E-Agenda: Saving More Than Just Paper: Naperville, Illinois, with E-Woes and E-Wows
Santo, Daniel Di, Public Management
With a flick of the switch in 2008, Naperville, Illinois, entered the 21st-century world of e-government. At the time, we knew our $260,000 electronic agenda processing software (e-agenda) would be worth the hefty price tag, but we did not realize just how quickly and in how many ways our investment would be returned.
The process of submitting, reviewing, printing, and distributing Naperville's city council meeting agendas had been pegged as labor intensive and agonizing as early as 2002. By 2006, this troubled process had been elevated to a component of our strategic technology plan and targeted for an e-overhaul.
Naperville council meetings are held twice a month, and each meeting packet averages some 30 items and 500 pages. Before 2008, the agenda process involved a complex procedure of drafting, printing, reviewing, hand assembling, hand stamping, hand numbering, and hand delivering. Looking back, we are surprised it took so long to change this inefficient process.
An Ideal System
The strain our agenda process put on so many employees made it easy to find volunteers to sit on an RFP committee in search of an e-agenda system. Our first meetings felt more like therapy sessions as users aired their frustrations and energetically described their ideas for how a dream system could solve their problems. After exhausting our collective thoughts, we came up with 272 requirements for an ideal e-agenda system and selected vendors that we felt best met our project scope and budget.
The e-agenda project had the support of the city manager, who was aware of the unified call for the project and its obvious benefits. Getting the council on board for a $260,000 technology purchase was another story--particularly since the only part of the process councilmembers experienced were the neatly stacked agenda packets on their doorsteps six days before the meeting.
By early 2008, Naperville was reaching build-out and facing declining revenues. Conventional wisdom dictated this was not the time to be asking for a quarter million dollars for new technology to reengineer an existing process. For the council to spend money on new technology, there had to be a good return on investment and an obvious community benefit.
Savings and Benefits
As we envisioned how the e-agenda system would function compared with the paper system in use at the time, we focused on improved efficiency. …