Local Government Best Practices: Lee County, NC

Untitled - 2021-02-19T100452.845Our 'Local Government Best Practices' series profiles innovators in the public sector who are bringing digital transformation to their municipality.

Today we're featuring Kyle Edwards, CGCIO, IT Director for Lee County, NC.

Kyle has worked with Lee County, NC since 2005. He started as an IT consultant, moved into a Network Administration role, and in 2008 he took over the IT Director position. For the last 10 years, Kyle has organized budgeting, personnel, and a bit of everything from computer monitors to connectivity in their server room. Their small 6 person team has made a huge impact on Lee County, NC.

lee county courthouse

Since 2008; they have built a secondary 911 Center, an Emergency Operations Center, and grown their storage area network 5TBs to a dual system with 4 controllers and 80TBs, and their VM Ware infrastructure was built in-house. Kyle found GovOS in his research for an e-signature product and realized the greater potential for this tool to increase efficiencies across ALL Departments. He converted 20 forms in a single day and 158 forms in 17 Departments in under 4 months! 

How did you get involved with local government?

Lee County NC Seal

I started out in the public sector when I was still in college in 2001. This first experience in the public sector was in IT so when I moved home and the option was available, the transition was pretty natural. I have 3-4 years of public experience. In the early 2000s, I was an IT Consultant for the Math Department at UNCG and moved on to the Gilford County Public School System to support the IT Department. From there, I was briefly in the Private Sector at a Pharma Company and then moved on to the IT Department at Lee County, NC.

How did you first hear about Kofile GovOS?

When I first started working at Lee County, NC, there was a desperate need for electronic forms. We were trying to made Adobe forms work, but they were too complicated and too involved. I started doing some research sometime in 2015 for forms products and came across GovOS. 

Initially it was difficult to find the budget. There was no buy-in from other departments. A year went by and I was finally able to get funding for the software. I was the only user at first, but as soon as I got started, I knew this product fit all of our needs. The solution has snowballed ever since then. 

We had tried to make so many other products work, but it wasn't worth the time we put into it. Adobe wasn't terrible to create a form, but in hindsight, it was horrible comparatively. Compared to GovOS there were so many more steps, not as much flexibility, and you could not scan or start from scratch. The whole submission process with Adobe was a nightmare. We tried to build buttons to execute two functions; sometimes it would collect the data, but it was really complex trying to make it work.

Why did you decide to go paperless?

We had WAY too much paper and too many hand written processes, it killed me.

Every time I wanted to make a personnel change, there would be multiple packets of paper, there would always be some mistake, and I would have to fill it out again and again. So much time was wasted and it became really expensive to order the papers.

That Personnel Action Change Form drove me crazy. We would have to physically pass these packets around offices and the amount of paper was like nails on a chalkboard. I would walk around and see these outdated paper processes. The GovOS platform gives us the ability to maintain access to all of the submissions and search them via the platform. We can now go back to look at old records instead of them being stuck in the bottom of a filing cabinet or destroyed in a flood. Now all submissions are fully digital, consolidated in one place, and searchable.

What was implementation of GovOS Studio like?

Once we were set up with our login, I was like a kind in a candy store for 3-4 hours, converting and creating forms. It was very simple: I would upload, find the fields, make adjustments, and then be done. Having GovOS was like going to the toolbox and having all of the right tools at your fingertips.

Downtown Sanford, Lee County Historic District - Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:DOWNTOWN_SANFORD_HISTORIC_DISTRICT;_LEE_COUNTY.jpgName one form or process that's been changed by GovOS

The Environmental Health Department was largely improved by GovOS Studio. They have 12 applications that citizens fill out for swimming pools, food truck permits, and anything related to environmental health. Previously, citizens would have to go to website, find a printer, fill it out and then fax it in or come to the office. This was a tremendous amount of time for the citizen and subject to many errors.

All of those applications are now 'seamless'. Citizens and complete the forms online and include payments and attachments from the comfort of a citizens home. The old process would take at least three to five days to be filled out, mailed in, and approved. The new processes now takes less than an hour.

What's your favorite GovOS Studio feature?

My favorite feature is the Submission Rule Builder.

It is a huge upgrade to have the ability to automatically route things to specific staff members. Having multiple signatures on a particular document is also valuable to route to different people. It's perfect for being able to track submissions, and the transparency we get around form submissions via the public portal option is getting a lot of positive feedback. People love how easy it is to use and navigate. The Prepare mode is also a tremendous help.

Advice for another municipality just starting out with GovOS?

The most helpful thing to do is to go ahead and build department specific use cases and forms as opposed to selling the product as one big bite. 

Convert and create some forms and let them see how it will make their lives so much easier and how a lot less paper and manual process is involved. Once they see it in action, they can't deny or argue that it makes so much more sense and would be a lot more successful. 

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