Printer Friendly

Shelby County: knowledge suite: a holistic approach.

Table of Contents

A. System
 1. System Name
 2. System Accomplishments

B. Jurisdiction
 1. Name
 2. Population
 3. Annual Budget
 4. Chief Official
 5. Contact Person

C. System Design
 1. System Motivation
 2. Service Improvements
 3. Unexpected Benefits
 4. Design Problems
 5. System Differences

D. Implementation
 1. Development Phases
 2. Design Modifications

E. Organizational Impact
 1. User Community
 2. Operations Affected
 3. Quantitative and Qualitative Impacts
 4. System Productivity
 5. Other Impacts
 6. Changes to Business Processes
F. System Resources
 1. Hardware Components
 2. Software Components
 3. Database System
 4. Staff Resources

Attachment A

Attachment B

A. System

A1. Name of system and ESIG category for which you are applying (Enterprise System or Single Process System).

Name of System: Shelby Knowledge Suite (Powered by CAPTURE Platform)

URISA ESIG Category: Enterprise Systems

A2. A letter from the executive administrator authorization submission of the system application

Please see Attachment A located at the end of this application.

A3. One page summary of what the system accomplishes and why it is exemplary.

Shelby County is the fastest growing county in Alabama and one of the fastest growing counties in the country. Since 2000, we have averaged a 20% population growth with 170,000 citizens that call it home. Shelby County has always strived to keep its government accountable, transparent, and efficient. With the growth we are experiencing and our strong belief in our governing values, we had to look towards a cutting edge technology to meet Shelby's rapid growth and effectively serve our citizens.

With a handful of departments ranging from Property Tax to Development Services, we manage not only large data sets, but also a variety of data and data sources, including maps, CAD drawings, and Microsoft Office documents, all of which are required to perform our day to day activities. Data generated in one department is intertwined in the business processes of many other departments throughout the county, making it crucial to eliminate redundant data entry and establish workflows to streamline our business processes. Due to the abundant amount of information that the county processes coupled with the interdepartmental dependencies on this information we had to move to a system that could exchange information in real-time throughout the system.

In summary, Shelby County needed a decision support system that could cross departmental boundaries. We also needed a flexible platform that would allow information to be viewed based on each department's needs regardless of where the data originates. It was imperative that all the related information be available with "a click of a mouse." Not satisfied with the standard COTS solutions being offered, we decided that we partner with a vendor that specialized in CAD/GIS centric decision support systems to build a solution based on Microsoft .NET technology.

By coupling our vision with the right technology and vendor, Shelby Knowledge Suite, was born. Our choice of technology has impacted our business processes including our interactions with citizens and businesses in a manner never before imagined. Shelby's streamlined processes allow our employees to work smarter. We can now perform multi-step complex tasks with just a click of the mouse. Employee morale has increased and customer satisfaction is at its best. Redundant steps have been eliminated and data entry errors have been minimized. Our abilities to access and analyze information have led to a dramatic increase in our ability to make well informed decisions. Our ability to track metrics at various levels evenly has given our management an invaluable tool to plan, prepare, and execute more efficiently.

There are several factors that make Shelby Knowledge Suite exemplary and distinct. Its ability to deliver powerful solutions with an intuitive and easy to use interface benefits us at every level of the local government.

With Shelby Knowledge Suite, we have:

* Increased the value and added a new dimension to the GIS system

* Increased our ability to share information throughout the county in real-time

* Reduced data entry errors significantly thus improving productivity

* Inbuilt audit capability at every task and at every level

* Developed tools to view heterogeneous data in one location to help make better decisions

* Developed mechanisms to help us track the status and location of any business process instantly

* Automated many of the error prone, tedious processes by employing simple tools such as bar codes, check scanning, and automated publishing

* Made many processes more consistent, reliable, and repeatable

* Provided our management with metrics and tools to improve and reengineer any business process in a relatively short period of time

* Prepared ourselves to meet our future demands effectively and efficiently

A4. User testimonials

Please see attachment B located at the end of this application.

B. Jurisdiction

Name of Jurisdiction: Shelby County, Alabama

Population served by the agency: Approximately 170,000 citizens

Annual total budget for jurisdiction: $100 million

Name, title, and address of chief elected and/or appointed official:

Alex Dudchock, County Manager

County Administration Building

200 West College Street

Columbiana, Alabama 35051

Name, title, address, telephone, FAX, and email for contact person for system:

JR Henderson, Chief Mapper/Supervisor

Shelby County IT Services

PO Box 467-102 Depot Street

Columbiana, Alabama 35051

Phone: 205-669-3728

Fax: 205-669-3215


C. System Design

C1. What motivated the system development?

Our choice to pursue a decision support system in Shelby County was a natural progression towards our understanding of the power and wisdom that becomes available to an organization when information is shared across the enterprise in real-time.


Shelby County has over 80,000 parcels of land comprised of commercial and residential properties. Our challenge was to find a technology that would help us capture data, convert it to useful information, and streamline the information to flow between departments as workflows--thus eliminating redundant data entry and minimizing data entry errors.

