The City of Westlake Village had a cloud-first technology approach when City Clerk Antoinette Mann joined the agency. Today, Ms. Mann has been the Westlake Village City Clerk for over a year. In her previous roles, she had a background in envisioning strategic usage of ECM and digital transformation using Laserfiche. This is one of the reasons Westlake Village selected her for this position.
We don’t often get the opportunity to speak with a client at the vision stage of their implementation, and this is your third Laserfiche Deployment! When you first started, where was the City in its digitization project?
It was still in the “idea” stage. Westlake Village is a small contract city with 14.5 full-time employees. The City knew they wanted to move toward complete digitization via cloud-based technology. Our Council fully supported this initiative, which is pro-tech adoption, knowing it will increase efficiency throughout the City. The City Manager and City Council knew they needed to add technology to manage the records and included this in their recruitment criteria for the position.
What was the main problem Westlake was trying to solve with Laserfiche?
Westlake’s main problem is that they have been very paper-driven for the past 40 years, with copies of those paper records stored in multiple files. And then, even with all of the paper, sometimes it is like finding a needle in the haystack when we need a record. COVID and WFH actually started them on the path of digitization. Like many cities, they had to make records available and accessible, eliminating the silos since the staff wasn’t at City Hall on a daily basis. Soon, employees loved having electronic access to records, and they asked, “What else” can we do to better manage and control these records? When I interviewed with the city, I was asked how they could move from paper and make records more available to the public. They liked my suggestions and prioritized this project during my first year. This change will eliminate the silos, make staff more efficient and provide public access to selected records.
When employees need a record, finding it in offsite storage can be very labor-intensive. Then the item must be delivered and reviewed to ensure the correct item was retrieved. Once the record is in Laserfiche, it’ll be much more efficient to locate and use it. As Westlake Village converts to digital, we can repurpose areas used for file storage in City Hall. As I mentioned, we have a small staff, so it makes sense to budget for scanning instead of allocating staff hours for in-house scanning. The expectation is that while CPS works through the backfile, our cost for offsite records storage will decrease as those paper records will be destroyed, and those paper files at City Hall will not be sent to offsite storage.
Please tell me about your selection and purchase process.
As we started out small and didn’t need many licenses, our start-up costs were under our City required RFP limit. This means that quotes can be obtained and used instead of the formal proposal process. I initially contacted Laserfiche for a quote for Laserfiche Cloud. Once I had that and the funding was approved in the budget, I could get Laserfiche Partner quotes to justify my selection. CPS provided me two bids, one for the requested functionality Laserfiche had quoted and one for the Municipal Site License. I had no prior knowledge of the Municipal Site License and was happy to see the lower price, AND we could gain some advanced functionality like workflow, additional license, and a Public Portal. The municipal site license made it cost-effective to add additional components over time. The license includes 100 users, records management, a public portal, and additional components. It’s an excellent way for a smaller city to start and increase the system functionality and components over the years. The growth will be as funds are allocated and as additional functionality is needed. The fact that Claude proposed a less expensive system with increased functionality impressed me. This paved the path to an excellent working relationship with Claude and CPS.
What will be your first Laserfiche project?
We are starting with City Council records first. This will include City Council minutes, resolutions, and ordinances, followed by our Agenda Packets. These records will all have public access via our portal. Next will be our Planning Records. This was really compelling for us to look at what records the public access and what records staff needs access to when assisting the public. We think it’s essential to start in a very measured and controlled manner. I’ll be budgeting for scanning yearly, initially higher amounts, as we migrate our paper records to Laserfiche.
We’re looking forward to having more space in City Hall, incurring fewer costs for offsite storage, and improving our customer services by accessing digital records much more efficiently than paper records.
Will the Clerk’s Office be the primary Laserfiche support for the organization?
Yes, I will be the Administrator of the System. We will be able to write some basic workflows and troubleshoot as needed. We did purchase customer support through CPS and will utilize those services as needed. The City Clerk staff will be scanning or importing records. Records in large volumes or drawings will be sent to CPS for scanning, with the Clerk Clerk staff performing the quality checks.
Where are you now in terms of the rollout?
We had our kickoff meeting with Joe and the team. He conducted a Laserfiche demo for the entire staff that went very well. The Clerk’s Office is first, and we’ve got a good idea of how we want to set up the file structure, template fields, and the order of importing/adding records to the repository. We currently contract with LA County for Building and Service services. I’ll work closely with the Planning Director to design and build templates and develop their scanning cadence as we finish with the Clerk Clerk’s Office.
So outside of your office, the Planning Department will be first? Why start there?
A majority of our Public Records requests deal with Planning records. In addition to internally generated records, we will add supplementary documents we receive from LA County Building and Safety. Having all the records in a central location will provide a holistic look at the records for our residents. Plus, we’ve got a huge area up for development, and our Planning Records project will give them a clear view of those documents, which should all be coming into the city digitally.. Right now, the Planning Records aren’t entirely cohesive, some are digital, some not, and the County records are organized differently. My Office will serve as QA to review the paper records vs. the newly digitized records. Once we have purchased and installed the Laserfiche Valut component, making our system compliant with the State Archives Trusted System processes, we can destroy the paper records.
Do you have any advice for an agency that wishes to digitize?
It’s critical to focus on what types of records you have, how you want them organized, and how they will be located in the future. Spend time testing and trying different ways to retrieve documents. Try and match those methods to different styles of learners for training. Build proofs-of-concept for departments you wish to onboard and then iterate on their feedback. Ask employees to test the system, provide feedback/opinions. Make sure to give them deadlines so the project isn’t delayed.
Keep your templates simple but useful. Too many templates will slow down searching. Leverage drop-down choices in the template fields. Try linking records to give residents and staff context for what they are searching for.
Spend time, in the beginning, to think through this process to ensure you get it correct. It is much easier to pivot and adjust during the initial software implementation than adjust after you go live.
What Laserfiche functionality or feature do you find most useful?
I like the ability to search in the Public Portal. It reminds me of Google. It’s easy for the residents to search and find the records. Because it is so user-friendly, it is a very productive tool for residents, and extensive training is not required to make it beneficial to the end user.
What will you do with your Laserfiche System in a year?
We plan to put a Trusted System in place. In 2021, the City worked with a consultant to update our retention schedules, and I’m now partnering with our City Attorney to identify what paper records we can destroy as we review our paper records for possible migration to Laserfiche. Having a state-compliant trust system will allow the City to destroy those permanent records that have been scanned and quality checked into Laserfiche. This will make the digital copies our originals; we will no longer need to pay for offsite storage of these records, and all of the files will be in a single location.
What do you like about working with CPS?
CPS is extremely knowledgeable and easy to work with. I just knew when I met Claude that this was a good fit. CPS works with me and frequently goes the extra mile. They understand and assist me. It’s a great partnership. Selecting CPS as our Laserfiche VAR was an excellent decision, and I look forward to our long-term ongoing relationship and partnership.
Thank you, Antoinette!