Putting paper in its place
Marion County, Ore., has begun storing hundreds of thousands of digital records in a database and using imaging software to manage the information. As a result, county employees can find records quickly to handle business and answer residents’ requests.
Before 2003, Marion County’s digital records, such as financial and law enforcement documents, were stored in a database along with records from Salem, the county’s biggest city. The volume of records began to overwhelm the database, so county officials decided to create their own digital records management system. They did not want to install the same system Salem used because the vendor charged additional fees for support and for expansions to multiple departments. “The Marion IT Department was given a clear mandate [by Chief Information Officer John Margaronis] to find a new document imaging platform that could cost-effectively migrate all the data from Salem’s system and set up a platform receptive to new data immediately,” says Robert Eddy, former systems administrator for Marion County.
In May 2003, the county contracted with Eugene, Ore.-based V.P. Consulting to install Document Imaging software by Long Beach, Calif.-based LaserFiche. The software includes a scanning interface, optical character recognition engine and full-text search engine. Marion County also installed add-ons, including WebLink, which allows employees to use a Web browser to access documents in the system; Quick Fields, a data-capture tool that reads barcodes and organizes documents; and Plus, which allows departments to store records on CD for disaster recovery. Scanning software was installed on 20 computers, and employees throughout the county can access the document database through their Web browsers.
By the end of the month, the IT Department had transferred all of the county’s documents from the old database to the new system and had begun training employees to use it. “Countywide, we have 200 users trained and certified and using [the software],” Eddy says. “A two-hour training session is all that’s needed. Training users how to publish documents to the Web takes another hour. We have scanning training available as needed, and users are scanning after one session.”
The software has helped the Permits Department keep track of all construction that occurs in the county. For example, Quick Fields reads all permits off barcodes and then organizes the permits by address. After creating the permit number, department employees can cross-reference it against the address and quickly pull up documentation of every construction activity at the address, answering inquiries from residents and construction companies. The software also works with the county’s permits database, so users can view maps and graphs that support the permits.
In addition to permits, the system stores images of all invoices, incident reports for the Sheriff’s Department, probation and parole records, and case files for the District Attorney’s Office. With so many departments using a single database, the IT Department needed to prevent system clutter and protect sensitive documents. Using the software’s security controls, IT can dictate who can access certain documents. For example, employees in the Land Use Department can see all building permits when they open the software, but they cannot access prisoner records, even if they search for a specific prisoner’s name. “People in the Land Use Department may need to see permits to work on a land use case, but people in the Permits Department don’t need to see land use case files from the D.A.’s Office,” Eddy says. “Those are confidential.”
Today, 1 million documents are available to multiple Marion County offices, including remote facilities. Two thousand documents are added to the system every week and are made instantly available over the Web to the employees who need them.