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, it’s a lot harder to implement new technology and get everyone on the same page.”
With approximately 150,000 residents, Franklin County 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. 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 all 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. “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 Commissions had been,” explains Jean Byers, deputy chief clerk in the Commissioners’ Office. “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 took 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.
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 Human Services, which was particularly excited about Laserfiche from a disaster recovery standpoint, and Human Resources. Both departments implemented the software in 2006.
The first thing the HR department did after implementing Laserfiche was to start scanning personnel files into the system. It took some time to develop an appropriate folder structure that separated employees’ employment records from their confidential medical records and discipline files, and then it took about a year to get everything scanned in.
“We probably spent between 4-6 months in the planning phase, but getting those personnel files into Laserfiche properly has had an enormous payback for us,” says John Aguirre, Director of HR at Franklin County.
A few of the benefits include:
- Reduced paper consumption. “We used to photocopy 100,000s of pages of job applications a year for review by our elected officials,” says Aguirre. “We almost never make hard copies of documents anymore since our officials have access to everything they need in Laserfiche.”
- Instant search and retrieval. “The ability to locate documents quickly is great for me,” explains Aguirre. “Not a day goes by that I don’t get a request from one of our directors for material from an employee’s personnel file for various purposes. Laserfiche makes it easy for me to satisfy their requests and quickly e-mail them exactly what they need to see.”
- Higher staff productivity. “With Laserfiche, we can do more with less and accomplish more functions with the remaining staff, which is important in this economy. When one of our part-time HR reps left the County, we didn’t need to find a replacement because Laserfiche makes everybody more efficient. Retrieving documents is as easy as opening a Web page.”
- Reduced need for document storage. “Prior to implementing Laserfiche, we had a large ‘Electreiver’ file cabinet in the office that stored approximately 1,500 files and rotated them on chains. It was always breaking down and causing us headaches. Once we started digitizing our documents, we were able to get rid of that monster, along with five standing file cabinets. We now use that space for our receptionist’s desk and our Laserfiche scanner, so our office is much less cramped,” says Aguirre.
- Easier audits. “Auditors love Laserfiche because it’s so fast and easy to use. It’s also clear to them that we’re meeting compliance mandates with regards to our folder structure and the security surrounding confidential medical records, etc. In addition, my department no longer has to stop working in order to organize for the audits.”
Aguirre notes that in addition to managing personnel files in Laserfiche, his department has also added recruitment documentation and union and arbitration files to the system, which has led to quicker resolution of some grievances. In addition, HR is currently most of the way through scanning employees’ benefits files and leave of absence documents into the repository, and it has recently started on payroll documentation.
“Laserfiche is so secure in terms of access rights and privileges that we’re comfortable using it for everything we’ve got,” Aguirre says. “For example, I’m the only person in the HR Department who can view the union files, and I’m also the only one with deletion rights. I know that unauthorized staff can’t see confidential information, and I know that no one’s going to tamper with our files. The role-based security provides real peace of mind.”
Laserfiche Rolls across the Enterprise
With some technologies, organizations hit a tipping point for enterprise adoption. For Franklin County, that tipping point for Laserfiche was the implementation in HR.
“After HR deployed Laserfiche, everybody started to ask for it,” Yonker recounts. “People saw how successful the HR implementation was, and they began to talk about what the benefits for their departments could be.”
As Laserfiche was adopted by more and more departments, the types of content stored in the system grew more and more diverse:
- Emergency Services uses Laserfiche to manage notes from its 911 calls and cases.
- Franklin County Jail stores inmate records and requests in the Laserfiche repository.
- Planning, which is tasked with fostering the proper growth of communities within Franklin County, manages new development records with Laserfiche.
- Open Records, with its goal of making government transparent to County citizens, makes plans, drafts and studies stored in Laserfiche available to the public.
- Real Estate manages audit reports and past voting results using the ECM system. It is also able to respond to 13,000 queries a week in a fast and efficient manner thanks to Laserfiche’s ability to e-mail digital documents.
With 26 departments already using Laserfiche, Franklin County recently upgraded to Laserfiche Rio to bring 24 additional departments onto the system. According to Yonker, “Court Administration will be the last big department to make the transition, and we’re going to integrate Laserfiche with the state’s case management system for them.”
Although the IT Department had not initially planned to implement Laserfiche as the county-wide standard for ECM, it’s now grateful to have that consistency in place. “We got rid of a couple departments’ antiquated imaging systems in order to move them onto Laserfiche, which makes my staff more efficient because it only has to administer the one ECM system. It’s also easier from a user training perspective, since everybody’s using the same thing,” Yonker says.