A review has found the benefits flowing from the Accident Compensation Corporation's new case management system are hard to measure.
The system is a key component of a transformation that was expected to cost $669 million and be completed this year. The case management component’s cost increased from the original July 2018 business case of $55 million to $74 million. Around the same time the project scope for technology was changed to a minimum viable product.
According to an internal review released today, performance reporting was complex and therefore the impact of the new model remained unclear.
It was not possible, for instance, to conclude the impact of the model on client outcomes, the impact of undelivered or partly delivered initiatives that the model design relied on to produce benefits, or the likely performance shift that would result from future enhancements planned for the model.
Determining return on investment from the new model was also challenging, the review found, because "benefit horizons are not matched to cost horizons".
ACC's value management office forecasted that $438 million, or 88 per cent of the $500 million intended financial benefit of the model would be achieved by the 2030 financial year.
"Our view is that there is a high degree of uncertainty related to achieving this benefit by 2030," internal auditors commented. "Additionally, some of the tactical cost savings already achieved, such as rebranding and full time equivalent (FTE) efficiency, are likely to be reversed in the pursuit of client and claim outcomes."
While non-financial benefit performance had not yet been reported by the value management office, as at 30 September 2021, client net trust was +26 with a target of +45 to be achieved by 30 June this year.
ACC's new chief executive Megan Main said the the transition to the new case management model was well managed, but there were always lessons that could be learned from such a large transformation.
“One learning from the review is that we should have better aligned the migration of claims and staff from the old model to the new one, which might have avoided the build-up of overdue tasks in the assisted recovery team," Main said.
“We know further work is required to fully implement the new model to improve efficiency and responsiveness for our clients, providers, and our people. This is a priority for us in the next six months.”
The implementation of Next Generation Case Management (NGCM) was the largest people, technology and process change in the history of ACC, involving the migration of over 90,000 claims and impacting approximately 2000 staff. Transition to the new model commenced in September 2019 and was completed in September 2020.
The objective was to focus ACC resources where they could have the greatest impact for customers, achieve greater consistency, and remove complexity that has been "layered in" over the years, the review said.
While the review found the the transition process was well managed, lessons learned should be applied to future change in the model.
"There needs to be a clearer link between operational performance metrics and client outcome measures," the review found. "This would help to assess model performance."
The full NGCM blueprint had not yet been fully operationalised nd that created another challenge.
"Additional costs to fully operationalise the blueprint are borne by continuous delivery workstreams rather than the NGCM project," the review found. "This needs to be considered when comparing future benefits against project costs."
Main said a major benefit of the new model was being able to manage ACC’s frontline workforce’s workload in ways that would not have been possible in the past.
“Because we now have a national model for claims allocation, we have flexibility to better spread workloads around," she said.
In recent months this had allowed the corporation to respond effectively to staff absences caused by Omicron.
“Successfully embedding such a major change takes time, and it may be up to two years before we see the new model working to its full potential," Main said. "It’s important to remember this model is designed to be constantly tweaked and refined, so we can respond as needs change over time.”
During its 2021 annual review before Parliament, ACC was quizzed on the project's outcomes.
"We understood that NGCM was supposed to improve the working environment for staff as well as the service for clients, and decrease the number of staff needed," a report noted. "However, staffing levels have remained high, while the number of claims processed per full-time-equivalent staff member has decreased."
ACC responded by describing itself as being at “the end of the beginning”.
"It believes it has put in place good systems and processes but the transition will take time because it wants the system to be fit for purpose for all the different groups that need ACC’s services. Because of the scale of the transition, ACC does not expect to see all the benefits of the new system until 2031."