Chesterfield County, Virginia
With a history dating back to the 1700s and a growth rate of three percent a year, Chesterfield County, Virginia, has no shortage of records to manage. So when staff found a system that worked, why would they mess with it? To keep up with the ever-changing demands of managing information, of course. The challenge came in trying to mirror the success of the initial installation of Laserfiche when the county adopted Laserfiche Records Management Edition (RME).
For IT maven and Laserfiche Administrator Michael Wells, the system is always evolving. He recalls the conversion from a paper system to document imaging in the award-winning county. “The original motivation was to get rid of paper and to allow sharing of documents internally.” In 2001, the IT staff installed Laserfiche in five pilot departments. “All of those departments are still happy users,” says Wells.
Lisa Elko, clerk to the board of supervisors is certainly a happy user. “It’s a great product. It’s helped us tremendously.”
Elko is responsible for preparing agenda packets and storing minutes for the board meetings. Before the county installed Laserfiche in 2001, she assembled paper packets. Time consuming as that was, researching past minutes was even worse. “Before Laserfiche,” says Elko, “it was all manual and it took forever. You’d have to sit there and flip through all the minutes and read them until you came across what you were looking for. You just had to hope you have a good enough memory.” Elko has since scanned in all minutes from 1960 to the present. “Now with Laserfiche,” she says, “we can find anything a citizen needs in literally a matter of seconds.”
Elko didn’t face the complex security needs of HR so the transition to RME didn’t change the way she did things. It wasn’t a big change for Acting Accounts Payable Manager Kevin Payne, either, whose job got a lot easier when Laserfiche came to the county. “Laserfiche has made the biggest difference you could possibly imagine. Accounts Payable spends a lot of time going back to look at invoices for auditor, our own research or for other departments. It’s made our lives so much easier because we can access the invoices from our PCs–we don’t have to get up and go to the file room and spend hours searching for invoices.”
Laserfiche has made life easier for the county’s HR team as well. The search capability is the favorite feature of Jeannie Harper, Chief of Administrative Services. And it’s not just a matter of time saved. Harper finds herself using Laserfiche when she’s asked to look into a personnel situation. “Our HR system is good, but it’s easier for me to get the information I need from Laserfiche. I can look at the personnel action form, see the signatures and the notes I made. All that supporting documentation is not going to be in the HR information system.”
Complex security settings intac
It’s hard to imagine tampering with such success, especially since the HR department had been able to build into Laserfiche the complex security model it had labored to create on paper. HR staff relied on the solid template fields and strict auditing of Laserfiche to allow appropriate access to users.
But in 2005, staff had to address an important component of records management: the retention cycle. That’s when Wells supervised the installation of Laserfiche RME, integrating the program with the county’s existing records management model.
Changing the way the county created and maintained records was an ambitious project. Employees were happy with the design of the old system, which was complex but secure. Creating a new folder structure to serve new records-management needs would change the procedures the staff was used to. And meshing a new records management system with the established, complex security structure seemed like an insurmountable task.
Chesterfield County found that combining Laserfiche RME with Laserfiche Workflow created an ideal solution. Staff could use RME to manage the document retention schedule, keeping a master copy of each file with highly restricted access. Employees used shared folders to maintain the established security model and then, using Workflow, copied necessary records from RME to the shared folders.
The migration to the new records management system began with an analysis from Chesterfield’s reseller, Unity Business Systems (formerly Reams), recommending steps to coordinate security and records management. The first step was to recode the application that created a template for empty records. UBS then worked with Chesterfield’s IT department to create an application that would copy existing records into RME using the new template. Finally, the team would plan out a records series in RME.
To implement the process, the scanning staff froze all records additions and changes. The new conversion application created and renamed files and copied the template data from the old system. After a few initial errors, Chesterfield modified its conversion program to successfully copy the records. Wells says that in the future, the county will develop techniques to flag new documents rather than freezing additions and changes.
Huge as the task seemed, averaging three to five minutes per person per tab, after 30 days staff had successfully migrated most of the records, with the remainder being migrated after another 30 days. Once the system was set up, it ran so smoothly that the department liaisons and HR personnel who had accessed the old system barely noticed the interface had changed. And Chief Administrator Harper actually sees an improvement in security since the conversion.
Nancy Pearse, Chesterfield’s scanning coordinator, agrees, noting that the integrity of the security settings is preserved. “Nothing can be added or taken away—Laserfiche keeps everything where it’s supposed to be.” She especially appreciates the time saved with the automated retention schedule. She’s the one who would previously have to go through the files and decide which ones should be tossed. Just as important is the ability for staff members to simultaneously access files. “If we have a supervisor and an employee that both need to view a file, they can do it at the same time.”
Routing documents with Workflow has been an added benefit for Pearse. “We always know where documents are in the approval process—just being able to get our hands on information in a timely manner and share that has been great. The email piece has also been very useful for us—if someone needs a piece of documentation I can just email it directly from Laserfiche.”
For Harper, the Workflow piece has meant an end to scrambling to meet deadlines for the county’s leave donation program. County employees can donate their leave time to seriously ill coworkers or those dealing with illness in their families. HR scans in the donation forms and routes them for approval in Laserfiche.
“We scan them in and the status field triggers the workflow,” says Harper. “Whether it’s requested, approved or processed by payroll determines which group gets email notification that action is needed. When payroll deducts the leave from the proper party and changes the status, Laserfiche sends out a final notification and actually moves the document to the appropriate folder, based on the fiscal year. So it’s also pulling information off a template field for the date received—we love that. It’s great for HR because it’s deadline driven and we typically get these the day of the deadline—with a paper system, we might not be able to make it.”
Harper expects retentions schedules to change again. As will technology, no doubt. But Chesterfield County will be ready. Laserfiche Administrator Wells looks forward to more integrations in the future. And he’s off to a good start.
He points to the integration of Accounts Payable (AP) with the overall accounting system as a particular success. Staff barcodes invoices and uses a barcode reader to put that code into the mainframe. When the invoices are scanned in, a nightly batch job populates the template fields and moves the document to the proper location.
Wells has also succeeded integrating Laserfiche with the county’s GIS system in the planning department. When Planning came online with Laserfiche, its GIS system already included hard links for each land parcel to PDF files on a shared network. “Our reseller, Reams Computer, and our Engineering Department came up with a program that changes all those links to WebLink search links. Now, users click on a parcel to bring up a WebLink window with all the pertinent information.”
In the future, Wells envisions providing citizens with Web access to the most frequently requested documents. Currently, the county is adding more storage to prepare for future use of drive space. When asked how he measures the county’s success with Laserfiche, he asks, “You mean, other than the number of departments clamoring to be put on the system?”
If current users are any indication, Wells can look forward to more success. Kevin Payne puts it this way. “I would definitely say that this has been the best enhancement to any AP process that we’ve done—I’ve been here 5 years, but I’ve heard the same thing from people who have been here for 20 years. It’s a great product.”