When Danny Hill, CIO of the office of management and Budget for the city of Newark, N.J., took his present position in 1997, he knew the city needed to use technology to become more efficient.
Hill said he quickly began to take steps to do that by implementing a variety of new systems. Beginning in 2004, his team at the OMB recognized that city employees had documents and data spread across multiple servers and repositories. They needed to find a way to get that information under control and, at the same time, find ways to reduce the number of paper-based processes in place throughout the city.
“The city of Newark is no different than any other municipal government throughout the country,” Hill said. “We have been a very paper-intensive organization. As we move to automate other areas of the citys business processes, the requirement to manage the electronic data began to become more critical and began to expand beyond our capability.”
Newark has more than 4,500 employees—1,500 of which have computer access. These employees are spread over 40 locations within 12 departments that manage 50 agencies.
Hill asked project manager Sherronda Carroll to supervise the project, since Carroll had worked on other enterprise-wide projects and was well-suited to the task. Carroll said she was given a broad directive by Hill and his OMB team to streamline internal processes, but that meant finding the ones that would have the greatest impact.
“We had to identify general processes—the ones that actually touched the whole city,” Carroll said.
After completing her analysis, Carroll said the OMB team identified several goals for this project, including building a Web-based repository where citizens and city employees alike could access information and forms.
The OMB team also wanted to reduce the complexity of the citys internal workflow by relying more on electronic forms and less on interoffice mail, and the team wanted to decrease the number of paper documents by taking advantage of scanning technology and electronic document management.
The city began evaluating vendors, Hill said, including IBM, Oracle and Xerox. According to Hill, Xerox offered the most complete solution, including multifunction (copy, print, scan, e-mail and fax) devices, Xerox copy solutions and DocuShare document management, and this was important to the management team.
“When we looked at the Xerox solution with DocuShare, my staff thought this product brought an end-to-end solution in terms of hardware to software,” Hill said.
In addition, Hill said Xerox brought in business partner SRC Solutions, of Dunmore, Pa., to help analyze and streamline business processes. This helped to seal the deal, leading to a five-year, $1.8 million contract with Xerox and SRC because, according to Hill, SRC brought BPM (business process management) experience to the project that Xerox was lacking.
“Where we got the real return on our investment was not just scanning, storing and being able to retrieve the document,” Hill said. “This is definitely critical where the management of the data is concerned, but we were looking to share and distribute this data throughout the city and integrate with other Web-based applications, and that was not the expertise of Xerox. [Xerox brought in SRC], and they became a major player in what we were trying to do.”
Michael OBoyle, senior vice president of product development and deployment at SRC and someone who works closely with the city of Newark, said those are precisely the strengths that SRC brings to the table as a Xerox business partner.
“We focus on business process management,” OBoyle said. “And that includes document management, electronic forms and electronic print shop shopping-cart-style services.”
Beginning in the fall of 2004, after Hill asked her to manage the project, Carroll said she started by conducting a needs assessment and evaluating what problems they needed to attack first. Working with SRC, Carroll said she decided to launch a pilot in two offices—Legal and City Clerk—because these two offices generated a lot of documents. They began by installing a Xerox WorkCentre Pro 65 multifunction device in each office and installed Visioneer PaperPort software and a Windows Xerox DocuShare client on each users desktop.
Streamlining, Sending and Storing
The WorkCentre Pro 65 is connected to the city network. Carroll said that when employees need to scan a document, they walk over to the machine, select their name on the scanner menu and scan the document. The image is then sent to the server and saved to the correct users folder.
“There is an image retriever which checks each users folder on the server every 30 seconds (or as configured),” Carroll said. “Once an image appears in this folder, PaperPort opens and displays the image on the users monitor. In most cases, by the time the user returns to his or desk, the image is up,” Carroll said.
At this point, Carroll said users can drag the image into Microsoft Outlook to e-mail it, or they can drag it into DocuShare for indexing.
OBoyle said his team also began analyzing the way forms moved through the city, and they learned that employees often were sending multiple copies of paper forms to different offices for approvals and signatures, using an internal interoffice mail system, and they knew they could achieve greater efficiencies by taking advantage of electronic forms.
The company also created a Web site to house services and forms, Carroll said. Everything is now available in a unified Web site repository that has been dubbed NDEX (Newark Document Express), a central online destination for citizens and city employees to find information and forms they need to conduct city business.
Over the next several years, the city will continue to look for ways to improve business workflow processes and has plans to take some pressure off its server environment by building a SAN (storage area network), Carroll said.
When Hill made a presentation to the New Jersey States Technology Symposium last October, other city executives were surprised and excited by the progress he has made in automating city services in Newark.
“Everybody was surprised at the level that the city has taken the project to, and many cities throughout the state are now watching us to see what we are going to do with this project.” Hill said.
Ron Miller is a freelance writer in Amherst, Mass. He can be reached at [email protected].
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