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The Bureau of Technology (BOT) plans and manages enterprise technology services in conjunction with Cook County agencies. BOT enables County government services that are cost-effective and easy to use for residents and employees. BOT identifies opportunities for cross-agency collaboration that seek efficiency and a greater return on technology investments.
Cook County CIO Simona Rollinson at the Chicago City Club
Bureau of Technology's Fiscal Year 2016 Annual Report
Mandates and Key Activities
- Deliver and manage Countywide shared technology resources
- Direct Countywide technology policy and the establishment of Countywide technology standards, including guidance under the County’s Open Government Ordinance (Ordinance 14-0076)
- Review all technology procurements to discourage duplicative spending, encourage efficient returns on investment, and ensure compliance with County technology standards and policies (Ordinance 14-1232)
- Collaborate with the Information Security Working Group to establish and report on the Information Security Framework, as well as take appropriate actions to protect the County’s network against security threats (Ordinance 14-1481)
- Facilitate the integration of an automated Cook County Criminal Justice System and update the Board on progress toward such goal (Resolution 13-2002)
For the Bureau of Technology, 2017 marks the half-way point in our roadmap to 2020. It began in 2015 with large technology procurements. Cook County awarded more than $154 million in IT contracts in 2015. 2016 also had some major new contracts, but overall it was a year for implementation and modernization. 2017 will bring some major new efforts, such as an internet-based phone system for all parts of County government; however, the big highlights of 2017 will come from the Cook County's 'Big Four' application modernization projects.
1 APPLICATION MODERNIZATION
Application modernization is a key priority for Cook County. App modernization begins with the oldest technologies residing on legacy platforms which are expensive to maintain. Through new applications, we will transition away from predominantly manual and paper-centric business processes and into the digital realm.
1.1 INTEGRATED PROPERTY
The Integrated Property system is an unprecedented modernization effort for the County’s land agencies: Assessor, Board of Review, County Clerk, Geographic Information Systems, Recorder of Deeds and Treasurer. This project will create an enhanced, centralized database of the County’s two million land parcels and the corresponding data from all agencies. It streamlines processing of land services as they travel between each agency. It also replaces 40-year-old mainframe applications, the hosting of which costs Cook County $5.5 million per year.
2017 — In 2016 the team completed the inventory of current processes. In 2017 they are moving on to define the new system and determine how iasWorld will be tailored to handle the operations of Cook County. Then, in the second half of 2017, development and testing will begin.
1.2 INTEGRATED JUSTICE
The Integrated Justice system will allow automated communication for all of the County's justice agencies: Chief Judge, Clerk of the Circuit Court, Public Defender, Sheriff and State’s Attorney. It translates and routs data between all the various systems used by these agencies. This system creates major improvements in communication. It insures quality, accuracy, accessibility and timeliness of criminal history information. Data will soon pass quickly and securely from one agency to another. This will also help solve the problem of communication errors causing detainees to be released too soon or past the date when they were due to be released.
2017 — The first data exchange—automating the transmission of charging data—will be completed in the beginning of 2017.
The Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) System will operate Countywide to manage business processes. The ERP project comes from the Bureau of Finance's Department of Enterprise Resource Planning, and the BOT assists with some parts of the implementation. The system allows the County to collect, store, manage and interpret data across all aspects of County operations, allowing the County to manage all its resources efficiently and cost effectively. This project includes financials, supply chain management, human resources and payroll and reporting analytics. This provides tremendously valuable real-time reporting and analytics for finance and human resources functions across all County agencies. ERP replaces an assortment of systems that neither work well nor work well with each other.
2017 — The ERP Dept. within the Bureau of Finance is rolling out core financials Countywide in the beginning of 2017. BOT is supporting the application after roll-out as the ERP Dept. continues working toward the next wave of the project.
