Government investments into modernization must fulfill both immediate and long-term needs.
True technology modernization requires an approach that can keep pace with increasing customer demands, constantly advancing technologies, ongoing security threats, and evolving government policies. These digital technology solutions must provide constituents with continuous access to services seamlessly, equitably, and inclusively. Modernization requires a new mindset in developing government technology—building customized, forever-modern solutions that meet the needs of today and provide the flexibility to respond to changing requirements over time.
A transformational approach with a forever-modern solution brings a cadence for proactive, well-planned activities and a roadmap to achieve constant outcomes and value for investment.
Five elements drive the need for modernization, transforming the state agency’s operations with enabling technology and dramatically improving target outcomes.
Security and fraud risks
System modernization is a high-risk, high-cost, time-consuming process that states cannot afford to repeat.
Today’s most effective and efficient solutions are engineered to evolve as the unemployment environment changes. A transformational approach embraces new technologies and process improvements, delivering forever-modern solutions that meet the needs of today and provide the flexibility to respond to changing requirements over time.
Forever-modern solutions include components that can be upgraded or replaced without disrupting or causing risk to the entire application. Such solutions should be cloud-agnostic, scalable, flexible, and provide a transparent, consumer-grade user experience. A forever-modern solution allows continuous technology upgrades while accommodating operational changes and modifications to laws and policies.
Automation, robust case management, and artificial intelligence-based chatbot and voicebot are features of a forever-modern solution. A machine-first delivery approach, in which any function that a computer can reasonably perform is not passed to a human, helps to increase efficiency, and redeploy staff to higher-value activities. By using technology to create more capacity, agents can support the users who need it most, helping to improve individual satisfaction and program outcomes. Forever modern is the new normal: modernize once and do it right.
Tenets of a forever-modern digital government solution:
Easy-to-use and understand
AI-based chatbot and voicebot
Robust case management
Governments require solutions that meet customers where they are and anticipate future needs.
Public systems – including those considered modern – often need better customer experiences. Legacy solutions, focused on technology, barely considered the user. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these technology-focused unemployment insurance systems bowed under pressures of complex federal regulations, unprecedented volumes, and security challenges. Much of this failure resulted from systems that interacted poorly with customers. As a result, customers grappled with pressing questions—whether a claim had been filed successfully, what to expect next, when and if benefits would be paid—and existing technologies could not provide answers. A complex process, lack of transparency, and poor customer experience amplified peoples’ anxieties.
Today, there is no distinction between consumers of commercial products and constituents seeking government services. People expect the same consumer-grade experiences, whether buying a product from an online retailer or filing a claim for unemployment insurance benefits. A forever-modern solution with a consumer-grade user experience meets customers where they are, regardless of location, device, time of day, or technology proficiency.
A consumer-grade user experience provides clear and transparent information and easy-to-navigate processes, anticipating the user’s next need and delivering a dependable, consistent, curated, and even compassionate experience when people need access to the first line of economic defense against the impact of unemployment. Meeting these expectations requires technology that accommodates all known access methods, considers users’ state of mind, and anticipates future technological developments.
A human-centric design prioritizes the customer, applying usability standards, user feedback, and data to evaluate the user experience, remove navigation barriers, and improve operations.
Applying the principles of human-centric design levels the playing field across social and economic groups, allowing all users ease of access and transparency in the unemployment insurance experience. Improving equitable and inclusive access includes creating identical experiences across all devices without compromising functionality or available features.
Urgency and impact necessitate solutions that evolve with the changing environment.
The infusion of hundreds of billions of federal dollars during the COVID-19 pandemic made the nation’s unemployment insurance program a high-value target for fraud by individual criminals and organized crime groups. In September 2022, the US Department of Labor reported identifying more than $45 billion in potentially fraudulent claims since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. The Department of Labor-Office of Inspector General has increased investigations 1,000-fold since the pandemic started.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, fraud was considered less urgent than paying benefits. However, recent fraudulent activity increases have elevated both urgency and impact, necessitating solutions that evolve with the changing environment. Fraud prevention can no longer wait until the staff has time; it must be done constantly.