We wanted to provide our executives and managers with tools to help them make well informed decisions in real-time while empowering our employees to function as knowledge workers.

Shelby County continuously generates digital data and information in many departments. It was our vision to let this data and information flow unimpeded throughout multiple departments.

Shelby County has been sharing data with external commercial agencies such as Multiple Listing Services for many years. While this adds tremendous value to many of our departments, it was also a time consuming process. Our goal was to keep the data exchange process active while eliminating tedium.


The above facts coupled with Shelby County's growth over the past few decades made us turn towards cutting-edge technology to continue to provide good governance.

C2. What specific service or services was the system intended to achieve?

The new system was intended to help Shelby County keep up with its exploding population growth and the demands that come with managing huge amounts of heterogeneous data across multiple departments. The new system also needed to furnish employees with the necessary tools to provide excellent service to our citizens.

Data Transparency

The new system was intended to exchange data and information seamlessly within the county. It was expected to disseminate information gathered from any of our agencies or departments in real time. We desired our new system to automate and streamline many of our workflows to improve productivity at individual, departmental, and interdepartmental levels. In addition the system needed to eliminate redundant data entry enterprise-wide. The system also had to be responsive, intuitive, easy to use, and easy to learn.

Additionally, we wanted to ensure that the new system supported us to continue meeting our governing objectives namely:

Transparency in Governance

We needed a level of transparency that would allow every user of the system to not only view all the information relevant to their duties, but also view supporting data to help them make quick and well informed decisions.

Accountability in Governance

With Shelby Knowledge Suite we wanted to create an enhanced culture of accountability. The system was intended to track changes at every level and keep an audit trail of all business processes and activities in the county. We wanted our new system to provide us with an unprecedented level of accountability from front desk clerks to executives.

Efficiency in Governance

We wanted the new system to display data in a customizable format unique to every department or even to every single user if necessary. We wanted a system to provide our employees the necessary and supporting data to perform their tasks efficiently. We also wanted the new system to provide our employees with tools that would help them avoid navigating between multiple systems to gather information.

The following three examples illustrate the redundancies and issues inherent in the old processes that we wanted to significantly improve with the new system.

Example 1

The Recording Department of the Probate Judge serves as a source point for the data collection and entry of vesting instruments. These vesting instruments are used by many other departments in the county. With our old system every department with a need for these documents had to obtain digital copies periodically from the Probate department and make multiple paper copies. This was a tedious, time-consuming, and costly process. There was no means for other departments to automatically get only their relevant deeds.


Example 2

The Mapping department creates new parcels based on deeds that they obtain from the Probate. This information is necessary to process various tasks in other departments such as Revenue, Development Services, and Highway.

In the old system the other departments had to rely on a Mapper log and physical files to complete their tasks. This process used to lead to misplaced files and related delays, ultimately resulting in a loss of productivity in many departments. There was no automated means to notify the related departments of a new parcel that came into existence.


Example 3

Building permits issued by the Department of Development Services are instrumental in tracking new improvements by the Appraisal Department. In the old system an Appraiser had to log into the permit system periodically to research the new permits issued in his or her jurisdiction; this was often a monotonous and overlooked process. There was no automated means to flag the Appraisers of the construction activities in his or her jurisdiction.

C3. What, if any, unexpected benefits did you achieve?

There were several unexpected benefits that were achieved as we moved to our new decision support system. The notable ones being serious reductions in backlogs and an unexpected degree of acceptance from our end-users (our employees).

Although we did expect to see improvements in the efficiencies of our processes, we were surprised by the degree of improvements and agility related to the process. Improved efficiencies were actually a natural byproduct of reengineering our business processes during the system design phase. For example, we were surprised to find just how much time was saved by streamlining the tax sales process; the entire process was completed in a matter of hours rather than weeks that it used to take with the old system. This saved the county hundreds of man-hours in processing time.

In the old system the Appraisers used to spend a month sketching everything that was measured. With the new user friendly and intuitive system, data entry clerks are able to key in the sketches allowing the Appraisers to do more field work and investigate undervalued properties.


New system implementations typically experience a certain degree of resistance from the end-users due to the change and learning curve involved. However, we were surprised to find that the end-users adapted to the new system easily and even embraced it. This was primarily due to the fact that the system was completely Web based and the users were already familiar using Internet Explorer as their internet browser.

C4. What system design problems were encountered?

The main challenge that we overcame was the manipulation and integration of the large amount of data that Shelby County has. With a broad spectrum of departments, we have to manage not only large data sets and heterogeneous data, but also assimilate and present this information to the employees in an easy to understand and seamless manner.

One of the options that we considered was the typical two/three-tiered thick client architecture. We quickly realized that this architecture would not be flexible enough to adapt to our changing needs without a large number of software programmers on staff. Also the cost and downtime we would encounter during any change would be enormous.

