Unemployment Insurance Modernization: Indiana Achieves USA First

Indiana Builds Country's First Modernized Unemployment Insurance System

In March 2020, many states discovered exactly how unprepared and underpowered their unemployment insurance (UI) systems were for massive claims. Some needed to update technologies; some were in the process of modernization yet found their improvements were missing essential pieces and capacities. With the unprecedented levels of unemployment brought on by COVID-19, few agencies have time to seek solutions. Both the people operating these programs and the people using them have been squeezed beyond capacity from high demand and limited resources.

Agencies that deliver unemployment services largely rely on outdated legacy mainframes that are not only hard to maintain but require an inordinate amount of time and resources from technology staff. Even in states with UI modernization efforts, the enormous need brought on by the pandemic has revealed cracks, deficiencies, and all-out brick walls.

Indiana stands as the exception.

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NWI.Life Indiana Department of Workforce Development

The Indiana Department of Workforce Development connects people and employers through engagement with continued transparency and accountability, while celebrating, valuing and prioritizing equity, inclusion and diversity. DWD supports citizens and the organizations who employ them by creating and administering workforce programs, paying unemployment claims, and collecting unemployment insurance premiums from employers.

We’re proud to help organizations thrive, and we’d love to tell you more.

The Problem

Indiana’s modernized unemployment insurance system, UpLink, was successfully launched on January 19, 2014. UpLink eliminated unsupported technology that was bringing significant risk to the Department of Workforce Development and was designed with future needs in mind - having built in contingencies for changing demands, government policy, as well as federal and state laws.

But the story to get to that point is long and winding. The agency had to go through a nine year odyssey of false starts, budget overruns, and technology missteps before finally bringing on Resultant to take change of the project and bring it to fruition.

Indiana had been struggling with this project since the early 2000s. Even with clear priorities established, complications arose with the vendor that led to contract termination. The Department of Workforce Development (DWD) engaged a second vendor in 2006.

The project was under immense political pressure by the time DWD contracted Resultant to perform Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) services to help move the project transparently toward its goal.

The state’s antiquated systems were rapidly becoming unsustainable and were a constant drain on time and resources. DWD needed to achieve these outcomes:

  • Modernize their UI systems and replace the outdated technology
  • Provide new online self-service offerings to employers and citizens
  • Create a comprehensive UI system with each business function centralized in a single application

The Solution

The Resultant team worked closely with state executives, project team members, business resources, contractor project management, and technical resources to develop the buy-in the transparency effort required. With this collaboration, these outcomes were reached:

  • Establishment of key metrics to accurately show the status of project efforts
  • Development of dashboards enabling stakeholders to get clear details about progress
  • Improvement of interactions between state and vendor project resources in order to repair project culture
  • Thorough recommendations to improve processes and approaches in key areas of the software development lifecycle.

Through greater transparency, the team provided relief for claimants in the form of a quick-win online claim filing solution, making Indiana one of the first states to do so. However, the relationship between state and contractor continued to deteriorate and, by 2011, Indiana had yet to transition off the mainframe legacy system. In late 2012, Resultant was asked to assume project management and successfully deliver the project that already had missed its target launch by years.

The real need was complete digital transformation. It demanded a holistic approach and needed to begin with the people most affected by the changes. The project team reorganized with highly capable individuals in the most important technical roles and, together, zeroed in on the outcomes desired with an eye focused on the long term.

We didn’t look simply two years ahead; we aimed for twenty. Nobody wanted to have to keep making constant radical changes to a system forever. Anticipating future needs, the focus was on expandable capacity and processes that could grow as needs, demands, and DWD standards evolved.

The Outcome

Indiana’s modernized unemployment insurance system, UpLink, was successfully launched on January 19, 2014— nearly ten years from the project’s original initiation, and only one year after Resultant took ownership of the project team. It was the first system in the nation to launch all program areas at once with real-time accounting and processes.

UpLink eliminated unsupported technology that was bringing significant risk to the agency. Developed to meet current and future business needs, UpLink was designed to be modified in response to changing demands, policy, and federal and state law.

Since then, many states have attempted to modernize their UI operations to integrate tax, benefits, and appeals into a single cohesive system. Indiana’s experience proved the complexity involved and revealed the true magnitude of such an undertaking. Even with hundreds of millions of dollars invested to launch the integrated systems, success nationwide has been limited and not sustainable for the challenges of today and the next ten years.

After ten years of modernization frustration, DWD now has a successful system for managing unemployment insurance. A strong relationship resulted from a project nearly written off as a failure. DWD continues to collaborate with Resultant to maintain and enhance the system. Together, we build more refined solutions in response to developing changes.

Best of all, UpLink handled the COVID-19 crisis with beauty and precision. It never went down, and the team smoothly added pandemic benefit programs and offered virtual experiences for their customers with ease.

Working with Resultant, the State of Indiana was the first to successfully modernize a UI system that integrated all components at launch. Additionally,

  • Claimants now enjoy 24/7 online access and increased benefit accuracy and timeliness
  • Employers have 24/7 online access to tax and liability information and benefit from near real-time transactions, eliminating processes that previously took multiple days to complete
  • Internal staff have an increased ability to detect fraud, successfully complete collections, and stop improper payments
  • Indiana’s UI program integrity increased by 40%, moving their ranking of state UI programs by federal standards from 49 to 2

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