OFFICE EQUIPMENT/Step by step automation
The El Paso County, Colo., clerk to the Board of County Commissioners labors under a mountain of paper preparing for the board’s twice weekly meetings. To submit items for the board’s consideration, departments send requests and supporting documents for review to the clerk, who then sends them to the finance department, the county attorney and the county administrator for approvals. Most packets find their way through the offices and onto the agenda, but sometimes, they are lost, delaying decisions and holding up projects. “It was just a big paper mess,” says CIO Bill Miller.
Because many county departments were struggling with the same frustrations, Miller wanted to find software that could help them all. “We didn’t want to have specialized products for each area,” Miller says. “That just takes too many resources to support, upgrade and maintain, and it makes it too complex.”
Using business process management (BPM) software from Baltimore-based Metastorm, county officials now are automating processes within and among departments. The server-based software connects with existing databases and software programs, such as the county’s document management system by Waterloo, Ontario, Canada-based OpenText. The county is mapping out the documents’ approval routes from the clerk to the board and storing standard forms electronically.
By January 2007, all county departments will electronically submit the forms and supporting documents that have been scanned into the document management system to the clerk to request agenda items. Following the clerk’s review, the request moves to the next person in the chain of command who is notified by e-mail that documents are waiting for approval. The documents’ movements can be traced by all users. “It eliminates all the paper, the confusion, the timing,” Miller says.
After the clerk’s system is live, the development services department will begin charting its permit approval process and examining whether changes can be made to become more efficient. Besides connecting to the document management system, the BPM software will link to the county’s geographic information system, so permits can link electronically to maps, aerial photos and diagrams. Eventually, 90 percent of the county’s 40 departments will adopt the software, eliminating paper and automating processes throughout those offices. And, using the county Web site, residents will be able to access the system. “It will take 10 years before we get everything done,” Miller says. “The biggest problem we have is the fact that they’d all like it tomorrow.”