We concluded that we needed a more flexible, multi-tiered architecture with a thin client that would allow us to easily configure and adapt to any change in our business processes.

Another problem that we encountered was the size and amount of data that had to be transmitted between our offices using our network. We set up a gigabit network connecting all of our facilities to ensure that the demands of massive data transfers did not bring down our network.

During the implementation phase we ran into a few schedule overruns. Although we planned very extensively on all conceivable variables, we found that working on a project of this size created an environment where a particular level of uncertainty made it difficult to forecast timelines accurately. Having the right team in place, we were able to reallocate our resources, rearrange our priorities, and get the project implemented.

C5. What differentiates this system from other similar systems?

Our holistic approach to a new system required us to adopt a unique solution unlike any available with a commercial off-the-shelf product. Our new system is unique to all others in several ways.

Shelby Knowledge Suite crosses traditional department boundaries allowing information to be viewed from a more global perspective and optionally drill down to the minute detail. Most systems are designed to deal with the functions and processes of just a single department. They do not have the ability to bring data from multiple departments, integrate, and disseminate it throughout the enterprise. Shelby County's Knowledge Suite is built on E-Ring's CAPTURE Platform that employs Microsoft's .NET technology and provides us a comprehensive vehicle to integrate, interoperate, manage, view, and analyze, multiple systems and solutions.


Further, the way data and information flows in our system between the various departments allows each of our departments to obtain this data and information in real time. Many other systems perform similar functions by performing manual updates periodically. This method is tedious and time consuming.

Our system is unique in that it integrates different kinds of data such as maps, CAD drawings, and other information and presents it in one location using information dashboards. This alleviates users from having to navigate different applications as is the case with many other solutions in the marketplace today.


Our system is also unique in that it is tailored to provide our executives with the tools to make real-time decisions in the context of their daily duties and operations.

D. Implementation

D1. What phases did you go through in developing the system?

Shelby County went through 7 distinct phases in order to implement a system that met the stringent ideological and technological needs set forth by the county executives.

1. Defining the Problem/Opportunity

We knew that our legacy systems were being strained by our community's growth and realized the need to proactively find a solution to our county's needs. We decided to not only look at short-term goals, but also consider our long-term goals as a part of our strategy. Although Shelby County is not new to technology, adopting an enterprise-wide application made it necessary that we carefully select a technology that would benefit us in the short and long term. We viewed the problems presented by our system reaching its capacity as an opportunity to shape the technological landscape of Shelby County throughout the years to come.

2. Requirements Analysis

In this phase we documented and analyzed the processes that the new system would have an immediate impact on. We also reengineered and streamlined these processes. We examined the business processes that were interdepartmental and reengineered them to take advantage of the parallel processing that the new system would have to provide. All along we kept in mind that the data had to be secured, access controlled and convertible to neutral nonproprietary formats.

3. Due Diligence

Once we had our requirements documented we established a committee to investigate the "state of affairs" in county solutions that existed or were implemented in mid to large-sized counties in the United States and Canada. While we found many good applications that worked well in their respective departments, we did not find any that crossed departmental boundaries or attained the level of automation that we had envisioned.

Regardless of what we found we floated a RFI followed by a RFP to see if any established vendors would be interested in partnering with us to build next generation, completely Web based county solutions. We found none.

It was then after a national search of specialized vendors in CAD/GIS centric decision support systems that we chose E-Ring, Inc. to help us implement our vision based on their CAPTURE Platform.

4. System Design

Our staff and vendors worked closely in order to reexamine and further redesign and reengineer our business processes. We approached the design process from both a top-down and bottom-up approach, which helped us analyze our processes from both macro and micro perspectives.

We designed our system by breaking down our workflows into their individual components and analyzing every step of the process. Every data thread that was common to more than one process or department was documented to eliminate redundant data entry. Data gathered in one department that was needed in other departments was also documented as a part of our interdepartmental process analysis. In essence, we executed a complete business process redesign for every workflow in every department that we implemented the system in. However, we designed enough flexibility into the system to ensure that further reengineering of the workflow was easy.

5. Implementation/System Testing

We used a hybrid implementation strategy to implement systems in parallel and in tandem. Modules that were implemented in tandem were in different stages of the project while one of its leading modules was being deployed. All modules were tested in the field while we were running the legacy system in parallel. We had taken a zero tolerance approach with migration errors. As such we had a test module that elaborately tested the migration scripts to ensure 100% data conversion. This technique helped us switch over each module to the new system overnight.

6. User Training

During user training we used traditional classroom training as well as a more modern multimedia, self paced training suite. This suite included AVI's, online help, online tutorials, and "HOW-TOs".

We utilized off-site training for the introductory instructional labs and then provided coaching and support while running the systems in parallel. Department managers expressed confidence in their employees training before we disengaged the legacy systems and took the new system live.

