An Open Invitation to New York’s County Executives, (And every other county leader in the world for that matter.)
Dear New York County Executives,
As you are putting into place your responses to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s County-Wide Shared Services Initiative (CWSSI) please consider more than just snow-plows, community centers and other physical assets. More specifically, shared electronic records management systems should be front and center to your intra-county cooperative efforts.
Sharing physical assets is tempting because they are relatively simple, one-time savings opportunities that have immediate bottom line benefits. However, they also come with logistic, labor, and maintenance entanglements that have legitimately fueled and hampered CWSSI criticisms and efforts respectively.
Nonetheless, every conceivable consolidation of these hard costs and services across municipalities have been proposed in the shared services plans dozens of counties have already submitted, while shared electronic records management plans are playing a much smaller role. This, despite the multifaceted benefits of shared IT services that reach far, far beyond those of plans sharing more tangible assets.
As the nation’s leading records management software provider to county government, we are seeing the fruits of shared government IT services nationwide. Thanks to New York’s enthusiastic embrace and early adoption of shared IT services, first through its Local Government Efficiency grant program and later through the CWSSI, the state has become an incubator of ideas and initiative the rest of the country would be wise to emulate.
Nowhere more so than Tompkins County which has been so successful incorporating constituent municipalities within the umbrella of its Laserfiche electronic records management system that it has received many hundreds of thousands of grant dollars for shared services initiatives now saving many millions of dollars more. That adds up to a lot of property tax savings, but there is so much more benefit from developing—and then sharing—electronic records management systems.
Something quite extraordinary happens when you convert your paper records into electronic images, something far more powerful than the instant storage and retrieval of documents that have been warehoused in metal filing cabinets since time immemorial. Storing government records electronically means the information in those documents is no longer constrained by the physical limitations of paper.
Contained within Tompkins’ Laserfiche system is software allowing the county and its constituent municipalities to automate the many government services that require filling out forms and getting various other officials and agencies to review and eventually approve them: the bread and butter of local and county government operations. Information related to these operations throughout Tompkins is no longer handed back and forth in discrete chunks of paperwork that get lost, mislabeled, inaccurately transcribed or otherwise degraded. It flows, unimpeded and error-free, from one office, agency, or emailbox to the next like the lifeblood that information is to government operation. The results country wide have been transformative.
Through the Tompkins system, the City of Ithaca has reduced from weeks to days the time required to grant special events permits. Elsewhere throughout Tompkins, internet portals allow elected officials and staff in 29 county departments and 18 municipalities 24-hour, secure access to any document they are authorized to work on. Rather than having to share records storage facilities, those facilities have been eliminated altogether saving Tompkins $5 million.
Perhaps most importantly, Tompkins hosts and maintains the server holding the records all these departments and constituent governments depend on, removing the very real problem that smaller municipal partners have paying for and supporting these systems on their own.
So, please consider this an open invitation to every county executive or records administrator in New York searching for easy options to include in its response to the CWSSI: Take a look at what Tompkins has going on at: http://tompkinscountyny.gov/tsserr. Or give us a call at Laserfiche and we’ll share our shared government services successes nationwide.