The good news is that the technology exists to assist staff in doing this work. Modern unemployment insurance systems address fraud, waste, and abuse with a multi-pronged approach.
A significant part of fraud prevention is the ability to continuously analyze and triangulate data, detect patterns, and address potential fraud cases. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) allow deep investigation into data to understand relationships and uncover patterns invisible to humans. This deep data analysis improves the identification and prediction of fraud to stop fraudulent activity before states pay out false claims.
While deep data analytics is one of the most effective tools in fraud prevention, additional tools in a forever-modern solution will also improve fraud detection and prevention.
For example, seamless integration with identity verification, state departments of corrections, birth and death, driver’s license, and longitudinal databases helps states verify legitimate claims in real time.
While responding quickly to changes in law and policy is essential, responding to new fraud schemes is equally important. Criminals continually evolve their methods and try to stay as far under the radar as possible. With AI, ML, and deep data analytics, forever-modern solutions are poised to respond as fraud techniques evolve.
New technology can transform the employment journey.
Over the years, employment systems have evolved from one-size-fits-all job boards to data-driven tools that provide better job matches, promote higher job satisfaction, increase productivity, identify training opportunities, and develop long-term, meaningful career paths.
Congress, trying to ensure people do not fall through the cracks, implemented programs to focus on the reemployment of the unemployed.
The current program, Reemployment Services and Eligibility Assessment, uses profiling models to identify those likely to exhaust benefits before returning to work. This allows placement programs to focus resources on helping those individuals find job matches. When the Reemployment Services and Eligibility Assessment legislation was created, the likely-to-exhaust method may have been the best we could expect. Fortunately, there are better methods now. Holistically evaluating barriers to employment and connecting individuals with right-fit jobs and upskilling opportunities potentially yields better outcomes for job seekers.
Today, we can holistically evaluate people’s characteristics, interests, credentials, and experiences and connect job seekers to the right-fit opportunities. The holistic profile approach augments the great work states have done for decades in their placement programs, which historically have used training credentials, employment history, and skills to match people with job opportunities. The twenty-first-century tools add a key element— personal characteristics—to the criteria. For instance, cognitive assessment technology can pinpoint personal working and learning styles, identify the activities an individual enjoys, determine their fit for a specific work environment, and assess how they interact in group settings.
A holistic approach to assisting the unemployed in returning to work yields multiple benefits:
Lack of staff and demand for faster response times are challenging unemployment agencies like never before.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, some states saw surges in unemployment claims ranging from 10 to 33 times their normal volume. Although many agencies expanded their staff, in some cases, the increase necessary to handle the influx of applications was untenable or impractical.
Modern technologies and approaches improve efficiency and re-deploy people to higher-value activities, helping agency staff best address constituent and program needs. A machine-first operational approach allows computers to handle a significant portion of the transaction processing (sometimes as much as 40-50%), shifting agency employees to focus on tasks where they can add the most value. The machine-first approach results in higher job satisfaction, leaving highly repetitive and mundane tasks to the computer without eliminating jobs.
Legacy technology in the unemployment insurance domain was not designed for deep dives into data at the point of claim filing to understand workflows and how to free up agency resources. Modern platforms use robotic process automation, or bots, automated workflows, and AI to handle many repetitive processes and analytics performed by staff in legacy environments. These tools now allow states to adopt a machine-first approach, increasing efficiency and re-deploying staff to activities that require human intervention.
Transformational approach, forever-modern solution
The costs of modernizing an unemployment system may not be so high considering the cost of doing nothing.
A transformational approach with a forever-modern solution will meet the demands of citizens, legislation, and operations today while helping states avoid the need for another costly modernization effort in the near term or even a decade from now. The benefits of implementing a forever-modern solution include:
Forever-modern solutions enable states to use scarce resources more efficiently. Investing in and implementing a forever-modern solution may cost about the same as deploying a typical system, which will be obsolete in a few years.
Taking a transformative approach with a forever-modern solution will require fewer massive changes in the future. This approach will allow for faster and easier maintenance, the ability to remain relevant in rapidly changing times, a reduction in total cost of ownership (TCO), and the perpetual delivery of greater value to the state and its constituents.