Alberta Children’s Services has chosen ReportNet software from Ottawa-based Cognos Inc. to produce internal reports that the provincial department said will help

it improve its child protection services.

Officials would not disclose the value of the contract.

ACS, which is made up of 10 regional Child and Family Services Authorities that handle programs such as child protection, foster care and adoption, said the business intelligence software will help improve its tracking of caseload trends and combine that information with financial, human resources and demographic data, resulting in better decision-making and allocation of resources.

Children’s Services was split off from the province’s Family and Social Services department in 1999, said Frank Scarfone, manager of information management at Children’s Services. Family and Social Services was already using Cognos’ PowerPlay and Impromptu business intelligence tools, though neither had been used in the children’s services area until last year, when Children’s Services began using Impromptu to create some reports.

The department has switched to ReportNet because of better integration with PowerPlay and with other applications, said Scarfone. Alberta Children’s Services began converting existing reports from Impromptu to ReportNet in October. ReportNet will eventually become the common reporting tool for the department’s information systems, Scarfone added.

Bringing together case load, financial and human resources data was difficult in the past because of separate information systems. This means for instance that it is easier to spot a connection between increased costs and increased case loads or changes in the types of cases being handled.

Scarfone said ReportNet will give his department more flexibility to adapt its reporting to new requirements. The need for flexibility is due in part to the province’s Alberta Response Model, which aims to improve results for children, youth and families who deal with children’s and family services.

“”We keep on trying different things and coming up with new approaches to providing better services,”” Scarfone explained — and the department’s need for information continues to grow. ReportNet provides more flexibility than older reporting tools to adapt to change, he said. “”We need the ability to adapt as we go and as we learn.””

Terence Atkinson, director of public sector solutions at Cognos, said the company’s business intelligence tools are quite widely used in government agencies, particularly in defence and education.

“”We have a very good business in health care,”” Atkinson said, noting that while health care is largely private business in the United States, it falls under the public-sector umbrella in Canada.

The Alberta Health Care Authority also uses Cognos software, Atkinson noted. It supports a Web site where citizens can select a medical procedure and find out what the estimated wait time is to have the procedure done.

The company’s software is used in the public school system for tracking test results and other purposes — Ontario is among the jurisdictions using it this way, Atkinson said — and in higher education, where one of its popular uses is in fund-raising efforts.


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