1.4 TIME & ATTENDANCE
A major building block for the ERP system is Time and Attendance. The Time and Attendance Project comes from the Bureau of Finance's Department of Enterprise Resource Planning, and the BOT assists with some parts of the implementation. This project is rolling out modern biometric time clocks and eliminating paper paystubs. This solution will streamline time and attendance management and reporting Countywide. The solution will significantly reduce manual timekeeping processes, ensuring improved payroll processes, labor allocation, cost control and data reliability. The system will accurately track and report time for the County’s roughly 23,000 part-time and full-time employees across approximately 100 different locations. It will also reduce payroll costs by minimizing errors that occur in manual processes and the corresponding administrative overhead.
2017 — The time and attendance project will finish its Countywide roll out to all agencies in the beginning of 2017. BOT provides support for the application and timeclocks post-launch.
1.5 INTEGRATED TAX PROCESSING SYSTEM (ITPS)
The Integrated Revenue project brings together diverse tax types within a centralized and modern administration system. The system will streamline and automate many processes, improving efficiency and accuracy. ITPS allows taxpayers to register, file returns, and pay their taxes within a single application. It lets the Department of Revenue conduct tax discovery audits, investigations and collection activities in an integrated system. ITPS will lead to greater compliance among existing tax payers, which in turn will maximize revenues. It replaces an assortment of spreadsheets and stand-alone systems. Projected revenue increases of $3.3 - $6.6 million are expected in the first full year of implementation.
2017 — A centralized collection of revenue was established for Animal and Rabies Control, the Law Library, the Medical Examiner and the Criminal Apprehension Booking System (CABS) in 2016. This year the project will continue to uni disparate systems across the county.
1.6 PROCESS REENGINEERING THROUGH APPLICATIONS
The BOT is seeking to replace and modernize many other systems around the County. Modern frameworks increase operational transparency, regulatory compliance and provide greater flexibility for users. They can trigger a shift from handling work as discrete transactions to handling work more holistically to optimize outcomes within a dynamic environment.
2 INFRASTRUCTURE MODERNIZATION
Over the past four years, the County has embarked on long-term plans to move critical systems to modern technology platforms. At the core of this effort is infrastructure. Modernization of applications requires modernization of the environment in which they live. These are long term, expensive investments, but they are mission-critical. We will continue upgrading Internet speed and reliability for our thousands of users in 2017. We will soon complete the final phase of upgrading the County 10-gigabit Broadband network, laying high-speed fiber cables between hospitals, courthouses and the downtown campus. We are also modernizing and consolidating the hosting environment for the County’s applications and data in the new County Core Data Center; however, we are moving as much as possible to the cloud. In making the decision on whether or not to move some data or an application to the cloud, we always take into account total cost of ownership. We prioritize using external cloud hosting whenever it saves us money and improves functionality.
3 RESIDENT ENGAGEMENT
Another key area of focus for the BOT in 2017 is to leverage technology to bring increased transparency, accountability and improved services to the residents of Cook County. This is also a year for IT to focus on improving citizen engagement and access to services and information. The needs and expectations of County residents and County agencies are constantly evolving. In order to stay ahead of the changes, IT must continually innovate and modernize.
To increase the surface area between the public and government, in 2016 we rolled out a new website. The new website was structured to help residents find and use the services Cook County offers, whereas the old model of website design was to recreate the organizational structure of our departments online. The website project included a complete rebuild of the County’s public-facing web site (cookcountyil.gov) using the Drupal platform to create a more current, flexible, and dynamic site structure to improve our online communication channel. The project also included development of design standards and branding guidelines for this site as well as all other web-based applications, to provide more a more consistent look and feel for all websites of agencies under the County Board President. In addition, the project included migration and consolidation of hosting, which improves services and security, standardizes the platform and reduces costs.
3.2 OPEN DATA
The Bureau of Technology oversees the County’s Open Data Catalog that was established under the 2012 Cook County Open Government ordinance. The open data catalog provides the public with a wealth of information in the form of data sets from various sources throughout the County.
