This government agency used to spend its time conducting inspections and levying fines. Now an integrated system lets it pursue its real mission-protecting the environment.
As part of a change in mind-set from merely conducting inspections and levying fines to monitoring and caring for the environment, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection developed a $20 million system to track and monitor companies and governmental agencies' compliance.
Known as eFACTS (Environment, Facility, Application, Compliance Tracking System), the database is used by department employees to manage workflow, generate complex reports and view information spatially. Much of that information is put online so that citizens can easily learn about pollution in their neighbourhoods. Using top 10 lists of violations derived from eFACTS, department employees can target their time and budget to deal with the biggest infractions and head off environmental disasters. More than a dozen states have contacted the department expressing interest in the software.
HEADQUARTERS: Harrisburg, Pa.
CORE BUSINESS: Administering environmental laws and regulations.
FINANCIALS: 2001 budget: $816.7 million.
EMPLOYEES: 3,000 (75 in IT).
THE WINNING SYSTEM
Cost:$20 million for development and $500,000 annual budget for maintenance and support.
Software:Oracle suite of products. Built using Oracle Designer 2000 and Developer 2000 tools. Uses Oracle Discoverer and Express Analyser for creating ad hoc reports.
Network:TCP/IP, both LAN and WAN services, and Ethernet. Also uses frame relay for remote offices.
Within the Department of Environmental Protection, decisions about investments are made in a "sitting around the table" kind of way, CIO Karen Bassett says. "Anytime somebody comes up with a new IT project, we talk about why this is important to the agency. We don't say that the ROI has to pay off in three years, or we're not going to do something if we don't save $10 million." Instead, decisions are based on the answers to informal questions like: Will the investment save money? How much staff time will it free up? Spending is prioritised based on which projects would benefit the largest number of people - either employees or citizens. The primary value of eFACTS, she says, is that it has improved the department's ability to manage its workflow.
Five years ago, if hundreds of dead fish washed up on the banks of a river in Pennsylvania, the state's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) had a lot more than an environmental emergency on its hands. It had a logistical nightmare. Inspectors had to make a flurry of telephone calls to offices that monitor different aspects of the environment - air quality, drinking water, waste management, mining and the like - to figure out what caused the problem. Meanwhile, as they wasted time and money trying to pull together the critical information from disparate systems, more fish were dying.
No longer. "Now, if we see a segment of a stream that's impaired, we can pull up a GIS application and say, 'Show me all the facilities that we regulate that are upstream or downstream within five miles of this point,'" says CIO Karen Bassett. What's more, the data integration system that makes this efficiency possible is also helping prevent some problems from happening in the first place, as the department undergoes a radical change of mind-set, from one of merely conducting inspections and levying fines to proactively monitoring and caring for the environment.
The change in thinking hasn't been easy, but the technology is starting to pay off, with more informed employees, more focused outreach programs, better citizen participation and a software licensing agreement that could save the state hundreds of thousands of dollars.
CIO's panel of judges agreed that the system deserved a 2002 Enterprise Value Award, and the rest of the country has also made note of its significance: Kimberly Nelson, the department's former CIO, has been confirmed as CIO of the Environmental Protection Agency.
"It's part of a whole revolution in government, particularly in the environmental realm, away from being punitive and trying to catch people after the fact, to more of a partnership model," says Enterprise Value Awards judge Doug Barker, vice president and CIO of The Nature Conservancy in Arlington, Va. "They're working with the community to make Pennsylvania a more livable state. It's really a win-win. The bottom line is this system will help prevent pollution, and that's in the best interest economically and in all ways for citizens, industry and government."
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