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Located in Southeastern Michigan – the most populous region of Michigan, where nearly half of the state’s population resides – Livingston County was founded in 1836 and named after Edward Livingston, the Secretary of State for President Andrew Jackson. Situated within an hour’s drive of major metropolitan centers including Detroit and the state capitol of Lansing, Livingston County is also roughly midway between the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. An estimated 2017 population just shy of 190,000, places Livingston County as the eleventh most populous county in the state, while its tax rate ranks lowest and its median income highest amongst Michigan’s counties.

The Challenge

In 2016, IT and administration staff at Livingston County kicked off a project to replace the legacy “homegrown” system they were using to manage agendas and resolutions[1] for the County Board of Commissioners.

[1] Resolutions are county “legislative” documents, used to establish policy or obtain approvals for projects, staffing changes, and purchases.

“Due to the age of the system, associated components were unreliable,” recalled Diane Gregor, Livingston County Applications Manager. “We wanted to replace the system before it became unusable. If that happened, it would have been extremely difficult to recover. A lot of people relied heavily on that system.”

At its core, the new solution needed to allow end-users to create resolutions, supporting documents, and agendas. The documents would then need to be assigned to a series of meeting agendas, and then go through the county board’s multiple-committee approval process. Resolutions, supporting documentation, agendas, and minutes needed to be retrievable by multiple search criteria.

Aiming for Efficiency

Looking to not only replace but improve upon the previous system, County staff sought significant improvements in efficiency for generating agendas and minutes.

“Our old system actually consisted of multiple, separate products,” explained Livingston County Administrative Specialist Natalie Hunt, who handles the vast majority of agendas and minutes across the County’s boards and committees. “Agendas were generated out of our internally-developed system, but minutes were done in Microsoft Word and agenda details needed to be manually copied over. There was also no real workflow in the system; people could be notified of the availability of materials for their review, but there was no enforced workflow or approval handling.”

Last but not least, the age of the custom system’s underlying platform created compatibility issues with the software applications being used by County staff.

“Most of our users were on Microsoft Office 2013 or 2016,” explained Steve Hoyer, Application Developer at Livingston County. “Because our agenda and resolution system was running on SharePoint V2, all supporting Word documents had to be saved as Word 2003 or earlier format. Similarly, supporting PDF documents needed to be a particular version or lower; otherwise they were incompatible with our system.”

The Solution

Hoyer’s research led Livingston County to evaluate the eSCRIBE meeting management system. The County’s evaluation of comparable products found similar product offerings, with eSCRIBE’s pricing being highly competitive. Beyond fulfilling their immediate goals and cost-effective pricing, the team found existing and upcoming modules for the eSCRIBE platform attractive for future initiatives.

“We saw that the upcoming Board Manager module would streamline another area where we had significant inefficiencies,” said Hunt. “We also like the rich functionality of eSCRIBE’s Webcasting Plus module. It certainly is a viable option, if we were to choose to broadcast our meetings.”

Reassuring References

References from existing eSCRIBE customers were also key factors in the County’s purchase decision, particularly when compared to what they heard about eSCRIBE competitors. “eSCRIBE customers provided glowing references,” explained Gregor. “Their reputation for support, responsiveness, and integrity really impressed us.”

eSCRIBE’s openness to feedback and requests from their customers also stood in contrast to peers’ reports on competitors. “We really liked how eSCRIBE offered a community forum for engaging with their customers and getting suggestions about enhancements,” said Hunt. “That was a good sign for the type of relationship we could expect.”

The Results

Livingston County signed on with eSCRIBE in October 2017. Implementation began two weeks later, with an official “go live” in February 2018. Initially rolled out to support the County Board of Commissioners, Livingston County has subsequently expanded the use of eSCRIBE to other departments and committees. Since then, the County Veterans Affairs Committee, Election Commission, and Tax Allocation Board have adopted eSCRIBE for their meeting management platform.

While Hunt remains the eSCRIBE system’s primary user, handling roughly 90% of agendas and 85% of minutes, separate staff members handle certain agendas and minutes depending on the particular meeting and department. The county now has close to 100 overall eSCRIBE users spanning many departments, including people who create and submit resolutions. In addition to administering user accounts and creating workflow assignments, Gregor is also a content contributor herself, writing resolutions for IT and related projects.

Hunt cites the efficiency and ease of eSCRIBE’s unified approach to generating agendas and minutes as being the biggest benefit for her role, reducing minutes preparation time by 50% as well as decreasing agenda preparation time by roughly 30%.

“Having agenda content automatically populated into the minutes is a real time-saver,” said Hunt. “I don’t need to re-create my minutes with every meetin