June 30, 1997 By Tod Newcombe
Now that frame
of mind appears to be changing. Local governments are beginning to reengineer major systems using imaging and workflow with striking results. Under the direction of tech-friendly leaders, local government agencies are shrugging off the 10 percent improvement they may gain by automating and, instead, are reengineering in hopes of productivity improvements ranging from 50 percent to 100 percent.
Reengineering and imaging have also had a powerful effect on government operations in Clark County, Nev. There, officials have overhauled a business licensing system that was choking on paper and bottlenecks. According to Kelly Cartron, manager for Clark County's Department of Business License, reengineering was long overdue. "We knew we couldn't operate under a paper system any longer because of all the growth in the valley," he said. "The system was broke and driving up the cost of business."
Clark County -- home of Las Vegas -- is the fastest growing county in the nation. Every month, 4,000 new residents move there. That kind of growth is reflected in the business sector, which must be licensed in order to operate. Licensing is an important aspect of business in Clark County, where liquor and gambling businesses are so prevalent. Every year, the county issues as many as 20,000 new business licenses; each of which generates 10 pages of documentation on average.
The department could have installed imaging to simply rid itself of problems with missing and pigeon-holed files. But as Cartron pointed out, the director, Ardel Jorgensen, wanted the department to become a proactive service to the business community.
In 1992, the department awarded a competitive bid to Integris, the systems integration arm of Bull Worldwide Information Systems. They conducted a business process reengineering (BPR) study and found 455 bottlenecks among the 67 staff members in the department. "The problems behind those bottlenecks were what I call 'power pockets,'" said Cartron. "These are the people who have been in the same position for an incredibly long time. They know everything there is to know about the position and understand the power of information. Not surprisingly, they could really wreak havoc on the work process."
With BPR, the department was able to match its resources with functions for the first time. Management broke up the power pockets and flattened the flow of information through the organization. For example, the reception area transformed from a holding pen for customers (most of whom had to wait 30-60 minutes just to speak with an official) to a business triage -- where the receptionist uses an expert system to match the customer's business with the county's 365 business license categories. The receptionist then creates a checklist of everything needed to apply for a license. "This process eliminates confusion," explained Cartron. "It ensures that the customer has all the necessary paperwork before they see a staff person."
The checklist is an application that actually runs on the county's mainframe, which is integrated with the department's imaging and workflow system. Data from the checklist passes to the workflow system, saving a data entry step. All documents pertaining to the license application are scanned, quality-checked and indexed by staff in the department's Record Division.
The images are stored immediately on an optical disc. According to Cartron,
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