7. Maintenance/Enhancement

We have a multi-tier maintenance setup where the first tier of support calls is directed to our IT services. Calls that require further assistance are routed to the vendor. The platform provides 24/7 online support. We have quarterly meetings with the vendor to discuss new requirements and enhancements which are prioritized, designed and implemented as a part of a future release. All standard enhancements and new features are a part of the maintenance program.


D2. Were there any modifications to the original system design? Why? What?

The upfront investment in the design of our system, along with a consistently unified vision from the stakeholders, resulted in the highly successful launch of Shelby Knowledge Suite with no major modification to the original design.

One of the modifications that was embarked on and completed was the manner in which the GIS data was integrated. The original design was to integrate with our current GIS system GeoMedia which runs off of Oracle Spatial Server. However we decided to directly integrate with the Oracle Spatial database to provide another level of indirection and become GIS vendor neutral for downstream applications.

E. Organizational Impact

E1. What user community does the system serve and how?

At this time Shelby Knowledge Suite serves the following user groups: Mapping, Tax Appraisal, Assessors, Collections, County Executives, Revenue Commissioner, Permits and Inspections, Clerks and Managers, and the citizens of Shelby County. The system enables these different user groups to exchange heterogeneous data seamlessly between departments in a real-time environment.

With the new system our Mappers have the ability to automatically pull deeds from the Probate system. The system also automatically assigns parcel numbers wherever possible. The system also automatically generates and maintains a deed log that has to be submitted to the Department of Revenue on a monthly basis. It also automates the label printing and the property record card printing process.

With the new system our Appraisers are automatically notified when a new parcel is created by our Mapping group. They are able to work on these new parcels without having to look for physical files or contact the Mappers. Likewise, in the new system, the Appraisers are able to perform sales analysis in real-time as new sales are being recorded into the system. Any deed with a sale is automatically routed to the sales recording clerk from the Probate system. Appraisers now have the ability to perform mass updates on a "what-if" basis, giving them an opportunity to see the end result before having to commit to them. The new workflow engine routes all key tasks performed by Appraisers to the Chief Appraiser for approval. The integrated CAD environment works with the cost tables and automatically calculates the appraised values once the improvement is sketched or keyed in. This makes the process more reliable and accurate. The analysis tools that are a part of the system help the Chief Appraiser perform various real-time analyses to keep the appraised values equalized and fair.

Shelby Knowledge Suite helps Assessors automate and streamline many of their complex processes thus eliminating errors and the enormous undertaking involved in correcting them at the end of the tax year. The system has business rules configured to prevent data entry errors that would violate Alabama tax assessment protocols. The system has also automated a dozen batch printing processes that are required by law hence eliminating errors in printing. The printing process allows parallel printing when multiple resources are available, thereby reducing the time required to print 100,000 notices, every single time. Shelby Knowledge Suite has also provided many mass update tools to facilitate rapid updates and import data from business customers for appraising and assessing business personal property.

Our new system has helped tax collections tremendously. It has eliminated all duplicate data entry required by the previous system. Today when assessment releases the tax abstract the system automatically generates receipts for about 100,000 accounts without any human intervention. However it is flexible enough to allow point changes that may be necessary while keeping track of the change log as a part of its audit trail mechanism. Today our receipts are bar coded; consequently upon receiving payment our tellers process the transaction with just a few keystrokes. In the same period the checks are scanned; tax amounts are validated; and refunds, if any, are automatically generated for account keeping and for our semi-monthly report. The transactions are automatically posted to the ledger for record keeping and for generating the semi-monthly report.


Mortgage processing is a trivial process in the new system. In the old system processing information from 10 mortgage companies, which accounted for about 35,000 accounts, took a few weeks. In the new system the electronic data that is received from the mortgage companies is fed directly into the system without the need for any IT support. The processing takes merely a few hours while keeping track of the checks, accounts, and sub-accounts related to the mortgage companies.

With Shelby Knowledge Suite the process of issuing a permit and conducting an inspection is vastly simplified. The documents related to the permit application are uploaded by the front desk clerks and the application is routed to the various departments for approval by the workflow engine. The various departments can view the application and review the corresponding documents online. A bar coded paper copy is available in a central location if a need arises. Once the permit is approved the customer is automatically notified via email or fax by the system. With the new system we can ensure that the requested inspection is valid for the type of permit issued. The inspections can now be easily scheduled and assigned to Inspectors. The executive dashboards keep the managers and supervisors informed about current workloads, backlogged work (if any), and the workload in the pipeline.

With the new system County Executives are able to view, analyze, and plan various tasks and projects based on the information that they obtain in their dashboards. These dashboards are comprehensive and provide a high level summary of the various departments and their workloads. They also have the ability to do comparative analysis of any reports between two periods. Our system has helped department heads such as the Revenue Commissioner to forecast and plan better for the heavy collection period between the months of October through December.

Shelby County citizens are also better served with the new system. With Shelby Knowledge Suite they are able to obtain more information about various activities from a single source in the county. Our citizens are able to obtain information around the clock from the county information portal. The new system saves the county's citizens a tremendous amount of time and money by being efficient and making information available online.

