Case Study: Lake County Recognizes three Keys to Good Government

Lake County, Illinois, is located along the Lake Michigan shoreline, north of the City of Chicago. Its vast expanses of water — from the Great Lakes to inland lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands — take up almost twice as much square footage as dry land. But the county makes the most of its habitable acreage, providing rural and urban communities and everything in between, as well as 30,000 businesses. Those communities and businesses thrive thanks in part to the efforts Lake County government puts into ensuring the integrity of the county and its successful operation via the best software and services.

Good Government

We’re interested in good government, in doing things the right way.

Matthew Meyers

Deputy Director of Planning, Building, and Development

This devotion to good government led to Lake County winning an Illinois Sunshine Award for completing an established 10-point transparency checklist and drives every decision the county government makes, including those related to software. Out of respect for taxpayer dollars and employee time, the county thoroughly evaluates and exhausts its logical options before purchasing expensive software suites or committing to lengthy implementation plans. The county forms teams of subject matter experts to make important software decisions and facilitate smooth transitions and ongoing success. Along the way, Lake County is careful to ensure citizens and staff alike are comfortable with the decisions being made.

Software Training

Because of Lake County’s commitment to staff comfort through transitions, the training that accompanies those transitions is often a determining factor when selecting a service or vendor.

“That was one of the reasons that assisted us with our decision…they were realistic about their training and…what they were actually going to provide,” Meyers said about one software implementation.

“I thought the overall approach to training was really much better than the other vendors we looked at,” added Lawrence Mackey, deputy director of the Health Department.

Taking the training offered into such careful consideration proved beneficial for Lake County.

We had time before go-live for staff to test and to actually feel comfortable, so by the time go-live came, we had many front-line staff who were very comfortable with the system. I think it helped with configuration too because we saw the system up front and knew what we needed.

Gloria Westphal

Development Project Coordinator for the Health Department

By go-live, staff was familiar with the system, which was configured to meet the county’s needs. This careful forethought and preparation set Lake County up to quickly become power users of the new system. But the county, in its tenacity, didn’t end training just because the system was live. The county employed an ongoing client service that provided access to the vendor’s staff, training, and best practices to assist with continual learning and system maturity initiatives.

Meyers said, “They have a schedule of training sessions that you can just sign up for. I can have staff sit in a room together and watch live training. We have found that it’s been a good experience.”

The ever-efficient Lake County had dual intentions for this ongoing client service, expanding its functionality into system administration as well as training.

Governance Structure to Enterprise System Administration

“What we found by talking to other municipalities was that typically they had a system administrator, somebody that was brought on to oversee the system. We didn’t want that type of administration just from a technical side. We also wanted it from a business side,” said Meyers.

Lake County didn’t want to appoint a single person to oversee system administration for the entire county, potentially pigeonholing the county’s needs as the system administrator’s priorities. So, the county repurposed the team of subject matter experts assembled to choose the software in the first place, the ongoing client service it was using for training, and the vendor representative it had access to via that service to create a powerhouse of system administration.

Our system administration starts with our core team, which meets every two weeks. We all talk. If we have problems, we know who we need to go to within that core team.

Matthew Meyers

Deputy Director of Planning, Building, and Development

“And then…our rep…sits in on each call with us and we go through our current issues with him and talk to him about any problems we’re having. That’s how we function, and it’s been very successful.”

Lake County’s software success has been so substantial, in fact, the county is eager to share both lessons learned and the software itself. Lake County is willing to open its virtual doors and share its system with other municipalities in the county.

Shared Services

“We’ve had people that have helped us, and we’re very much interested in helping others out as well,” said Mackey.

“From a funding standpoint, we recognize the challenges that municipalities have within our county,” added Meyers.

We want to look for opportunities to help them where we can, especially where there is mutual benefit.

Matthew Meyers

Deputy Director of Planning, Building, and Development

One of the benefits Lake County can gain by sharing its services with other entities is efficiency. The county has quite a bit of overlap with the municipalities within it, particularly with the inspection process. Having everyone in the same system would streamline efforts.

“We’re doing inspection services for many of them already, but it’s currently very inefficient because they’re working and taking in requests in their system, and then sending us a spreadsheet every night. And then we’re taking that information, putting it in [our system] so we can route that stuff to our staff…So getting them on the same system and allowing them just to route the work directly to the inspector is going to save a lot of time. We’re going to see that benefit immediately,” explained Meyers.

Of course, the benefits to the organizations Lake County is opening their system to are substantial as well.

“Our partners are going to get a benefit by getting access to a state-of-the-art system for a more reduced cost than what we had paid for it,” said Meyers.

The county worked with their vendor to draft a contract allowing the purchase of additional licenses to sell to other local governments. This allows those organizations to access the system without having to purchase it in its entirety; they simply purchase the licenses they need.

Meyers added, “We wanted to be able to share this service and this benefit with other communities in Lake County because it’s good government.”

And it truly is. Nothing says transparency like full access to an internal system.

It Matters

Lake County is a great example of what it means to be a good government. The county is dedicated to making sure everyone understands their roles and how to be effective in them, ensuring its systems are being fully and properly utilized, optimizing transparency, and increasing connectivity. The county makes the most of any training offered, continues to stay educated post-go-live, and epitomizes teamwork and openness. Lake County effectively serves its citizens because it dedicates its time and resources to doing things the right way, the good way. Its approaches to training, system administration, and shared services are just a few examples of the county’s devotion to good government and its goal of creating a thriving, connected community.

Case Study Highlights

  • New efficiencies realized from streamlining county-municipality inspections workflow
  • Increased transparency through municipal access to county system
  • Municipalities gain access to state-of-the-art technology at a reduced cost

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