Committee studying City’s ITD processes
The City’s Information Technology Department (ITD) and its employees are the conduits through which every bit of information, down to the smallest byte, passes for processing. Whether it’s paychecks for Jacksonville’s almost 9,000 City employees or a question asked by a citizen that arrives at 630-CITY or a picture on coj.net of Mayor John Peyton reading a book to children, it goes through ITD before the end-user sees it.
ITD was the focus Thursday of a meeting of the Performance Committee of the Taxation, Revenue and Utilization of Expenditures (TRUE) Commission. The commission is comprised of a group of Jacksonville residents with a range of experience in management and finance. They have been empowered to delve into the operations, budget and performance of any aspect of the City’s business.
Designed in the image of the federal Grace Commission, the TRUE Commission was created in 1994 by City Council. Of the 18 commissioners, six are appointed by the mayor, six are appointed by Council and there is one member from each of the six Duval County Citizens Planning Advisory Committees.
The commission convened in the ITD conference room at the Ed Ball Building and heard presentations from ITD Director and Chief Information Officer Kevin Holzendorf and his staff on how the department operates and serves other City departments, which are referred to at ITD as its “customers.” Another topic was how ITD is improving its operational protocols with the goal of increasing efficiency and reducing its cost of doing business.
Holzendorf said the foundation of that effort is a steering committee chaired by Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Kerri Stewart that brings ITD project managers, the council auditor and the Office of General Counsel to the same table.
“They are there to vet projects and make sure all of our projects are in alignment with the goals of the department,” said Holzendorf. The group also solicits input from all City departments concerning ways ITD can improve its service.
While the steering committee is concerned with the general view of ITD, the Enterprise Product Group (EPG) managed by Asst. Information Technology Officer Eric Nagel performs precise analysis of proposed projects. Nagel said the group’s No. 1 management priority is to monitor ITD’s more than 200 current software applications and deliver new projects that support business growth by making ITD’s operations more efficient and cost-effective.
He gave as an example of EPG’s efforts software written by ITD staff that converted the former paper-based payroll system into a more efficient computerized time-and-attendance system.
“By eliminating the old paper time sheets, we were able to meet the goal of high business value by saving money,” said Nagel.
Another factor the group evaluates is whether new proposed software will work with the existing system and if adding new applications is an advantage at all.
“We avoid getting wrapped up in technology for the sake of technology,” added Nagel.
Everything the EPG does, said Holzendorf, meets the goals of, “Simplification, standardization and functional improvement. That saves money and provides better service to citizens through City departments.”
He also pointed out that last year ITD returned $4 million if its $47 million budget to the General Fund.
The current economy has also motivated vendors to be more competitive and open to negotiation, Holzendorf said, and reported ITD has a new cell phone agreement with Verizon Wireless that costs $100,000 less than the previous contract. The company now provides free text messaging and free calls between Verizon devices.
The committee also had questions about data security including if ITD cross-trains staff to restore systems in the event of a system administrator being unavailable.
Holzendorf said that’s under development and will ultimately be a step-by-step procedure that could be performed by someone totally unfamiliar with a given system. He also said the City is in the process of devising plans that would be in place in the event of a major catastrophe like a natural disaster or Homeland Security incident. In the meantime an up-to-date copy of all of the City’s digital data is “backed up” at an offsite high-security third-party provider. Holzendorf said in the event of a total loss of all information, there would be no more than a 48-hour gap in service.
The full TRUE Commission meets the first Thursday of each month at 4 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City hall. All interested parties are invited to attend. For more information, agendas and minutes of meetings, visit coj.net.
This chart explains how the City’s Information Technology Department analyzes its own performance in terms of evaluating service.