E2. What are the ultimate decisions/operations/services being affected? If appropriate, provide a few examples including, but not limited to: screen input/output forms, paper products, or other descriptive graphics.

Shelby Knowledge Suite has helped many of our departments prepare and meet the data explosion that is a byproduct of the digital era. Our departments are more productive and efficient with our new system. Our system has impacted not only the way we operate and deliver services to our citizens, but has also impacted our employees at an individual level. Our employee morale is high as they are empowered with information that allows them to become knowledge workers with the new system.

Shelby Knowledge Suite has improved our ability to make good decisions, daily operations, and the quality of our services rendered in every department that has implemented the new system. The key areas and business processes that have been significantly impacted are listed below:
Business Process Affected Departments Involved
Data Entry All Departments
Automated Deed Processing Mapping, Appraisal, & Probate
Integrated Sketching/ Automatic
 Appraisal Appraisal
Automated Sales Analysis/Ratio
 Study Appraisal
CSV/MS Excel integration Assessment & Collection
Approvals/Notifications Appraisal, Assessment, Mapping &
 Development Services
Auditing Appraisal, Assessment, &
Tax Collection/Disbursement Collection
Tax Sale Processing Collection
Planning & Risk Management Executive Management

Data Entry: As the new system is seamlessly integrated, redundant data entry is almost eliminated. The new system uses bar codes in all letters, receipts, and other documents mailed to, or printed for, the citizens. This helps our data entry clerks retrieve relevant records by simply scanning the stub that is returned with the payment or any other communique.


Automated Deed Processing: With the new system deeds flow into different departments based on established business rules. For instance, if a deed has a consideration, it is automatically routed to the sales recording department.

Likewise, if a deed has an ownership change, it is routed to assessment for name change. On the other hand, if the deed has a legal change, such as a parcel spilt, or if the deed's legal description involves metes and bounds, the deed is routed to the Mapping department. In cases where the deed meets more than one criterion, the deed is routed to all the relevant departments.



Integrated Sketching and Automatic Appraisal: In our new system the appraisal costing model is directly integrated to the sketching process. In essence, sketching an improvement automatically generates the appraised value. However, the Appraiser can control parameters such as the class and type of improvement.


Automated Sales Analysis and Ratio Study: Currently, as data is analyzed while it is entered into Shelby Knowledge Suite, any consolidated report or analysis is generated or performed in real time, thereby making the sales analysis an effortless process. Similarly, once the Chief Appraiser validates and includes a sale for a ratio study, the numbers for this study are generated automatically.


CSV/MS Excel Integration: As in any enterprise system data needs to be exported to many agencies for analysis as well as for record keeping. While working with large institutions and businesses, large datasets are provided to the county in digital media. The new system is directly integrated with Microsoft Office Suite and also works with the generic comma separated file. This helps us automate and eliminate a tremendous amount of manual processing that was required in the previous system.



Approvals and Notifications: The new system's workflow engine automatically flags users about pending or new tasks that are generated as a part of any business process. Likewise, when a task is completed by a user, necessary notifications are sent to audit clerks and supervisors.



Auditing: The system can be set at many different levels for audit tracking. Depending on the level of audit tracking that is enabled, the system logs change as a part of the audit trail. The audit trail is a permanent record that cannot be changed or deleted.


Tax Collection and Disbursement: With the new system all receipts and transmittals related to the collection process are bar coded. This helps our clerks post payments by merely scanning the bar-code. In addition, checks are scanned during the transaction. Our check scanners are MICR-coded and automatically read account, routing, and check numbers. The system automatically generates daily deposit slips, check validation reports, and reconciliation reports, saving hundreds of man-hours during the collection period.


Tax Sale Processing: The tax sale processing is completely automated. The tax sale advertisements, delinquent notices, and other legal documents are generated automatically by the system. The necessary fees and collection charges are applied instantly by the click of a button to all tax sale properties while the system keeps an audit trail of the change.



Permits and Inspections: The process of issuing permits and inspecting buildings for public safety has been automated as a part of our new system. We are now able to automatically notify contractors via email and/or fax once a permit is approved. In cases where permits are denied, an email is automatically sent to the contractors by the system indicating the necessary changes that are requested by the county Examiners. In the case of inspections, an email and/or fax is sent to the contractor indicating the outcome of the inspection. This information can also be retrieved by the contractors via telephone.



Planning and Risk Management: The new system provides department level status reports to our executives in real time. For instance, our revenue collection activities can be viewed by our executives with no time lag. The system also provides our executives with the ability to compare reports from different periods and analyze the changes and trends indicated by these reports. These tools have helped our management minimize risks in large projects and complex processes, and also prepare them for contingencies to mitigate risks.

E3. What were the quantitative and qualitative impacts of the system?

The quantitative impacts of Shelby Knowledge Suite have been quite dramatic. Information exchange between departments is now instantaneous. When data is entered in one location it becomes accessible to all users of the system regardless of their department or location. Backlogs in the departments that use the system have almost been eliminated.

