The Cook County Bureau of Technology is responsible for the County’s datacenter, wide-area high-speed network, office technology, and phone and wireless devices. The Bureau also plans, develops and manages software applications, websites and geographic information systems (GIS) to improve workflow processes in County offices and meet County residents’ and businesses’ needs for simple, responsive, transparent and cost-effective government.
1. Support transparency initiatives including online ethics training, online procurement and contracts information, and online audio/video streaming of County Board meetings. Build web development and content management capabilities to support County-wide use of new media / web 2.0 (mobile, social).
2. Implement IT project governance and project management, to better qualify IT projects prior to funding them, seek more opportunities for collaboration and joint development or acquisition, ensure competitive procurements, and track IT projects from initiation through completion, with an easy to understand dashboard depicting project status across all major IT projects in the County.
3. Reorganize the Datacenter, consolidating and virtualizing the server environment. Establish a technical environment capable of supporting County-wide shared services initiatives. Migrate all County operations onto the County’s network and standardize network and desktop devices and services. Enhance network and desktop security. Update the County’s IT disaster recovery / business continuity plan and make it operational.
4. Over the next three years, replace five legacy ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems with a single enterprise-wide accounting and HR system. Implement rapid application development methodologies and tools to replace other legacy applications and provide improved workflow and analytics throughout the County.
5. Improve access to broadband for residents and businesses throughout the county—especially in underserved areas like south and west suburban Cook County—through partnerships including the State of Illinois, City of Chicago, Chicago Transit Authority, South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association, Metropolitan Planning Council and Partnership for a Connected Illinois.
Summary of Operations
The Bureau of Technology’s organization structure includes three departments:
This department plans, develops and manages software applications and websites for other County departments to improve workflow processes so that Cook County residents’ and businesses’ needs for simple, responsive, transparent and cost-effective government administration are met. >>
This department is responsible for building and maintaining a secure, flexible, dependable, technically sound, cost-effective information and communications technology infrastructure for Cook County agencies to ensure a high degree of systems availability, performance and continuity of business operations, so that Cook County residents’ and businesses’ needs for public services that depend on technology—-whether onsite, by phone, over the web, or through mobile devices—-are met. >>
This department provides maintenance of and access to Cook County’s enterprise geographic information system (GIS), including related hardware, software, applications, program development and training. The GIS Department delivers a high-quality, current geographic computing platform that supports the County’s many location-based operations and services. >>
Issues and Challenges
- While technology advances rapidly, Cook County has not stayed current. The County relies on complex, highly customized business applications, many still running on the mainframe. For the County to embrace newer technologies like cloud computing, web services and mobile applications, it will need to shift from “maintenance” mode and begin to replace the major back-end systems that support County government.
- The Bureau of Technology accounts for only 20% of the County’s total IT spend. The rest is in other bureaus and departments, mainly under other County-wide elected officials. For many reasons—scale economies, enterprise architecture, standardization, reusability, project management, fiscal control, transparency, shared services—the County needs to identify common IT resources and consolidate them in one organization.
- Because of this siloed approach to IT planning and spending, the County is missing opportunities to improve the usefulness of County information—for the public at large and for specific users of County systems, from judges and attorneys to vendors and volunteers. Per the Civic Federation’s report, “Systems are not connected and multiple points of manual data reentry are the norm, resulting in limited collaboration capabilities between and within departments.” Legacy systems should be replaced by “connected-up” IT: e.g., a single “land information center”; streamlined court filing and hearing processes; consolidated case management.
- How do we know what information people want from county government, and how can we make it easy to find and easy to use? The Bureau and County departments need to work together to organize websites better, keep information current, put more information on the web in useful formats, and develop mobile applications so people can get information and services from Cook County in the easiest, least expensive way possible.