A commonly held belief is that the role of technology is to support the business of government. And when your business is economic development, as it is for Indiana's Economic Development Corporation (IEDC), it makes sense to look to technology for ways to improve. In 2012, the IEDC secured $6.4 billion in economic development commitments that are expected to lead to more than 27,000 jobs in the state. According to the IEDC, technology played a major role in Indiana's success.

In 2009, IEDC partnered with technology firm Crowe Horwath to implement a Microsoft Dynamics customer relationship management (CRM) solution. According to former IEDC Executive Vice President Chad Pittman, the CRM system improved the state business processes across the board. “With the business process transformation and Microsoft Dynamics CRM implementation, IEDC doubled per-employee productivity and total deal flow while reducing the agency’s annual budget allocation from $60 million to $40 million,” Pittman told Government Technology.

The project was initiated in 2009 with emphasis on consolidation, said Garth Brazelton, director of operations and business systems for IEDC. They wanted to combine the organization of roughly 70 employees into a cohesive technology platform that would allow them to share data internally and externally. At the time, Brazelton explained, organization databases featured about 80 spreadsheets, and several different database systems -- some off-the-shelf and some customized. "We had all these disparate database systems that some weren’t even really meant to be database systems, that didn’t talk to each other,” he said.

Crowe Horwath custom-built a Microsoft CRM system that would allow the IEDC to accomplish several things that, to Brazelton's knowledge, no other economic development agency does.

“The implementation of our Microsoft Dynamics CRM system has really aided our ability to communicate with our central businesses that want to expand here as well as stakeholders that we integrate with on a regular basis, basically our partners, the local economic development officials throughout the various cities and counties of the state, and our private business consultants as well,” Brazelton said.

Deploying the CRM system in 2010, the IEDC has conducted a survey following the CRM deployment in 2010 to see how much time employees spent on various processes before and after the implementation. What they found, Brazelton said, was that the system improved efficiency and productivity for almost every employee and department in the organization. Internal benefits were only part of the story, however.

The new system also provides IEDC users with new services, including an automated application system that allows users to see if their project qualifies for state incentives, functionality not offered anywhere else, Brazelton said. “That application is completely reliant on our database,” he said. “It reduces data entry, it reduces errors, and it has increased deal flow.”

The IEDC can also now offer a fully automated extranet where clients use a unique log-in to access real-time database information. Being organized internally will allow the IEDC to be an important part of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s transparency portal, scheduled for release in the coming weeks. “That transparency portal is going to be providing unprecedented data to the public and pulls directly from our system. It’s something we never would have been able to do five years ago,” Brazelton said.

With the most challenging work of merging so many disparate systems behind them, Brazelton expects future upgrades to be easy. “The beauty of Dynamics CRM is because it’s customizable and you can basically add any kind of part onto it you want,” adding that the IEDC maintains its contract with Crowe Horwath for that purpose.

While taxpayers generally think of state governments as singular entities, anyone who has worked in government knows that they tend to be highly fragmented. “By utilizing systems like Dynamics CRM and implementing systems that talk to each other, and that are streamlined across agencies, it enables and fosters better communication and it aids what the end-user believes the state to be and that is one cohesive unit,” Brazelton said. “All these things, both in the past and going forward in the future, we’re inching more and more toward collaboration, transparency, and easier ways to share data among our partners and our clients.”

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Colin Wood Colin Wood  |  Staff Writer

Colin has been writing for Government Technology since 2010. He lives in Seattle with his wife and their dog. He can be reached at cwood@govtech.com and on Google+.