In the state of Indiana the task of managing county records belongs to the county clerk. The clerk is responsible for the storage and preservation of documents ranging from fragile old record books (often dating back as far as the 1800's), as well as the management of current and day-forward court and public records. A perpetually growing volume of documents combined with long (often permanent) retention requirements create a unique challenge for clerks struggling under a combination of expanding work loads and moratoriums on adding staff due to shrinking budgets. Factor in the added problems of limited storage and office space and you have a good idea of the situation faced by County Clerk Lynne Spevak of LaPorte County in northwestern Indiana.
Lynne had long realized that moving forward, digital document management would be at the heart of any solution to these problems. A good computer based document management system would allow her staff to scan, store and manage paper based documents digitally, reducing the need to increase staff while also gaining back the space currently stuffed to overflowing with stored paper records. Her opportunity presented itself when the LaPorte County Courts adopted the use of Odyssey (a court case management system hosted by the State of Indiana) that LaPorte County Judge Thomas Alevizos estimates will save the County $30,000 per year through increased efficiency.
As beneficial as Odyssey is for managing court cases, there remains a disconnect between it and the paper based court records residing at (and managed by) the County Clerks office. Lynne reasoned that there would be a great advantage to both her office and other County departments if she could deploy a digital document management system featuring integration with court cases in Odyssey. After researching possible document management solutions, Lynne found that no off-the-shelf system existed that would satisfy the needs of her office and connect to the Odyssey system to her satisfaction.
During her search Lynne had discussed her project with Bolt Document Management - the provider of a LaserficheÂ® content management system already utilized in several other LaPorte County departments. But what really set things in motion for Lynne happened when she learned that Bolt is much more than a typical system reseller in that they are also a respected Product Development Partner with many years of experience in the type of customized development that her project would require.
Once she settled on Bolt, Lynne held meetings to define and plan for ˜her' document system. To start, the system would have to perform the standard tasks of efficiently scanning, indexing and managing the volume of paper documents processed within her department on a daily basis. Next, the system would have to satisfy the requirements set forth by the Indiana Commission on Public Records regarding both the management and the archiving of the digitally stored records, including archiving computer output to microfilm (COM) - important since part of the plan was to eliminate the outdated microfilm processes her department was currently utilizing. The system would also need the ability to serve both her department and the County as a whole, sharing information over the county-wide network to eliminate the current (very inefficient) hand to hand flow of documents between departments. In turn, this would also require good control over access rights to various documents (some of which are confidential), while allowing accessibility to other county departments and (for certain types of records) by the public. Lastly, the icing on the cake would require a seamless integration with the State Of Indiana Odyssey case system. Before moving forward, Lynne requested that Bolt create and demonstrate a proof of concept for their customized solution to be sure it would be both effective and easy to use. Once Bolt successfully demonstrated the functionality to Lynne's satisfaction she was ready.
To start, Bolt installed and configured Laserfiche and Kodak desktop scanners at each workstation in the Clerks office to let staff scan documents into the system quickly and efficiently. The system was also configured to provide compliance with the state mandated permanent archival process (COM) and to allow securely shared access by other departments. Then, to provide a seamless integration between Odyssey and the County court documents Bolt created an application they call Bolt Connect.
The Bolt Connect integration appears as a floating tool bar on the Odyssey system screen any time someone accesses a particular court case. The tool bar provides buttons for SCAN, IMPORT and VIEW. Because Bolt Connect is ˜Odyssey aware', clicking the SCAN button on the tool bar allows users to scan associated court documents directly into the County Laserfiche document system, properly classified and indexed on-the-fly. Case information in Odyssey is used to index the documents automatically, reducing the process to a few simple clicks. Electronic documents can also be added into the County system by selecting IMPORT on the tool bar.
Odyssey users can view case documents stored in the Laserfiche document system by clicking VIEW on the Bolt Connect tool bar. Bolt Connect then opens a browse window displaying a list of documents organized by document type and/or document date. Specific documents can be opened, viewed, printed and exported individually by simply clicking on them from the list.
The Bolt Connect integration is very intuitive and easy to use. To those working in the Odyssey system the integration appears as a simple and logical document management extension of the core system functionality. The integration eliminates a number of steps and wasted time that would be otherwise required to access court case information in the two systems independently. The shared access to court documents will eliminate the need for copying and hand carrying paper documents between court buildings in two cities (LaPorte and Michigan City) and between floors in the same building. Now, judges, clerks, prosecutors, and probation officials will have access to information in just a couple of mouse clicks instead of the current hours or even days. Laserfiche and Bolt Connect also provide a foundation for future features that Lynne envisions will result in even more efficiency and improved services for LaPorte County and its taxpayers.
Technology offers many different ways to improve efficiency in county government - particularly in the area of information management. But one limiting factor to utilizing a variety of different systems is their frequent inability to share related information. In recognizing the potential presented by integrating state hosted case management with a county based court document system, Lynne found a way to multiply the benefits of both and the results validate her vision.