System metrics help supervisors plan and allocate departmental resources more efficiently. It is now possible to have detailed information ranging from the status of a department to the status of a task. Employees now utilize custom views in order to control and predict business process outcomes. Due to the delays in the old system most situations had to be handled in a reactive manner. With the new system, managers are able to proactively plan and respond to these situations and in many cases eliminate the situation all together.

The qualitative impacts of Shelby Knowledge Suite have been felt by all of our employees who are a part of the system. Morale is high with our employees as they now have more information available to make decisions, thus enabling them to become knowledge workers. We also have a lot more control over our system and our business processes. In the past it was hard to gather information regarding all of the activities performed in the course of the day. A lot of key information had to be trusted to our memories or written on post-it notes. With the new system's context sensitive notes, we are able to tag specific information that can be viewed anytime a user accesses that information. The audit trail process has eliminated the guesswork as to who changed what and when.


The flexibility of our new system also allows us to be agile to policy changes and new legislation. When a process has to be changed, redesigned or reengineered we are able to implement the changes in a relatively short time. In the past we had to request the software vendors to make those changes, making change a lengthy process.

Our new system gives us a high degree of certainty by providing us with a far greater ability to view and generate custom reports, giving us a clear picture of our progress and the current state of our business right down to the minute details if we so desire. The system's metrics give us the ability to plan with confidence for the future of our county.

E4. What effect has the system had on productivity?

Shelby Knowledge Suite has had a tremendous impact on the productivity in every department in Shelby County that has implemented it. The reduction in data entry has allowed our employees to focus on their key tasks instead of just trying to keep up with the busy pace of servicing our community. Our increased productivity has enabled us to spend more time proactively managing our county.

We have increased our productivity significantly by eliminating redundant data entry and by using dashboards to view and analyze information. In the old system our employees had to move from one application to another to obtain necessary information, making it a time consuming and error prone process.

Another feature of our new system that has helped us to achieve dramatic increases in productivity is the workflow engine. The workflow engine has helped us streamline our business processes and enable parallelism in these processes thus eliminating bottlenecks that were prevalent in the old system. With the new system we are able to track any event, task, or even status of a process instantly. The workflow engine, based on business rules, automatically assigns tasks to users, and once completed, routes it to the next user in line.

Shelby Knowledge Suite also utilizes a comprehensive audit feature that keeps track of any critical changes made in the system. This allows our end users to easily see who made the changes, when the changes were made and the old and new values of the changed item. The audit trail has been extremely valuable in giving us a quick reference.

The reduction of redundant data entry, the use of dashboards, the workflow engine, and the audit trail function has made a big difference in the way we do business in Shelby County. Not only have we out-performed our expectations during a time when we should still be in our learning phase, but the offices are running smoother and desks are even getting clearer!

E5. What other impacts has the system had?

Shelby Knowledge Suite has helped the county tap its GIS system to be more dynamic by triggering and managing business processes rather than just using it as a static attribution system to view and query information. For example, in Shelby County today, one can locate a parcel in the GIS system and not only look at the current information, but also view historical data and perform other non GIS based queries.


The enhanced GIS system also allows us to manage documents, workflows, events, projects, drawings, and perform detailed analysis on any feature that is tracked in the GIS system.




E6. How did the system change the way that business is conducted with and/or service delivered to clients? Give specific examples comparing the old way with the new.

Shelby Knowledge Suite has given us several advantages over the old system. Firstly, we have increased efficiencies throughout the county because information is now shared between the county departments effortlessly. We have also been able to share public information with local businesses and our citizens.

* Our new system has helped streamline and validate the data collection process using a workflow engine. In the old system, when data was entered by our clerks they had to make a copy of the document and hand it to their managers or audit clerks for validation; this made it a print heavy and time consuming process. Currently, once the clerk has entered data, the system sends a validation task to the managers along with the change log. This new process reduces needless paperwork and frees the clerks and managers to focus on other business critical matters.

* With the older system, when a customer called in to get parcel related information, different departments had to be involved to answer appraisal, assessment, and billing questions. Now a clerk from any department can provide all of the information to the customer immediately. All of the information is located in a single dashboard. Because of our increased access to information, our customer's calls are also no longer continuously redirected.

* In the old system, data was held in spreadsheets and other documents on desktops that were not integrated with the information in the database. This forced the users to manage the documents themselves, which was time consuming. Today, most of the documents are eliminated as the information is an integral part of the database. In cases where documents are still required, they are managed by the document management system and held in the central repository. However, the new system still allows users to export data to external applications such as Microsoft Excel and Word. Many of the spreadsheets that the system has replaced can still be viewed by the user in their familiar Microsoft Excel format by XML technology.


* Sales analysis is a critical component in the appraisal process. In the old system the sales analysis was performed by extracting data and manually typing into a spreadsheet application. The user had to constantly keep up with the new sales data that was entered into the system. In the new system the sales analysis is automatic. Once the sale is entered and verified, the system automatically performs the sales analysis based on preset parameters. The user still has the option to change the parameters and regenerate the sales analysis with the click of a button.

