PENNVEST leverages OnBase to Reduces Costs and Maximize Efficiency
PENNVEST deals with an extremely high volume of paper. Ten years ago when Laura Lewis began her job as IT Director, the agency’s paper records occupied an entire floor of a building. The agency had retrieval issues, and employees maintained copies of copies. Most importantly, one of the things that kept Lewis awake at night was that PENNVEST had no disaster recovery plan.
“We were located in a historic building; it was just unacceptable to put our documents and our organization at risk,” she said.
PENNVEST turned to KeyMark (formerly IMR) to help them with four initial goals:
1. to create a central repository for tracking and indexing documents;
2. to utilize a single source document;
3. to implement a disaster recovery plan;
4. and to eliminate leased space housing a large volume of paper records.
KeyMark worked with PENNVEST to create an automated indexing and workflow process that combined the power of OnBase and the familiarity of Teleform, a customized program being used by PENNVEST during the initial phase. KeyMark began to build up documents in the system by scanning information already on file. A document retention module was also engaged so that once the life of the document is about to expire, a notice is sent to users so that a final sign-off can be made on the document’s destruction. This automation saves time and space and allows PENNVEST to stay current with their many layers of compliance, as well as Pennsylvania’s newer, stricter Right to Know law.
Additionally, PENNVEST built a custom web application that allows its clients to upload data and documents into the system, passing them to OnBase for storage and management. This way, municipalities and other agencies can automatically submit grant applications and supporting documentation in digital form, totally eliminating the need for paper documents. This solution also allows external auditors to securely login and view documents via OnBase.
The next phase of PENNVEST’s overall implementation plan was to operationalize their accomplished goals. In other words, PENNVEST needed to integrate a digital, paperless effort across the organization into everyday use that employees would embrace. The agency relied more and more on OnBase and its features, and slowly, employees began to support the idea of total integration.
Now, rather than working from multiple copies of the same document and copies of those copies, employees rely on one single digital document that can be accessed from anywhere at any time. This conversion to digital documents helped the organization eliminate one full-time position, as the need for a person to constantly file the multitudes of incoming paperwork was no longer necessary. In addition, the process allowed PENNVEST to eliminate the entire floor of leased space used solely for record storage.
“ After one year of planning and eight months of implementation, all 29 of our employees now work from home. It’s been a huge cost savings for us, starting with the consolidation of four floors of leased office space.”
The successful integration of the OnBase platform and the willingness of PENNVEST employees to change their work habits allowed the organization to focus on becoming totally virtual. When the decision was made, PENNVEST’s executive team spent one year planning how the process would be accomplished. Once plans were in place, the implementation phase took approximately eight months, with the first wave of employees beginning to work from home in November, 2010.
By February, 2011, all 29 employees were home-based. Lewis is quick to point out that employees do not telecommute — there is no desk waiting for them on days when they feel like coming to the office. Their office is in their home.
The fact that employees cannot scan, print, or copy from home further validates the commitment to being paperless.
PENNVEST is the first state agency in Pennsylvania to go completely virtual and realize the cost savings of such a move. Their commitment to technology has strengthened their business model and validated the technology with auditors, outside contractors and other partnering state agencies such as the Department of Environmental Protection and the Office of Budget.
Laura Lewis and her team will continue to improve the integration of technology into PENNVEST’s business practices, hoping to one day be completely paperless. That process includes scanning incoming mail from the U.S. Postal Service and delivering employee mail via the computer.
Located in Harrisburg, PA, PENNVEST is empowered by the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Authority Act to administer and finance a variety of federal funding programs pursuant to the Water Quality Act of 1987 and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. In addition to funding special projects through designated legislative acts, PENNVEST also finances projects through the issuance of special obligation revenue bonds.
The agency works to achieve both environmental and economic development improvements throughout the Commonwealth by funding sewer, storm water, and drinking water projects. In addition to providing opportunities for economic growth and jobs, all funded projects contribute to the improvement of Pennsylvania’s environment and the health of its residents.
Because PENNVEST deals with all levels of government — local municipalities, state, and federal — its paper trail must be accurate and complete. With auditors reviewing financial records almost daily, it’s critical to have an organized tracking system and overall management of documents. PENNVEST’s documents span the entire project, and when dispersing taxpayer-funded loans and grants, attention to detail and appropriate retention is essential.