The City of La Quinta: Laser-Focused on Resident Services
Question: What does it take to deliver exceptional resident services?
Answer: One tech-savvy City Clerk with some serious building and planning process skills + Senior City Staff who listen to the community and provide what they ask for + Laserfiche + CPS
Nestled into Southern California's Coachella Valley, The beautiful City of La Quinta was dubbed by the Robb Report as the leading golf destination in the US. However, La Quinta isn't just a resort; it's also home to a population of just under 42,000. One glance at its website reveals it's a tech-forward municipality determined to deliver user-centric online services.
City Clerk and 14-year public sector veteran Monika Radeva declares, "Listening to the community and providing what they ask is the main objective. Every year we take feedback through multiple channels and agree on a list of projects."
2002: Laserfiche is Implemented
La Quinta has owned Laserfiche since 2002. Initially, La Quinta used the system as an electronic file cabinet. The first project they took on was scanning all the City's vital records. Because it was a side project, the scanning work took about eight years. Once the documents were in the system, a convergence of events caused the City to reconsider how they used Laserfiche:
The City added a WORM solution and created a Trusted System. Monika explains, "This caused us to reconsider how we were using our ECM. What other records could we be storing? Let's add building, planning, and engineering records. We had the opportunity to consolidate and streamline. Records management requires a horizontal approach, and we were ready for that. Plus, our retention schedule is much stricter than California's."
The right person was in place, Monika, who took the time to take ownership, learn the system, and set it up. (Editor's note: We would add that it also takes vision, resilience, and persistence.)
Many agencies were transitioning from paper to electronic workflows, so there was an awareness of what technology could do for the City.
La Quinta upgraded to Laserfiche's Avante product, which includes Workflow. Monika adds, "Previously, we scanned, but we didn't have templates, reports, or any way to search. As we transitioned, I wanted to standardize search and make records available online. The entire project was predicated on two ideas: How do we achieve proficiency on a large scale and ease of use and self-service for the resident?
The City integrated its Building, Planning, and Engineering Departments into a one-stop shop.
One of La Quinta’s most visible Laserfiche projects is The Hub Permitting and Licensing Center. This self-service portal uses Laserfiche Weblink to make permitting and licensing available 24/7/365. "They can get what they need, even if it's 2 AM," laughs Monika. Building, Planning, and Permitting were ideal departments to earmark for Laserfiche expansion because Monika had experience with their business workflows, and engineers are already tech-friendly. "The engineers and developers like it, but there was an air of its-about-time."
A Unique Technology Approach
La Quinta's tech stack is somewhat decentralized as each department owns its line-of-business systems. Executive staff meetings are sometimes used to discuss automation needs or show capabilities. Monika shares her thoughts:
" Using technology is exciting, but software can't solve every issue. We have 20 systems, and each department manages its software, and IT helps with integrations."
The sheer amount of systems can get overwhelming. Each department has a justified use case; however, my department's role, records, is a horizontal function, and we need to search and run reports independently. Sometimes I have to log into five different applications for a PRR (Public Records Request).
In executive staff meetings, I'm always looking at better implementing the features of what we own versus spending more money. It takes time to sell and show progress on projects, and we collaborate because any change in one agency's process will affect other agencies."
Metadata and Templates Are Crucial
When asked about her template application methodology. We learned that they didn't use templates for their initial backfile conversion at all. "It took eight years to scan, index, make templates and build the custom search form. La Quinta is only 40 years-old. I can't imagine how to deal with 100 years' worth of records." Eventually, Monika and her team realized that using metadata and templates was critical for efficient search and running reports. She uses the analogy of templates acting as file folders. "If you throw papers in a drawer, it will be difficult to search through that information. Templates can act like file folders to speed up your search efficiency." The City uses one template for permits. The permit number assigned by the permitting system is the main descriptive metadata they use because the combination of letters and numbers tells you what type of permit it is. La Quinta's Clerk's Office prefers to limit templates to record types. They then use the template fields to distinguish between categories. This way, it's fast and easy to search on a global scale,
Luckily, the City found that integrating the permitting system and Laserfiche isn't necessary because the City uses batch scanning to assign templates and database lookups to trigger workflows. Here, the address serves as the main descriptive metadata.
The residents and neighboring agencies appreciate the system as the Clerk's Office receives many compliments. However, they adjust quickly to technology because they use it in their personal lives and jobs. Other jurisdictions which they share knowledge with have also been impressed. As for the Clerks Office, they clarify their role, "RM is not exciting. It's a necessity, but when you need it, you need it. Go on the website, type in an address, and get what you are looking for."
Thank you, Monika, for sharing your Laserfiche journey with us!