* In the old system, there was no room to perform a "what-if" analysis, which limited us from analyzing alternate scenarios. With the new system we are able to perform a "what-if" analysis in every process. This aspect of the system gives us the confidence to perform mass updates of properties based on certain criteria, analyze it, and then optionally commit it. This also helps us perform analyses where certain values have to be changed throughout the system without committing to the database. This tool has helped us to plan and analyze different scenarios that we could not even imagine with the old system.

* In the appraisal department tasks such as ratio studies, which use to take months to perform, are now done by the system automatically. This is true not only in the Appraisal Department, but also in the other departments that use the system.

* With Shelby Knowledge Suite we have been able to reallocate our resources differently as we have been able to automate and eliminate many of the manual error prone processes. For example, the old system required a CAD operator or an Appraiser for sketching a floor plan; today the data entry clerks perform this task relieving the Appraisers to do more field work.

* In the old system the Mapping Department received deeds from the Probate Department and had to investigate every single deed to assign a parcel number(s) to it. Even in cases where a parcel number could be automatically determined based on the information in the deed, a Mapper had to physically investigate it. The new system automatically determines parcel numbers to the deeds, routes them to sales for recording, assessment for name change, and Mapping for legal change. The new system also gives us the ability to sort deeds by date, status, locator number, and the Mapper assigned to it. The new system has eliminated the need to maintain a manual deed log.

* With the old system many activities in the Assessment Department such as name changes, exemption processing, and business personal property processing were tedious, time consuming, and error prone. With the new system's dashboard and workflow engine paradigm, most of these processes are automated and the related errors are eliminated or at least minimized. With customizable error reports that the system can generate even the errors that may slip through the system are easily detected and corrected.

* With the old system the collection process was very time consuming and labor intensive. Processing mortgage company payments was an IT Services task--requiring time, coordination, and planning. Tracking returned checks or overpayments required sifting through receipts and printouts and researching the database. In peak season dedicated clerks had to be assigned to perform these tasks. With the new system we are able to manage the above processes with fewer clerks. Our checks are scanned and maintained with the transactions and the accounts that they paid. Managing returned checks and processing overpayments is completely automated. Mortgage company payments can be processed by our tellers in a matter of hours and no longer requires IT Services. The reports required to disperse the funds every 15 days is generated automatically with the necessary cross-validation reports.

* With the old system, processing properties with unpaid taxes for tax sale was a manual process. Generating tax sale property lists with legal descriptions for advertisement in the newspaper was a laborious task for the county and the newspaper. Once the property was sold in the tax sale it took between 2-3 days to notify the buyer with the total amount that was due to the county. Further, mailing the buyers their certificates took between 3-4 weeks. Now with Shelby Knowledge Suite, the tax sale processing is completely automated. The advertisements for the tax sale are generated instantly and are ready to be emailed to the newspaper. With the new system, we sold 439 properties in the tax sale in less than 5 hours. This year we printed the receipts for the buyers and collected the tax sale amount in just a few hours. Tax sale certificates and other related legal documents were printed, filed, and mailed in less than 4 hours.


F. System Resources

F1. What are the system's primary hardware components? Give a brief list or description of the hardware configuration supporting the system.

The server currently running CAPTURE is a HP ProLiant DL580 with 2 GB of RAM and dual 2.8 GHz processors. The operating system is Windows 2000 server. The server has 3TB of virtual partition drives and is configured for scalability.

A brief summary of the other hardware components are listed below:

GIS Server

Compaq ProLiant DL580

Dual 1.6 GHz processors


The GIS Server is connected to network via 1GB fiber. The GIS Server is also connected to and boots from SAN via dual fiber channel cards over dual gigabit fiber connection to Brocade Silkworm switches.

Recording Server Compaq ProLiant DL580 Dual 2.8 GHz processors 2 GB RAM

The Recording Server is connected to network via 100MB CAT5. The Recording Server is also connected to and boots from SAN via dual fiber channel cards over dual gigabit fiber connection to Brocade Silkworm switches.

Image Server Compaq ProLiant ML350 Dual 3 GHz processors 3 GB RAM

The Image Server is connected to network via 100MB CAT5. The Image Server is also connected to SAN via dual fiber channel cards over dual gigabit fiber connection to Brocade Silkworm switches. 7 High end GIS workstations for Power Users

Dell Precision 670 Workstation XP Professional OS Dual 2.8 GHz processors 4 GB RAM 256M nVidia Quadro FX 3450 graphics card Dual 23" ViewSonic monitors

Our system supports approximately 60 users of office grade desktop and laptop computers.

F2. What are the system's primary software components? Describe the primary software and, if a commercial package, any customizations required for the system.

We decided on the Microsoft .NET environment for Shelby Knowledge Suite. We utilized Active X, Web Forms, C++, ASP.NET, VB.NET, Oracle 9i, and CAPTURE Platform to build our system.

