For the IT department at Essex County in Ontario, Canada, enterprise content management (ECM) has been its first foray into shared services.
“What started as a niche application in the County Clerk’s Office has now become an enterprise infrastructure investment,” says Wendy St. Amour, Essex County’s IT Manager.
The county implemented Laserfiche back in 2000 because “managing paper records in an organization of our size was an arduous, time-consuming and expensive task. Complying with a myriad of new government regulations and increasingly less physical space made it even more difficult,” explains St. Amour, adding that manual workflow processes were inefficient and time consuming.
She notes that the county “makes a point of making the right decision upfront,” and that based on a combination of good references from other municipalities, user-friendly technology and an affordable price, Laserfiche won the RFP process.
Initially implemented in the County Clerk’s Office, Laserfiche immediately began providing benefits.
Mary Brennan, the County’s Director of Council Services/Clerk, explains, “As the County Clerk, it’s my job to respond to requests for information. With Laserfiche, I never have to venture down into the dreaded basement vault to search for and retrieve records. By giving me a way to find documents quickly, Laserfiche has saved a tremendous amount of time over the years.”
Evolution of a Shared Service
What started as a solution for the County Clerk’s Office soon spread—not just to additional departments such as Engineering and Finance, but to seven municipalities within the County as well.
“Since we purchased Laserfiche in 2000, all seven of the municipalities in Essex County have implemented the software,” says Brennan. “The Municipality of Leamington was actually included in our RFP. The others saw the success we were having, heard similar success stories from other municipalities and decided that Laserfiche would be beneficial for them, too.”
At first, the municipalities maintained and administered their own Laserfiche systems. Over time, however, they began to understand the advantages of sharing, including the ability to leverage economies of scale, take advantage of a wider knowledge base and gain access to additional ECM functionality.
Brennan explains that Essex County dipped its toe into the shared service pool by jointly purchasing and using Laserfiche WebLink as a public information portal together with all seven of its lower-tier municipalities. The online portal provides residents with access to government material such as:
- Meeting minutes.
- Historical documents.
- Studies requiring public consultation.
“Laserfiche WebLink is great because all interested stakeholders can easily view public documents with the click of a mouse,” Brennan explains. “Plus, it saves our staff the work of converting documents to PDFs and manually posting them on our Website.”
St. Amour notes that, with eight organizations using Laserfiche, the knowledge base staff amassed was substantial. “The ability to share knowledge and expertise with each other has proven to be very beneficial. That, coupled with the cost savings of sharing one enterprise system, gave us the confidence to upgrade to Laserfiche Rio.”
After consulting with MC Imaging Technologies, Essex County’s Laserfiche reseller, the County and its lower-tier municipalities all agreed that purchasing and deploying Laserfiche Rio as a shared service was the best way to empower employees and capitalize on everything the software has to offer.
“The ability to use unlimited servers is what made our expansion to Rio possible, because each lower-tier municipality uses its own server while taking advantage of the additional functionality Rio offers, such as Laserfiche Workflow,” says St. Amour.
“By taking a shared-service approach, we can develop a process once, and with a few small changes, eight different organizations can benefit from it,” she adds.
Enterprise Efficiency in Action
St. Amour notes that the County and its municipalities benefit from integration between Laserfiche, ESRI ArcGIS and Geocortex, an interactive mapping tool. Cathy Paduch, GIS Technician for Essex County, explains, “The integration allows staff to access documents associated with any spatial asset simply by clicking on a point on a map. This saves time and eliminates the need to store documents in multiple locations.”
Imagery supplied by the County is leveraged by many departments in local municipalities and is also available for public consumption over the Web. Residents can take advantage of an interactive map to locate schools, recreational buildings, municipal institutions, hospitals, churches and police and fire stations—along with associated documents available via Laserfiche WebLink. Paduch notes that protected information such as property tax information is only available to staff.
Mike Sherwood, GIS Technician, adds that the custom script the County created dynamically searches Laserfiche and returns a list of the number and type of documents associated with any given location. “We don’t have to do any maintenance on the GIS side to keep the integration working,” he says.
Although designed and administered by County employees, staff across all seven of Essex’s municipalities benefit from the integration. “It allows all levels of staff from administration, emergency services and engineering departments to easily locate documents,” Paduch explains.
St. Amour adds, “The ease and efficiency of being able to track down and locate multiple documents associated to spatial data within the map interface is a great time saver.”
Although Essex County has only recently implemented Laserfiche Rio, St. Amour says that the County’s priority is automating business processes using Laserfiche Workflow. “Our first priority will be to automate our agendas; then we’ll take a hard look at how we can make our accounts payable and HR processes more efficient.”
Overall, implementing Laserfiche ECM as a shared service across the County and its lower-tier municipalities has enabled Essex to leverage economies of scale, gain access to additional ECM functionality and decrease the amount of time staff spends on manual tasks such as filing and finding paper documents.
“We’ve already realized a significant ROI from using Laserfiche,” says St. Amour. “Now that we have Rio, we can’t wait to start reaping the benefits of business process automation!”