Colorado Counties Benefit from Shared Services

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Reacting to a changing environment is nothing new for local governments, but determining the best response to change can still be difficult. Pueblo County, Colorado, used shared services to address its changing environment and made unexpected gains in the bargain. Faced with increasing software costs due to mandatory system upgrades, several Colorado counties began looking for other property assessment software options. Pueblo, one of the larger counties in the area, found out about the challenge its peers faced and offered to help by providing access to Pueblo County’s system. It was quickly determined, however, that just offering the software was insufficient because many of the neighboring counties lacked the capacity to manage such a system—they would also need support. From here, the counties started exploring a shared services model.

Thirteen elected officials representing seven counties ultimately participated in the partnership. Since Pueblo had a large existing hardware infrastructure and the greatest familiarity with the system, the officials determined that Pueblo would host the application and provide software as a service (SaaS)-like function to the other counties. Before entering into the agreement, Pueblo was in the process of adding the IT infrastructure capacity it would need to migrate to a virtualized environment. The only new expenses, therefore, would be the cost of increasing virtual desktop capacity for the 50 users in other counties. The functional categories for the software included property assessment management for assessor’s office, property tax management for treasurer’s office, geographic information service (GIS), application server hosting, and GIS data warehousing. In keeping with the SaaS model, user support was managed by Pueblo’s existing help desk system. Support requests for software issues went to Pueblo’s application development group; process questions related to property taxes went to the county assessor’s office; treasury questions went to the treasurer’s office; and GIS-related issues went to the GIS group.

The shared services partnership did not require any new funding from Pueblo County. As the project progressed, Pueblo added staff to accommodate demand, but it was able to offset costs with revenue generated from the program. Even after adding staff, the Pueblo County IT department reduced its budget by 14% in the first year, and it forecasts an overall reduction of 25% for future years. This was accomplished while keeping the fees paid by the participating counties equivalent the support fees they’d paid on their previous software.

The partnership provided additional abilities for the smaller counties, which gained disaster recovery for their data and web-based query functionality for property records, making them accessible to the public. Some of the participating counties didn’t have GIS, so they were able to avoid purchasing GIS systems and the corresponding databases. Pueblo also provided full ArcGIS editing capabilities to make multiple map layers available to the public. The shared GIS capabilities also positioned the region to address natural disasters more efficiently. Other benefits included a uniform approach to property assessment that allowed for improved sales analysis.

The potential for combining shared services into customized delivery models is endless and will become broader as technology evolves. However they are packaged and managed, shared services can be a potent for providing more efficient government services at a lower cost.

More information is available on the county’s website.

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