King County improves resident services with cloud software
By Microsoft on March 20, 2017
Filed under Microsoft in Government
Like many government organizations, King County, Washington, has many legacy business systems in desperate need of modernization. The county is using Microsoft Dynamics 365 as a rapid application development engine to replatform these legacy applications and create new information systems. By using Dynamics 365 as the foundation for its internal and customer-facing systems, King County can get new government services out in weeks versus months, reduce development and maintenance costs, simplify technology use, and create shared record systems across applications.
The prospect of dealing with a government agency puts a knot in the stomach of most Americans. Government agencies have traditionally been notoriously bureaucratic and unresponsive. But King County, Washington, is committed to changing that view, with a mission to offer residents the “best-run government” with every interaction.
No wrong door
Maybe it’s because King County, Washington, is host to technology heavyweights Microsoft, Amazon, and Google and has a more tech-savvy population than most counties. Or maybe it’s because Pacific Northwesterners are just helpful people.
But King County remains determined to deliver the “best-run government” and give residents a “no wrong door” experience when dealing with the county—even under the pressure of severely reduced budgets, And it is using technology to do so.
King County serves the nearly 2 million people in and around Seattle, Washington, and employs 14,000 people. Until 2009, IT decisions and assets were fragmented across departments, which led to inefficiencies, high costs, and uncoordinated activity.
Critical workflows were being handled with spreadsheets, departmental databases, and email, with less than optimal results. In accordance with the Washington State Public Records Act, the county is required to respond to requests for public records within five days.
County business units that requested software systems to automate and speed up such processes could wait months for those requests to be fulfilled. Departmental IT staffs simply could not keep up with requests using traditional software development practices.
New way to build applications
Under the leadership of its chief information officer, Bill Kehoe, King County consolidated its 12 independent IT organizations into a central Department of Information Technology, adopted a cloud-first policy, to reduce the burden of maintaining on-premises IT infrastructure, and deployed Microsoft Office 365 as the communications and collaboration standard across the county. It then standardized on Microsoft Dynamics 365 as its rapid application development platform.
“Dynamics 365 gives us a way to build applications faster with very few resources and ensure that our applications have enterprise-grade security, are easy to use, scalable, and have great performance,” says Sandra Valdivia, IT Service Manager at King County.
The idea is to use Dynamics 365 as the foundation for all internal and user-facing IT systems, customizing it for specific needs. Having a common foundation for all systems gives King County fewer systems of record across applications and enables much faster, better, easier information sharing between employees.
“Dynamics 365 is the perfect platform for implementing our ‘no wrong door’ policy,” says Temujin Baker, Senior Manager of Engineering at King County. “It gives us common information repositories across our applications.”
The county has federated Dynamic 365 with its Office 365 deployment so that employees have a single sign-on for all applications. Federation also means that employees can access documents, calendars, and other information stored in Microsoft SharePoint Online or Microsoft OneDrive for Business (parts of Office 365) from Dynamics 365–based systems.
Faster application delivery, better service
By using Dynamics 365 as a rapid application development platform, King County has slashed application delivery times. “With Dynamics 365, we can rapidly develop an application in less time than it typically took before,” says Valdivia.
More importantly, this faster application development translates into better resident services. With its new Dynamics 365–based public records system, for example, King County can respond to requests much faster—and create audit trails that document those response times.
“Our Public Records Request Tracking System helps us remain compliant with state-mandated deadlines, which not only reduces risk but helps up improve customer service,” says Kelli Williams, Director of the Office of Civil Rights at King County. “We’ve also reduced our program manager’s processing time of our annual report by using Dynamics 365.”
The countywide customer service system has also been replatformed on Dynamics 365, yielding much faster and more accurate responses to residents. Previously, when a resident called the county or clicked the “Email us” button on the county website, his or her question could bounce between departments until it found someone who knew the answer.
Today, speeding the path to “no wrong door,” all requests are recorded in Dynamics 365, which guides employees to the resource able to respond. Every single communication is recorded in Dynamics 365, which helps all employees understand what’s already transpired and what still needs to happen.
“Dynamics 365 helps us deliver on our ‘no wrong door’ approach to customer service by ensuring that with one click, residents get to the right person quickly and get answers promptly,” says Natasha Jones, Director of Customer Service at King County.
With these successes, and the Department of Information Technology’s application delivery acceleration, county departments are lining up with new requests. The Department of Natural Resources and Parks wants its volunteer management system migrated to Dynamics 365. The Labor Relations group wants to revamp its contracts system using the software. The Alternative Dispute Resolution group wants to migrate its case management system to Dynamics 365. The Employee Giving Program wants to update its application process for nonprofit agencies. And the list goes on.
“Dynamics 365 is a key tool in our ‘best-run government’ initiative,” says Valdivia. “It helps us interact with our external constituents and internal customers in a consistent, efficient, and timely manner.”