After taking over as IT director in 1999, Steve Lewis spent the last six years integrating county IT systems. Delaware County, Ohio, located 20 miles north of Columbus, is not only the fastest growing county in Ohio, Lewis said, it's the 16th fastest growing county in the nation.
Delaware County placed in the top 10 in the Center for Digital Government's 2005 Digital Counties Survey in the less than 150,000 population category. Last year the county's Data Processing Department won an Achievement Award from the National Association of Counties for a software program called Cellular Inspection Application, written in-house for building inspectors and county engineers.
What challenges does the county's rapid population growth present to your department, and what do constituents say they'd like you to do?
They want us to continue our current efforts. One of the biggest challenges we face is the ability to integrate our systems so they're presented to our users, particularly the public, in a straightforward way. Unfortunately much of the county government is still organized along departments even when individual problems spread across those departments. That's a technical issue as well as an organizational issue.
As you educate agencies on the benefits of integration, what surprises you most?
The lack of integration that's occurred. There's so much we've accomplished in the last few years, but it's just endless -- the number of new projects and new ways of providing better services to taxpayers and in-house users.
Are you, like other counties, dealing with a range of legacy systems in various stovepipes?
No. We've faced those challenges and pretty much rid ourselves of our legacy systems through years of research, pilots, testing and implementations. I took over in 1999 and since then, we've replaced our core financial systems, our real-estate system, our court system and rewritten our prosecutor's application.
Have you taken a commercial off-the-shelf [COTS] approach? Modified COTS?
Financials and real estate were COTS, but then you run into the challenge of integrating those. I just don't want to put a COTS in here and not be able to integrate it into the other departments. That's one thing we're doing -- creating a collaboration between the departments to share that data and have one single point of entry for a lot of our information.
Although our major enterprise applications have been COTS, we've tied those together.
Have you been introducing open source applications into your IT environment?
Absolutely. In our engineering and building inspection departments, because everything about Delaware County is growth and everything starts in the building phase. When that information is entered, it's entered into multiple systems. We can get in there, pull that information out and update it as necessary, regardless of the application we're working in.