Located in west Texas, Ector County was experiencing exponential economic and population growth from a booming oil industry. Businesses and citizens needed a responsive and agile government partnership. Years of limited technology investments had hampered the ability of internal staff to serve its community. Service expectations were increasing, and Ector County leadership needed to respond. With a non-existent network infrastructure and disconnected applications, management needed to implement modern technology solutions to improve overall operations. The newly-elected County Commissioner Dale Childers was tasked with modernizing the antiquated and crumbling data infrastructure of Ector County.
Obsolete IT infrastructure and fragmented applications forced departments throughout Ector County to operate as independent and isolated entities. Budgetary limitations had frozen technology improvements for decades. Failed attempts to modernize the technology environment eroded trust in the IT Department’s abilities and further complicated a complex approval process in a highly charged political environment. A monumental undertaking was required to establish an efficient and connected operation of all county services, judicial and law enforcement systems, and administrative functions.
Sciens Consulting conducted a comprehensive, independent IT systems assessment that included an operational review, IT inventory, and disaster contingency analysis. Using ITIL industry standards as a baseline, recommendations for a practical, cost-conscious approach to implementing modern IT systems were presented and reviewed with key stakeholders to clarify priorities.
A focused, collaborative process enabled Sciens to develop a 5-year Strategic Technology Plan that included detailed budgets, timelines and a prioritized list of network, hardware and applications projects. Throughout the entire process, the role of the IT department evolved requiring new skillsets. The oil boom made recruiting qualified IT staff challenging. The lack of capable applicants was a key consideration in the system design criteria. Technologies selected had to be stable and simple to support.
A wireless network connecting 14 sites and 600 users was deployed, and all new desktops were installed. Implementation of the Tyler Technologies Odyssey court case management system had been postponed for years since the county lacked the required infrastructure, IT management, and stakeholder support. With the infrastructure upgrades, Ector County was finally able to deploy the Odyssey system. The County also launched a new website, so citizens now have instant access to the information they need through the County’s online resources, and a microsite specifically designed to attract job applicants.
The 5-year technology overhaul resulted in fully functional IT and communication systems for Ector County 40% under budget and within the projected timeline. Staff now has a unified email and calendaring system to do their jobs effectively and share information quickly. Processes that were once done through interoffice mail can now be performed faster and more efficiently through digital means. Paperwork no longer needs to be stored, saving space and accelerating access to information. Better data protection and safeguards against cyber security threats have also been instituted through cost-saving data centers hosted offsite.
Physical constraints required that six FCC-approved microwave towers be built to support a wireless network instead of installing standard network wiring. Ultimately, the towers cost less than traditional wiring methods, and enabled the County to generate revenue by leasing space on the towers to telecommunication firms looking to improve regional service to their customers.
Trust and respect amongst the project team was the cornerstone for a project that touched every aspect of Ector County government operations. Commitment county-wide ensured widespread information-sharing about the project scope, the availability of funding, and the flexibility to respond to changing circumstances.
The cost of the initial assessment was $125,000. The projected cost of the IT system upgrade based on the analysis was $8 million, but the project ended up costing $5 million. Throughout the implementation phase, advances in technologies enabled project cost savings of $3 million, of which $1 million was used to fund a new unified Land Mobile Radio System for the Sheriff, Fire and Public Works. Overall, the transformation of Ector County was completed on schedule and under budget through detailed planning, a culture of collaboration, focused project management, and remaining flexible to new, less expensive technological developments.
Sciens (skē’ǝnz) assesses business strategies and aligns organizations, processes and technologies to improve efficiencies that translate into bottom-line results.
5900 South Lake Forest Drive
McKinney, TX 75070