Here comes the BRASS
The process of creating and distributing a monthly board agenda packet is one of Arlington County, Va.’s longest-standing and most critical business processes. For nearly 350 staff members, the scope involves an unforgiving schedule of monthly deadlines. Feeling the pressure to complete the agenda, staff members at times sacrificed quality to meet distribution deadlines.
“Chasing paper documents consumed just as much time as writing the board reports,” says Kristanne Littlefield, applications and architecture division chief at Arlington County. “It was common for staff members to stay late into the evening making final edits including formatting, printing, assembling and distributing agenda packets.”
County staffers knew there had to be a better way, but thought changing the process was too disruptive. After witnessing the power of an automated agenda management product, Arlington County officials saw the potential efficiency.
“The Board Report and Agenda Support System (BRASS) transformed the process by replacing the paper-based system … with tablets and OnBase by Hyland,” says Paul Carter, information technology manager, who adds that, with the system in place, “Arlington County saved nearly $35,000 per year in paper costs and freed staff to focus on the issues instead of the process.”
The new agenda management system also improved transparency, providing the community and decision makers with better reports of critical information. The County Manager’s Office staff can now view agenda materials at any point in the lifecycle, enabling the county to identify and address potential problems long before final deadlines.
“We have immediate access to all board reports at any given time,” says Gabriela Acurio, assistant county manager. “Bottlenecks are easily spotted and quick interventions keep the process moving. Managers can re-route reports within BRASS to the appropriate users, a great capability when staff members are unexpectedly absent. We can also view a complete history of the movement of the monthly board reports, showing who had it, for how long, whether they approved or rejected the report and where they sent it next.“
Perhaps most importantly, staff members have the ability to complete reports offsite. “The County Manager’s staff assembles, orders and distributes electronic versions of the agenda packets with the click of the mouse, a favorite feature being the ability to reorder the agenda on the fly,” says Pamela Locke, management and budget specialist. “Prior to BRASS, the order of the agenda sent to the printer was final. Now staff can easily re-order the agenda and repost it to all of the appropriate distribution channels.”
BRASS enables staff to concentrate on content quality, instead of chasing down paper reports. What once took staff days to complete can now be handled in minutes.