County Case Studies
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Ed Yonker joined the Franklin County IT Department in 2004, after spending many years in the banking industry. “Government is a different world,” he explains. “Because of its size and structure—there are eight employees in the IT Department, compared with 925 employees county-wide—it’s a lot harder to implement new technology and get everyone on the same page.”
With approximately 150,000 residents, Franklin County’s mission is to enrich social, economic and environmental vitality by delivering services that are responsive to the health, safety and general welfare needs of its residents. The county government comprises 52 different departments, including the Commissioners’ Office, Human Resources, Human Services and Risk Management, to name just a few.
Yonker notes that these departments “operate like 52 separate businesses under the same umbrella.” In this kind of environment, it’s especially important to establish enterprise-wide IT standards to promote consistency and cross departmental collaboration, Yonker says. In addition, standardization decreases support and maintenance costs. However, it’s often difficult to find technology that’s agile enough to meet the needs of many different departments and flexible enough to adapt quickly and cost-effectively to changing conditions.
“It’s hard to convince all the different departments that they can use the same system,” says Yonker. “Because of that, we didn’t start out thinking Laserfiche was going to be enterprise technology. But after the enterprise content management seed was planted in one department, suddenly all our departments wanted to know more.”
Franklin County first purchased Laserfiche back in 2001, after a new panel of Commissioners was elected. “We had some younger Commissioners come in, and they were more familiar with technology and the benefits it could have for Franklin County than previous Commissioners had been,” explains Jean Byers, Deputy Chief Clerk in the Commissioners’ Office. “They did a year of research into solutions that would grant them easy access to the documents they needed.
In the end, they selected Laserfiche for its instant search capabilities, as well as the fact that we could install it directly on the computers already in use.” She continues, “We immediately realized tremendous benefits from Laserfiche. Documents that used to take days to find became available with the click of a button. It used to take hours to find specific text within meeting minutes that were hundreds of pages long, but with Laserfiche it only takes seconds.”
The new technology also made it easy to share documents with colleagues, and due to a similar look and feel as Windows, Laserfiche quickly became popular with both management and staff. Over time, the Commissioners’ Office expanded its use of Laserfiche. When yet another new Board of Commissioners was elected three years ago, they went wireless and purchased laptops so they could review meeting agendas electronically during their Board meetings. They also use Laserfiche to manage office mail, County contracts, bids and personnel files. According to Byers, “Nobody takes paper into the Commissioners meetings anymore.”
The Evolution of an Enterprise Standard
As Laserfiche took root in the Commissioners’ Office, other departments began to take notice. With their focus on compliance and prudent financial management, both the Fiscal Office and the Controller’s Office deployed Laserfiche in 2004. “Laserfiche is great for accounts payable (A/P) functions and auditing,” says Yonker. “For A/P, instant document retrieval speeds and simplifies the review and approval of invoices. And with electronically stored documents, employees can quickly and easily pull the files needed to satisfy an auditor’s request, with no need to spend hours digging through file cabinets. That’s a pretty impressive efficiency boost right there.”
Yonker notes that rolling Laserfiche out to additional departments was an easier sell than other system expansions because there was buy-in from the top right from the start. “Whenever County purchases exceed a certain amount, they need to be approved by the Commissioners,” he explains. “Because the Commissioners were already very familiar with the value of using Laserfiche, they never hesitated to give the go-ahead when other departments wanted to get on board.” The next departments to raise their hands and ask for Laserfiche were the Human Services and Human Resources Departments. Both departments implemented the software in 2006.
In Franklin County, Human Services is comprised of 18 different offices and agencies, many of which use Laserfiche to manage case files. Effective case management, of course, is essential for providing high-quality services to qualified individuals at an affordable cost.
Electronic case management using Laserfiche enables the smooth delivery of services such as psychiatric assistance, medical care and food assistance, among others, by granting case workers instant access to client files, along with the ability to upload their own notes into the system.
The offices and agencies that fall under the Human Services umbrella include:
- Aging Agency
- Children & Adolescent Service System Program
- Children & Youth Services
- Community Services
- Developmental Disabilities/Early Intervention Programs
- Domestic Relations Section
- Drug & Alcohol Program
- Falling Spring Nursing & Rehab Center
- Franklin County Transportation
- Mental Health, Mental Retardation & Early Intervention Administration
- Grants Management Department
- Information and Referral – Community Services
- Juvenile Probation Department
- Mental Health Program
- Parent Power Newsletters
- Penn State Cooperative Extension Office – Franklin County
- Public Defenders Office
- Veterans Affairs Office
According to Claire Hornberger, administrator for the Mental Health, Mental Retardation & Early Intervention Administration (MHMR), disaster recovery has been a driving force behind her department’s adoption of Laserfiche. MHMR has 80 employees who provide services to 1,400 individuals across the County. Client charts typically contain an intake assessment, school records, hospital records, treatment records and notes from meetings with social workers.
Hornberger notes that the files can be up to 5-6 inches thick. At first, the department was scanning closed case files into Laserfiche with an eye to decreasing the space needed for document storage. When MHMR was forced to evacuate the office for three false fire alarms one day in early 2010, staff realized that in the case of an emergency, it would be more beneficial to have active files available in an electronic format than case files that were long closed.
From that day on, the department stopped back scanning and started moving its active files into the system to make them available in the event of a fire or other disaster. Hornberger notes that Laserfiche allows her department to organize its digital charts in the same manner its paper charts were organized, so it hasn’t been complicated or cumbersome for staff to learn to use the electronic system. Scanning, however, has been a bit of a challenge. Because MHMR has so much paper, it’s had to hire temps to do the scanning, which has made the process slower than the department would like. Once the records are in Laserfiche, though, Hornberger appreciates that it’s a secure and user friendly system for her staff.
Human Resources John Aguirre has been the director of HR at Franklin County for the last 13 years. He notes that his department has nine employees who are charged with:
- Establishing, administering and effectively communicating sound policies, rules and practices that treat employees with dignity and equality while maintaining compliance with employment and labor laws, County policies and labor agreements.
- Providing the ever-changing needed services to the citizens and employees of Franklin County in order to secure, maintain and develop employment with the County government.
- Administering payroll and the County benefits program. “We became interested in Laserfiche because we saw that it could us move into the 21st Century,” says Aguirre. “The direction of the nation was to go paperless—even the military was doing it! We didn’t want to get left behind.”
Before deciding to invest in Laserfiche, the HR Department had actually been considering moving to microfilm to cut down on the space needed for document storage. Even such photographic film, however, would require storage space, along with expensive machines to read it. “We ultimately decided that digital records would be easier to deal with,” explains Aguirre, “and we knew that a number of other departments were already having success with Laserfiche.”