New Telecom Contract to Yield Savings, Efficiencies

Cook County today added another $200,000-plus in telecommunications (telecom) savings as a result of initiatives undertaken by President Toni Preckwinkle’s Bureau of Technology (BOT) that have already yielded telecom spending cuts of more than a million dollars this year.

The Cook County Board of Commissioners today approved a BOT Telecom Utility Contract with AT&T, which will save the County $200,898 in annual costs.

"In addition to the savings, the new contract provides us with much-needed bandwidth and technology upgrades. We have to address a growing demand for network bandwidth from new initiatives such as body cameras for the Sheriff or digitally enabled medical devices in our hospitals," Preckwinkle said.

At Preckwinkle’s direction, the BOT has negotiated with AT&T for months to consolidate billing on various contracts purchased separately over the years and to disconnect 282 unused or underused circuits.

Much of the savings will be reinvested in the additional bandwidth. Since January 2015, Cook County's bandwidth consumption has more than quadrupled. This reflects the number of new cloud applications and other technology initiatives coming online over the last several years.

The Board action today is the latest efficiency implemented by the BOT in 2017:

  • Employees countywide now clock in daily using biometric timeclocks instead of the County’ s antiquated practice of using paper timesheets. The biometric system interfaces with the County’s payroll system, ensuring accountability in employee work schedules.
  • The first automatic data transfers between the State’s Attorney, Clerk of the Circuit Court and Sheriff are taking place in the new Integrated Justice System.
  • Residents can quickly locate County services on the County’s updated  website.
  • Any County employee who can use ordinary spreadsheets can now create interactive maps to inform the public or help their department operate more efficiently. 
  • County employees are communicating on a secure, cloud-based email system.
  • County property owners can appeal to the Board of Review online.
  • The County’s financials, supply chain and payroll will all be managed on a new, integrated Enterprise Resource Planning system.
  • County residents and businesses can pay many of their taxes through a unified online portal.

Across the whole County, workflows that depend on sending stacks of paper from agency to agency — with clerks then keying in the same information — are being replaced with instant digital data transfers.

County employees are gaining access to tools to analyze the movement of data across County systems to identify patterns, find savings, streamline the way the county operates and improve services for County residents.

“The big picture is that we are overcoming the historical neglect of information technology at Cook County, which means not only finally getting off our vintage mainframes or pen-and-paper processes, but also putting County technology contracts under a microscope,” said County Chief Information Officer Simona Rollinson. “I’m very proud of my telecom and vendor management teams for the hard work they put in to bring down costs while meeting our growing needs.”