Management application combines and updates data, reducing duplication

The Housing and Urban Development Department estimates it is saving more than
$900,000 per year in mailing costs by streamlining records duplicated on different mailing
lists.


A half-dozen HUD divisions had the job of maintaining mailing list databases for
members of Congress, mayors and HUD 2020 seminar participants.


“Some of the databases were up to date, some weren’t,” said Joseph A.
Duffy, project leader for HUD’s Development Technology Division.


The new HUD Communications Manager application gathers all the mail data into one
place. HCM underwent beta testing last year by HUD’s 2020 group, which manages a
program to explore 21st century housing problems.


HCM’s underlying Microsoft SQL Server 6.5 database has a front end written in
Visual Basic 5.0. It is integrated with Microsoft Word 6.0 for Windows 95 plus RightFax NT
5.0 from RightFax Inc. The Tucson, Ariz., company’s fax software lets HCM users send
bulk faxes, Duffy said.


HCM resides on a Compaq ProLiant 4500 server with dual Pentium processors and 256M of
RAM, running Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0. The network operating system is Novell
NetWare 3.2.


As HUD organizations adopted HCM, system administrators imported each group’s data
into the SQL Server database and made the owner of each list responsible for that list,
Duffy said. The policy distributes the maintenance chores among many people but still
ensures accountability.


HUD paid Advanced Technology Systems Inc. of McLean, Va., $400,000 for developing and
deploying HCM, which it did in about six months, Duffy said.


HCM training usually takes less than an hour, and there are 80 users across a dozen
organizations. When employees want access to HCM, technicians install the front end on
their PCs, Duffy said. “We’ve gotten a lot of good feedback,” he said.


HUD has saved about 18 percent of the $5 million to $6 million formerly spent on
mailing costs each year, he said. Through bar coding, sorting and using the Postal
Service’s coding accuracy system, HUD pays a reduced rate of 26 cents per piece.


In a pre-HCM mailing of 15,810 pieces, 15 percent came back because of incorrect
addresses, Duffy said. A post-HCM mailing of 18,570 pieces had only 30 returns and took
far less time for HUD secretaries to handle.


Advanced Technology Systems maintains HCM and is integrating a product from Group 1
Software Inc. of Lanham, Md., that will let HCM users verify new addresses against Group
1’s database during data entry, Duffy said. In batch mode, they also can verify
entire lists against the database. 


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