County completes major IT overhaul

County staff launched a $500,000 software upgrade Dec. 16 that many in the organization say should bring the county out of the digital dark ages and into the 21st century.

“This was one more step Archuleta County needed to take to put in those policies, practices and procedures that allow us to have an efficient and effective organization,” said Archuleta County Administrator Greg Schulte.

Under the old software system — a DOS-based dinosaur on the cutting edge of technology in the 1980s — county staff and elected officials have long complained of computer crashes, access problems, double or triple data entry requirements, difficulties in generating simple reports, and the inability of the system to talk with other branches of the county, or in some cases, even systems in the same department.

The assessor’s office is a case in point.

Deputy Assessor Natosha Smith and appraiser and statistician Johanna Elliott described an arduous process of hand writing key information for system input, double data entry and difficulties in generating reports.

“Extracting reports is really easy now,” said Elliott. “Anyone can extract reports from the system into Excel. It’s a drag and drop process.”

In addition, Elliott said the new system links GIS and a variety of other data and documents.

Elliott said transferring field data into the system is also easy.

“We get goosebumps just thinking about it,” Smith said.

One of the biggest complaints about the former system according to county Finance Director Don Warn, was its inability to allow communication between the finance and treasurer’s offices. Warn said the new system is revolutionary in that regard.

“The biggest improvement that will come out of this is the interface between the treasurer and finance office,” Warn said.

As an example of the new system’s efficiencies, Warn said his monthly report to the board of county commissioners under the old software, required two hours of computer time. The new software, said Warn, should trim that process down to 30 minutes. In addition, Warn can now dig into accounts payable, analyze transactions and document trails all from his desk, and all with a few clicks of a mouse.

Warn said the new software would likely save between six to eight hours per month in his department just on data entry and extraction.

According to Schulte, budget, finance, payroll, accounts payable and the assessor are currently on the new system. The treasurer is due to come on line in 2009. Meanwhile the assessor’s office will run the new system parallel with the old until February in order to ensure all is working properly.

To the layman, $500,000 may seem like an astronomical sum, but both Schulte and Warn described the purchase from Tyler Technologies as a bargain. As an added bonus, the agreement with the company provides updates of software when available.

Better yet, said Schulte, a Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) grant covered about half the cost, while $240,000 came from 2008 Ballot Issue 1A funds earmarked for technology and training.

By contrast, Schulte said integrated software systems for governments can often be multimillion dollar purchases.

james@pagosasun.com