Improved Efficiency - Public And Private
(Rare story: A public agency and private company work together to improve efficiency for themselves AND their customers.)
Since the State-wide change in the septic rules back in 1997, every septic permitting agency has promised and been responsible for enforcing the myriad of requirements included in those rules. A primary task that these agencies must perform is maintaining accurate records. Without accurate records, they can't track and enforce the mandated maintenance on systems with aerobic treatment. A few agencies have been proactive in their tracking and enforcement efforts, while many have frankly been quite derelict in their duties.
The folks in Hays County have historically been very quick to get on board with the new septic rules. The tracking and enforcement of maintenance requires management of massive amounts of records. Due to this huge and ever-increasing amount of data they must manage, they moved their permitting, tracking, and enforcement out of the paper-based world into an online service. This move dramatically improves their efficiency in tracking and enforcement of the rules.
To maximize the efficiency of this move, however, Hays needed to diminish and eventually eliminate the handling of the thousands of individual reports being submitted every month by dozens of different private service provider companies. They needed to eliminate the tedious and error-prone task of manually entering these reports from the paper or PDF forms submitted by service providers.
Forethought - by an Agency:
Hays showed great forethought by leaving open an option for private companies to submit multiple maintenance reports combined into one data file that could simply be sent and uploaded into the Hays County system. Some companies already used a computer program for their tracking and reporting of maintenance that included the ability to create this data file. This forethought by Hays County allowed them to continue to use that program without also having to manually re-enter all their reports in the Hays County system. That created a win-win solution for the agency and the private companies.
An Unanticipated Wrinkle:
While other companies have purchased a desktop program for managing their maintenance activities, Snowden On-Site uses an online program that we designed and had written specific to our business. IN addition to giving a more global view to all activities of the business, this online program allows reports to be entered in the field by the technicians as the work is being done. The office staff can then see the results in real time – no waiting for all the technicians to bring in their work and enter it into the office desktop PC that evening or next morning.
Throughout the last decade we have made continual improvements in our proprietary online program thereby improving the efficiency of our business operations. This has allowed us to not have to raise our prices for service agreements for over eight years even though there are of course ever-increasing payroll costs, and other costs of doing business.
Public and Private Cooperation:
Our proprietary program did not, at the time, have that built-in data file generator. Further, we did not even have the details on the communication protocol that was used in those data files. This is where cooperation came in. The Hays County staff and we worked together to decipher the communication protocol in the data file they used. This allowed us to then create a custom feature in our program that produces the same data file that they use, and our program sends it to them.
Now both Hays County and ourselves are benefited by the transmission of a single data file for our multiple reports, that file then simply being uploaded by Hays County. Further, we now have this technique available to be applied with all other agencies with which we work – whenever they have the forethought to move out of the “dark ages” and into the “21st century”.
Our reporting to agencies is all electronic, and automated, thereby saving us a lot of time. To the other agencies we send PDF reports because those agencies haven’t realized and implemented the forward thinking of Hays County. The receipt and management of those reports, however, and the hundreds or thousands of other reports, must be performed by a full- time employee of the agency – very inefficient, prone to clerical error, and an incredible waste of taxpayer money.
In business there’s a common phrase, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.”
For agencies we modify that phrase to, “You can’t enforce what you don’t track.”
As long as these agencies are relying on manual manipulation of records whether electronic or paper, there’s little way for them to comply with their own requirements. These requirements being imposed by the State, and to which each agency signed their agreement and commitment to enforce since 1997, but don’t.
When agencies and companies think ahead, and work together, benefits accrue to everyone – especially the public that we both serve.
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