4.0 WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT
We face a tremendous competitive pressure when hiring and retaining in-demand tech personnel in a region that has experienced higher tech-job growth than Silicon Valley in the last few years. For this shifting IT environment, we needed some new skill sets. In the last three years, about one-third of BOT employees were either new hires or promoted. In the same timeframe almost a third of our job descriptions were either revised or new. Hiring and retaining experts and innovators is a key element of our strategy for innovation, and this is a key area for focus for us in 2017.
BOT provides software application and website development and support functions for other County departments. In collaboration with those departments, we apply innovative approaches to improve workflow processes. These enhancements meet the needs of Cook County residents and businesses for simple, responsive, transparent and cost-effective government administration.
Infrastructure Modernization - The focus of these investments is long-term stability, low total cost of ownership and ease of maintenance. Specific standards are focused on keeping hardware and software up to date. In 2017 we will focus on: continuous strengthening of our backup and disaster recovery capabilities, integrating security tools, plus maintenance and monitoring tools. Central to our strategy is the implementation of a new unified communications system county-wide. The BOT is also bringing forward an open procurement for a modern Voice over Internet (VoIP) system, and will begin implementation in 2017. 2017 is also year two of the Countywide Wi-Fi project.
Systems Management and Service Desk provides advanced troubleshooting of, and support for, technological equipment; packages software for deployment and implements deployment; engages in consultation and project work.
On-site Desktop Support provides on-site troubleshooting of, and support for, technological equipment for various departments under the County Board President and other elected officials.
In 2016 the Enterprise Solutions Department had to be structured and staffed to deal with an increasing workload created by the addition of new technologies. The Department successfully deployed a new IT asset management system to keep track of the IT assets in County offices under the President, and centralized asset management procedures for all new and existing technology assets. BOT also made efforts to put into practice a more customer-centered practice of IT, which meant increased training and leveraging county-wide IT resources. With the advent of cloud-based email, staff previously supporting on-premise Exchange servers have been redirected to new enterprise solutions reducing the need for additional hiring. The large number of technology upgrades (new machines, HR Denovo self-service, etc.) in 2015 is reflected in the fact that 87 percent of incidents and service requests were resolved within SLA (service Level Agreement); major new systems like Wave 1 of ERP and new revenue system coming online in the beginning of 2017 account for reduced expectations in 2017's SLAs; handling increased workloads without increasing staff will cause a slowdown to response and resolution times. From 2015 to 2016 the volume of incoming service requests and incidents increased by 68 percent; however, the number of incidents and service requests handled within SLAs is actually projected to improve by one percent due to stronger management controls, cross-training and introduction of new tools.
Server Engineer Team and Data Center Operations oversees operations of and policy for IT systems architecture; provides advanced troubleshooting of, and support for, application servers; manages data center infrastructure. The consolidation of the County's server farms into a single core data center continued in 2016. This program area continues to support existing on-premises applications and a growing number of new applications.
Mainframe Print Operations oversees the County's large-scale print jobs created from the mainframe, including: Assessor documents, accounts payable checks, Board of Review documents, jury summons, and revenue letters. A key outcome in 2016 for the Mainframe Print Operations program was optimizing operations to reduce the amount of paper used by over one ton.
Telecom and Network Support oversees administration and management of the County's voice and data telecommunication services. In 2017 the Bureau of Technology will complete its 10 gigabit-per-second broadband network, connecting hospitals, public safety facilities and the downtown campus with high-speed fiber cables for fast data transfers. BOT also reduced the number of mobile devices significantly throughout the County by initiating a policy that any device unused for 90 days is automatically deactivated. BOT is also bringing forward an open procurement for a modern voice over internet (VoIP) system in 2017.
Applications and Development Provides consulting, development, enhancement, maintenance, and support of applications. Resolves application incidents.
