The Board of Supervisors in Sacramento County, California has a great deal of responsibility resting on their shoulders – the decisions they make each week inherently affect the 1.2 million county residents. The agenda that drives their legislative process is the framework Sacramento County uses to make these decisions. Historically, printing the agenda has resulted in a stack of papers as tall as a Redwood. The issues the county faced with this forest of paperwork resulted in a manual process that was prone to human error, difficult to manage and extremely time consuming.
The legislative process for the board recently went through an evolution from a paper-based methodology to a sleek, dynamic online system, which vastly impacted the way the County’s agenda is managed. Previously, each board member was required to shuffle through stacks of paper for each board meeting; today the entire legislative process is conducted in an electronic format which is also interwoven with streaming video of the meetings. Challenge:
Sacramento County required an efficient, streamlined procedure for reviewing, approving and working through the agendas for each meeting. Recently, an increase in paperwork led the Clerk to the Board to instigate some sweeping and forward-thinking changes. Key to these changes was to incorporate an agenda automation solution that would improve workflow, manage supporting documentation, and make it possible for board members and citizens alike to have access to the information associated with each agenda item.
In years past, it required an exhaustive effort to create an agenda. Compiling an agenda, for any given county board meeting, via the “paper method” resulted in stacks of papers that could literally be more than a foot high.
It gave reason for the staff to quietly celebrate after each meeting was finished because it meant that all supporting documents (which could have been hundreds of pages) had been organized and correlated with the appropriate agenda item. Even still, each document needed to be approved by appropriate departments and individuals. This paper routing, editing, and approval process required a Herculean effort to say the least. The only thing left was to properly record and transcribe the meeting notes—which were an added cause of stress for the clerk, who is legally responsible for the correctness of the minutes.
Today, Sacramento County utilizes Agenda Plus™ from SIRE Technologies to essentially manage the entire legislative process. This is a three fold process involving pre-meeting activities such as creating the actual agenda; activities during the meetings including minutes taking and vote tallying; and, finally, post-meeting activities such as posting agendas with attachments, summaries, minutes and deploying the video to the Web.
Working closely with SIRE, Sacramento County implemented a system where nearly everything is automated – from the actual creation of the agenda template to the routing of documents for approval. Automation saves the clerk and staff an immense amount of time and energy. For example, several departments throughout the county can submit agenda items. Within certain departments, there are upwards of 2,000 individuals who have permission to submit agenda items. Managing this process by hand has proved to be nearly impossible; however, through the use of a Web-based program, proposed items can be submitted, approved and added to the agenda with ease.
Previously, the county tried to implement a program that had been created internally to automate the agenda process. Unfortunately, because of inefficiencies in the program, the price climbed higher than anyone anticipated and delays constantly loomed. The County decided to turn to the experts in agenda automation. SIRE provided an end-to-end solution, including video integration, at one tenth of the cost of the county’s homegrown program.
SIRE also enables Sacramento County to stream video broadcasts of their board meetings to the Internet. Now, both board members and the public alike, have access to archived proceedings online, complete with documents and other supporting information that correspond to each agenda item – at their fingertips.
Board meetings often last an entire day. Agenda Plus makes it possible to search archives for specific agenda items or topics so appropriate video segments can be found right away. Also those responsible for taking minutes were previously required to devote a great deal of time to the effort. Now, due to the format of a feature called Minutes Maker, most of the minutes can be recorded before the meeting is even over.
From the clerks’ perspective, the marriage of video with the agenda process is a tremendous advantage. They incorporate minute annotations, vote counts and the supporting documentation for the agenda items directly into Web-casts. The documents are displayed side-by-side with video of the meetings and other content. Because the Agenda Plus system is built on .Net technology, it is extremely flexible and can work with almost any document management system. Supplementing Agenda Plus, Sacramento has also implemented SIRE’s Electronic Content Management System (ECMS).
Visitors to the Sacramento County site now have the ability to conduct full text searches of everything including minutes, agendas and supporting materials, summaries and video, which provides a more open environment and transparent process.
The Sacramento County benefits in numerous ways by employing agenda automation software. The following are some of the main outcomes:
- The county implemented a more robust and more effective automated agenda management system. SIRE allows the County to reduce related costs by 90%.
- Sacramento saves both time and money by archiving all the details of important meetings so they are instantaneously available for immediate action by all parties.
- Fewer errors occur and they have much less lag time due to poor information distribution.
- Instant access to information reduces the workload of the clerk to fulfill requests from the public, which can now view and download meeting minutes and agendas from the Web.
- From preparing the agenda, to obtaining approval for documents, to taking minutes, the clerks are able to do their work much faster and easier than ever before.
- Meeting summaries, agendas with attachments, minutes and streaming video are posted to the web with Single Click technology.