Microsoft .NET provides a framework for enterprises to integrate and manage their Web based applications through Web services. Applications and solutions built on this technology are designed to exchange data and information with one another, eliminating redundancy and facilitating interoperability. Also, this technology facilitates operating legacy systems in parallel with new modern ones, making the transition to the new technology effortless. The .NET framework also provides Shelby County with a high level of security to defend data and information from would-be hackers. Furthermore, this technology enables stationary and mobile connectivity enabling data to transfer from mobile units to the office and visa versa.


Shelby Knowledge Suite relies heavily on a powerful workflow engine which is a part of CAPTURE Platform. The workflow engine provides a scalable, reliable, secure, and open architecture for enterprise wide workflow automation. The workflow engine architecture is based upon industry standard and enterprise computing technologies.

Shelby Knowledge Suite's workflow engine is designed to work with any ODBC compliant relational database. This gives the application the ability to choose the appropriate database depending on the business and economic constraints. The workflow engine provides the framework to interoperate with other databases for the seamless integration with other enterprise systems.

CAPTURE Platform has built-in notification capabilities to notify users about workflow status. It can integrate with any SMTP compliant Email server to notify using standard email. Further, with this framework any non-workflow related information can also be communicated.

CAPTURE Platform is a COTS package that is modular and programmable for easy integration with other COTS applications/solutions. It provides a rich set of APIs to design, assign and initiate workflows, generate reports and data mine any workflow. It internally manages workflow instances on a project basic for analyzing workflows at a project level. It also provides tools and APIs to integrate a workflow processes with other agencies.


F3. What data does the system work with? List and briefly describe the database(s).

Shelby Knowledge Suite integrates and works with a multitude of data namely raster maps, vector maps, photographs, scanned images, office documents, external applications, and Web sites. The entire system is Web based and the data resides in a unified Oracle database.

The details of the datasets are given below:

Tax Dataset Buildings and photographs Word documents Excel worksheets of business income and business personal property Legacy scanned documents CAD drawings Scanned Assessment forms Scanned checks, letters, and other transmittals Tax sale certificates and docket books Tax maps

Development Services Datasets Building plans (PDF, TIFF and Auto CAD) Auto notification email (archived) Auto notification fax (archived) Certificate and Letters of Completion/inspections etc. (archived) Inspection photographs All document based correspondence (archived)

Probate System Dataset Deeds Plat drawings Subdivision drawings

External Applications/Web site Integration MLS of Birmingham

F4. What staff resources were required to implement the system (i.e. report approximate staff and consultant time as FTE's)?

The staff that was required to implement the system was comprised of qualified software engineers/architects with specialization in the Microsoft .NET platform, software integration, and coding.

The following table represents the approximate time it took to implement the system in Total Man-Hours.

Attachment A

A letter from the executive administrator authorization submission of the system application. (From section A2 on page 2.)
Business Process Affected Departments Involved

Data Entry All Departments
Automated Deed Processing Mapping, Appraisal, & Probate

Integrated Sketching/Automatic Appraisal
Automated Sales Analysis/Ratio Appraisal
CSV/MS Excel integration Assessment & Collection
Approvals/Notifications Appraisal, Assessment, Mapping, &
 Development Services
Auditing Appraisal, Assessment, &
Tax Collection/Disbursement Collection
Tax Sale Processing Collection
Planning & Risk Management Executive Management

GIS Dataset

GIS Images Pixel Resolution
Color Ortho 6" pixel resolution
B&W Ortho 6" pixel resolution
Topo Maps

GIS Key Features Spatial Resolution

Hydrology (rivers/streams) 1:660 scale
Parcels 1:660 scale
Roads/Rail Roads/Airports 1:660 scale
Parks/Forest Features/Wetlands 1:660 scale
Zoning 1:660 scale
Building Foot Prints (entire county) 1:660 scale
Precincts 1:660 scale
Legislative/Houses/Senate/Republic Districts 1:660 scale
Criminal GIS Profiling Features 1:660 scale

Implementation Phases Man Months

Configuration of Appraisal module 12
Configuration of Assessment module 6
Configuration of Billing and Collections module 6
Configuration of Mapping module 4
Configuration of AMCAD module 4
Configuration of Developmental Services 6

Note: Each month is approximately 2000 man hours.
COPYRIGHT 2006 Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA)
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:2006 Exemplary Systems in Government Award Application
Publication:Urban and Regional Information Systems Association Annual Conference Proceedings
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2006
Previous Article:GIS-enabled Enterprise Content Management.
Next Article:Shelby County: knowledge suite: redefining the future.

Related Articles
DON Federal 100 Award winners: five information technology leaders from the Department of the Navy (DON) were among this year's Federal 100 Award...
Optimal knowledge management; wisdom management systems concepts and applications.
GIS-enabled Enterprise Content Management.
Shelby County: knowledge suite: redefining the future.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters