California governments move services online

Residents of Nevada County, Calif., and the cities of Davis and Bakersfield this summer began paying county taxes, finding housing regulations and applying for building permits online.

All three jurisdictions are using workflow software that moves online requests directly to the proper department.

Nevada County CIO Steve Monaghan said he is starting up three county prototypes using e-Work software from Metastorm Inc. of Severna Park, Md., to link the Web forms to the county's databases.

Until now, network administrators have had to distribute the printouts among 30 county departments.

Monaghan said every county employee will use the e-Work system. "It's kind of a merge" of automated forms and a workflow engine, Monaghan said.

Nevada County will run e-Work with Microsoft SQL Server 2000 under Windows 2000 Server. Through Novell eDirectory, formerly called Novell Directory Services, citizen complaints or requests will go directly to the proper Novell GroupWise e-mail inboxes.

"It looks like you're getting e-mail," Monaghan said.

A second prototype will route interdepartmental requests. Electronic timesheets will replace three-part paper forms for the county's employees.

The third prototype is for intradepartmental business. "We spend almost 30 percent of our energy internally," Monaghan said.

County workers also can automatically track the status of a lawsuit or annexation. "Every time we automate one of those routines, we get a bigger return on investment," Monaghan said.

Follow the leader

Nevada County bought the e-Work software for $200,000 last December. Other local governments are following its lead.

"So far, so good," said Joel Traylor, a Bakersfield webmaster. Bakersfield residents can now submit their complaints via the city's Web site, which incorporates a routing system.

After each council meeting, the clerk takes assignments based on the complaints to the city manager's office.

"They decide who's going to do the work," Traylor said. "The council and the manager's office wanted more accountability. A product like this allows you to track what's going on."

The clerk's office is using e-Work to route assignments to departments instead of carrying papers around. Traylor said the complaints range from "There's a tree branch hanging in the road" to "I have a confusing legal question and need a full report from the attorney's office."

Instead of using process management or tracking software, the city chose something that would accommodate Web traffic, he said.

Eventually, Bakersfield citizens will fill out online forms and bypass the complaint stage altogether. A council phone message system is also in the pipeline. "It e-mails the [absent] council member when a phone call comes in," Traylor said.

Human resources apps

Bakersfield eventually will implement a leave request system for city employees and automate other human resources processes on an intranet. "It's going to be a big timesaver for the clerks and the council," Traylor said.

Rick Guidara, information systems manager for Davis, has been using the e-Work software for about a year for internal information and outside phone requests. Now the city will begin tracking its work orders and routing human resources forms.

Guidara said he doesn't get a lot of complaints at Davis, but he wants city employees to be able to change their HR choices and job candidates to apply and track their status online.

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