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Data Warehouse Streamlines DHS, Recognized Nationally for Innovation

The content below may contain dated material as it was prepared for the media in advance of Pittsburgh’s hosting of the G20 in March 2010.  

Prior to 1996, Allegheny County delivered human services to its citizens through independent county departments. There was no coordination of services and no tracking of who was receiving services from multiple departments. In 1996, a special blue ribbon panel recommended that the individual human service departments be integrated into a single department. The Allegheny County Commissioners responded by creating the Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS).

It was recognized early on that integration posed very significant challenges for the new department’s Information Technology systems since the formerly independent departments stored information about clients, providers, and services in more than 80 disparate databases and systems.

A synthesis project conducted by Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) recommended that DHS develop two separate information systems, one to accommodate the programmatic data of the department and the other to track the fiscal or financial processes of DHS. A Chamber of Commerce Information Systems Task Force recommendation was to focus on creating a Data Warehouse (DW) application to allow shared client information throughout the department.

In 1999, with the backing of local foundations, DHS decided to develop a computing architecture to support the business process of an integrated DHS that would include a common client identifier operating application and the DW, to integrate information from the separate program offices. By April 2001, the DW was up and running. As time progressed, additional data feeds were incorporated into the DW.

It didn’t take long for DHS to recognize that the data stored in the DW would be valuable as a resource tool for research, strategic planning, needs assessment and program evaluation not only to DHS but to the broader community as well.

In June 2007, based on their work creating the Data Warehouse, the DHS Office of Information Management (OIM) was recognized by the Computerworld Honors Program for demonstrating extraordinary use of information technology in the category of Government and Non-profit Organizations.

OIM continues to enhance DHS IT functionality for the benefit of staff and those who provide and utilize DHS services.