. Sybase’s NetGateway provides the middleware between the Database/PowerBuilder front end and the multiple back-end legacy systems. Twist took six months to develop at a cost of $1.5 million. (Texas had to replace a number of dumb terminals with standard PCs for the project, something that needed to be done anyway, said Kotal.) Additional conversion and integration of the legacy systems, scheduled to be piloted this month, will cost an additional $1.5 million to $2 million, according to Kotal.

Eventually, Kotal said, all the back-end systems will be integrated, but until then, Twist eases the front-end load that had overburdened case workers.

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