2016 was year one of implementing the Big Four: Integrated Justice, Integrated Property, Integrated Revenue and Enterprise Resource Planning (year one of ERP includes a countywide biometric Time and Attendance System) as well as other key projects. Application modernization is a key priority for Cook County. Application modernization begins with the oldest technologies residing on legacy platforms which are expensive to maintain. Through new applications, we will transition away from predominantly manual and paper-centric business processes into the digital realm.
Our IT application portfolio strategy focuses on cloud (SaaS) and commercial-off the-shelf (COTS) systems, plus Service Oriented Architecture for integration and reusability. Central to our strategy is the year two execution of the Big Four strategic application investments and the proliferation of enterprise content management. Mobility is paramount for our workforce and residents alike. We will continue developing comprehensive mobile, 24/7 strategies per business segment. Some other examples of key 2017 projects are the comprehensive Countywide citation management system and a new identity management system for County employees.
Information Technology Communications provides support for public website platform and hosting. Increases access to and use of government data. Manages public and internal communications and SharePoint and Intranet platforms. Manages video and audio production/editing and operates the County cable station and franchise. In 2016 the IT Communications program's key outcome was delivering a new service-oriented and mobile-friendly County website. The open data program added 28 new datasets in 2016, in addition to updating the existing datasets in its catalog. In 2017 the focus of the IT Communications program will be on multi-channel engagement through technology. Through the public web, social media, open data, and video production service areas, BOT will work to improve public engagement with County residents to better communicate about County services and help meet their needs efficiently. Internally, we will be expanding the County's use of SharePoint to improve our employee communications, departmental information sharing and the efficiency of our processes. We will also focus on standards development and process documentation for our program area to improve expectations and speed delivery of support and services.
Budget — the BOT budget remains essentially flat despite the launch of a number of new technologies. The general BOT budget cost drivers are salaries and infrastructure; personnel are needed to support applications, technologies and infrastructure, and adequate infrastructure is needed to support new applications and technologies. In 2016 and moreover in 2017 the trend of increases in operating expense will continue due to: the increase of cloud-based technologies; the additive costs of maintenance for capital investments from the last 4 years; and the on-going digitization of paper-based processes. Using the concurrence process to establish Countywide technology standards improves the quality, security and reliability of technology investments, and realizes savings through economies of scale; however, it centralizes costs within the operating budget of the BOT.
Administration supervises bureau and departmental programs and manages administrative functions including legal counsel and legislation and policy. Manages accounting, payroll, procurement, and timekeeping activities; oversees contract negotiations and manages countywide IT contracts; engages in vendor management and orders capital equipment.
To optimize external spend and vendor performance requires an integrated organizational strategy and formal governance. Since hiring an IT Contract and Vendor Manager, the County has realized millions in savings and more favorable terms. Technology contracts are often complex, and costs can be hidden in the details. In 2015 the Bureau of Technology managed 60 contracts, and this number is expected to grow by one third by 2017. In addition to the contracts the Bureau manages, in 2015 there were 55 contracts held by other agencies throughout the County the Bureau was required to review and concur on or reject to ensure best practices were followed and adequate infrastructural support can be provided. Moreover, in 2016 we awarded through a competitive RFQ a new procurement vehicle - the Master Service Agreement for IT target and non-target markets in four categories.
Executive Office, Administration and Finance: In an effort to reduce costs and encourage comprehensive strategic purchasing, in cooperation with the Office of the Chief Procurement Office, BOT is developing a cross-charge framework for five key county-wide contracts, including Microsoft. Another key IT governance effort is the establishment of an on-going county-wide standards committee. BOT is also formalizing the portfolio management process to evaluate business initiatives against business rationale, financial impacts, legal/regulatory requirements, etc. BOT provides standards around license management and hardware refresh capital investments.
Program Management Office provides technology program and project management services, engages in business consulting and analysis and proposal development. Managing projects is a key area for the Bureau of Technology. Managing the efficiency and effectiveness of the PMO office is key to meeting business needs and delivering transformational initiatives for the County. .
Cook County received a top-ten ranking in the 2016 Digital Counties Survey.