“I came on board at Carroll County nearly 25 years ago,” says Mark Ripper, CIO, “right when the county was getting its first IBM PCs with 10 MB hard drives.”
Since then, the county’s IT infrastructure has come a long way, and Ripper is particularly excited about the new fiber network the county is building to deliver high speed data and bandwidth to Carroll County businesses and residents.
“One of our primary goals in building the fiber network is to help the county build its economic base by attracting more business and industry to the area,” explains Ripper, noting that the network will connect seven primary business parks and 16 secondary business parks in addition to 102 local, state, federal and public safety sites.
“Another motivator is to establish a direct connection with our outside agencies and allow everyone to take advantage of enterprise IT systems such as Laserfiche,” he says. “Essentially, we’re creating our own private cloud.”
How Laserfiche Evolved into Enterprise IT
Ripper notes that Laserfiche wasn’t always viewed as an enterprise IT system. In fact, it was first purchased as a departmental application for HR back in 2001. However, flooding in the nearby City of Annapolis highlighted the need for the county to formulate a better plan around disaster recovery—and enterprise content management (ECM) took a central role.
“All of our documents were stored onsite, which made them vulnerable to catastrophic events,” Ripper explains. “We also wanted to free up our document storage space so that it could be put to better use. Those two things were the primary drivers for ECM within Carroll County.”
Ripper notes that although the HR department had a track record of success with Laserfiche, the IT department did its due diligence before selecting Laserfiche for its enterprise roll out. “We looked for ECM contracts already in place in Maryland to see which systems might meet our needs. Then we had vendors come in and set up their software so that end users from different departments could demo it to see what would be easiest to use,” he says.
From both a change management and a project management point of view, Ripper says, “It’s always important to involve the everyday users at every stage of the project.”
The CIO notes that he was particularly impressed by Laserfiche reseller Unity ECM. “It was clear that the Unity team was knowledgeable and understood the needs of our county. In fact, of all the vendors we work with, Unity ECM is easily in the top five.”
Ripper’s team selected Laserfiche in 2008 and has since deployed it across six areas of the organization, including:
- Commissioners Office.
- State’s Attorney’s Office.
- Bureau of Development Review.
- Technology Services.
- Human Resources.
- Management Analysis.
Next on the list are the Bureau of Aging and the Bureau of Permits & Inspections.
“Our goal is to get all 14 of our county departments onto Laserfiche, along with the Sherriff’s Office and Circuit Courts,” says Ripper. “The great thing about Laserfiche is that it’s so easy to maintain that, once it’s in place, there’s very little for us to do.”
He notes that since the county upgraded to Laserfiche Rio in November 2010, it now has individual repositories for each department. “Separate repositories are great from a management point of view because all of our departments are so diverse in what they do and how they store their data. Laserfiche Rio gives us the flexibility to meet the needs of different areas of our organization with one centralized system,” says Ripper. “The ability to create a test environment without additional costs was a big factor in our decision to upgrade to Laserfiche Rio, as well.”
Carroll County’s IT department is comprised of 30 IT professionals, five of whom are client service analysts. Those five are assigned to a handful of departments/agencies, acting as project managers and application specialists. According to Ripper, this model works well for Carroll County because of the strong relationships that are established between the analysts and the agencies they serve.
The CIO notes that each department that’s implemented Laserfiche now finds it much easier to find and retrieve content. He also explains that “Laserfiche has given us a good reason to clean up our files and scan only what we really need. We follow the ‘garbage in, garbage out’ principle.”
Departmental benefits include:
- Commissioners Office: Real-time access to documents and reduced filing. “In the past, administrative staff had to make hundreds of copies of the same items, but now all relevant parties gain automatic access to documents directly through Laserfiche, saving both time and paper,” Ripper says.
- Bureau of Development Review: Automatic document indexing using Laserfiche Quick Fields, a high-volume data processing tool, minimizes manual data entry. “As the agency responsible for processing and tracking development plans from submittal through approval, Development Review relies on Quick Fields to maximize its efficiency.”
- State’s Attorney: Integration with case file management system so that all 40 staff can gain immediate access to supporting documents. “The great thing about this integration—besides the fact that people no longer have to run back and forth from the courthouse to the office to retrieve documents— is that staff members do not have to learn to use Laserfiche. They simply look up a case in the CFMS and the associated paperwork is available from the interface they already know and use every day.”
Although the county has yet to take full advantage of Laserfiche Workflow, Ripper notes that business process improvement is high on his list of priorities moving forward. “So far, we’ve been able to achieve all of our initial goals for the Laserfiche system: we’ve gained peace of mind from a disaster recovery perspective, made it easier for everyone to quickly locate the documents they need and reduced the need for onsite file storage. We’re looking forward to implementing Laserfiche throughout the rest of our agencies and exploring how we can use Workflow to increase our efficiency.”