CRM Helps Government Agencies Streamline DataBy Samuel Greengard
One of the challenges for government agencies is tracking activities, projects and events across departments and internal groups. Avoiding silos and red tape is paramount–and as data volumes grow, it's not uncommon for the challenges and risks to increase. One government entity taking direct aim at the challenge is County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP), a statewide, nonprofit, bipartisan association representing the commissioners, chief clerks, administrators and others in Pennsylvania's 67 counties.
The organization focuses on assisting counties with legislative programs, insurance and policy areas, including grant funding. In the past, the counties have operated separate case management systems for tracking adult law offenders and parolees but CCAP recognized a need to move to a more unified approach.
"In many situations, they were tracking the same offender in three different locations within the county. This meant that clerks would have to re-enter the same information about the offender–even if it already existed in the computer at the district attorney's office," CIO Rita Reynolds explained.
Not surprisingly, different systems and redundant data translated directly into errors as well as files that weren't always up to date. For example, a judge's name was spelled 14 different ways across various systems. In addition, manually entering the data resulted in higher demands on staff along with increased costs. "The data inconsistencies were particularly problematic," Reynolds said. "People had problems looking things up. If they required the name of a business and it was entered into the system slightly differently, they would have to spend time figuring out which entry was correct." Finally, inconsistencies made it difficult to use charge codes correctly, she said.
As a result, CCAP turned to Dynamics CRM and it used Scribe Software to import data from case management systems across more than 20 different counties. It went live with the new CRM system in the winter of 2013, after spending about a year developing and testing the software. By automatically consolidating offender information and introducing a Web portal to streamline certain key functions–such as the offender check-in process–CCAP has been able to move forward and handle tasks far more efficiently. "There is no more manual data entry across systems. All the data that's entered at the Web portal gets populated into the system," she said. This also delivers added benefits involving reports. "What used to take days to compile now takes place in about 15 minutes."
A key to navigating the transition successfully was the SQL-based Scribe import software. It provided a high level of flexibility and customization. "We were able to use templates but add and modify fields and add the forms we required. As a result, the data conversions were not difficult," Reynolds said. One of the toughest parts of the project was managing expectations, she added. "We wanted to take our time and make sure we did things right. Once staff saw how well the system works they were eager to use it. We're now able to manage data and information far more effectively."