The Village of Bolingbrook, IL is spearheading a digital transformation in the suburbs of Chicago, and people are noticing.
Mayor Mary Alexander-Basta and Chief Information Officer James Farrell Jr. recently won first place for Technology and Innovation at the DuPage Mayor’s and Managers Conference for the Village’s Digital Front Door, a one-stop, online shop for all of the Village’s business processes.
“This is just the beginning for Bolingbrook as we are enhancing our technology along with becoming an award-winning community for our innovative practices. Partnering with OpenGov has allowed Bolingbrook to bridge the digital divide and offer our residents and businesses the transformational experience that they deserve when doing business with the Village.” said Farrell.
“What we have been able to do in our community here because of OpenGov and all that it offers is just miles and miles and miles.”
– Mayor Mary Alexander-Basta, Village of Bolingbrook IL
$10 Million Of Payments Processed With Community Development Permits
Express Permits Rolled Out In 2 Months
6 Departments Using OpenGov Permitting & Licensing
What it Means to be a “New Wave” Chief Information Officer”
If you’re lucky enough to know James Farrell, Jr., the first CIO at the Village of Bolingbrook, you probably admire his enthusiasm, charisma, and larger-than-life presence. When it comes to inspiring change across departments and connecting the dots to action this change, Farrell is the perfect man for the job.
“I’m the cheerleader, the change management agent. I try to provide innovation and vision and goals,” said Farrell.
Farrell worked for one of the largest computer software companies in the world, where he developed an appreciation for technology. When he made the move to government, he harnessed this appreciation into a superpower: using technology to catalyze change across multiple departments.
To Farrell, one of the most important parts of being a CIO is understanding every workflow, process, and pain point of each department, from HR to Fire and everyone in between. To facilitate this connection, Farrell meets monthly with leaders in each department.
At one of these meetings, back in 2020, with leaders from Community and Business Development, Farrell was tasked to figure out a way to allow residents or businesses to continue doing business with the Village amidst the pandemic. This was a top priority issue as 75% of all of Bolingbrook’s revenue came from sales, restaurant, and hotel taxes.
Farrell’s solution? To “digitize and do it quick.” It was time to move permitting and licensing online, and OpenGov Permitting & Licensing was the best way to do it.
“OpenGov allows us to provide that good change not only for your internal employees but for your residents and internal employees that are looking for the Amazon experience.” – James Farrell, Chief Information Officer, Bolingbrook, IL
When Farrell reviewed different solutions, OpenGov stood out as the obvious choice: “No other demos looked as good or as seamless as OpenGov. OpenGov took a lot of burden off the IT department,” said Farrell.
In a matter of two months, the Village was up and running with express permits. This speedy deployment was a “testament to how easy it was to work with the whole OpenGov staff,” said Farrell. With express permits online, the Village was able to collect over $10 million dollars using OpenGov online payment processing.
Software that “Grows Organically”
The success of express permits got Farrells’ wheels-a-turning — what other workflows could be digitized in OpenGov?
The second department to hop on board was the finance department, beginning with garage sale permits. But they didn’t stop there, Farrell helped the department identify Monthly Remittance taxes as another workflow that could be automated in OpenGov, and is working on getting every remittance tax into the system.
The Fire Department was in need of a way to schedule CPR classes and collect payments. The current digital process did not allow for payments to be submitted online, leading residents to ditch the class they signed up for since payment was upon entry.
James quickly identified this problem as something that could be solved in OpenGov and created a scheduling form in OpenGov Permitting & Licensing.
The Village’s HR department was having trouble tracking job applications. They knew the answer lied in technology and searched for a solution to help them streamline the application processes. However, the solutions they were finding cost between $18,000-20,000. Then a lightbulb went off: end-to-end tracking is a workflow that could be digitized in the software they already owned, OpenGov!
The Executive Department reached out to Farrell with quite the debacle: the annual Halloween walk was approaching, and more than 60 residents needed parking spots, tables, electricity, etc., and a way to pay for it all.
Another workflow issue, another challenge that could be solved by OpenGov. Farrell helped the department create a temporary online form just for this event, where residents could reserve and pay for items online.
“Technology just doesn’t magically go in and it works… My job as a change agent is to just remind people that it’s not going to work right out of the box. We have to customize it. That’s one of the good things about OpenGov is that it’s customizable.” – James Farrell, Chief Information Officer, Bolingbrook, IL
What’s next in Bolingbrook’s mission to modernize?
Citizen and FOIA Requests
The Village currently runs Citizen and FOIA requests through a separate online platform that costs over $20,000 annually. Farrell identified these requests as forms that could be written into OpenGov in order to save money and increase efficiency.
“When I look for something I look for something that has the capabilities to be scalable, flexible, and help everybody… I don’t want 9 or 10 disparate applications. I want something that is going to be useful for all of us,” said Farrell.
Digitizing Asset Management
Farrell was shopping for asset management software when he stumbled upon OpenGov’s newest product: OpenGov Asset Management.
“That’s going to be an easy win for the change agent. We already have a proven, tested platform. And it is just going to be natural to do asset tracking [with OpenGov],” said Farrell.
All that the Village has accomplished would not be possible without excellent leadership in place: “You can have an amazing platform, but you need leaders in place who know how to use the platform to its utmost abilities. We are very fortunate to have James and a great relationship with OpenGov, and we look forward to continuing that for many, many years and for exciting new stuff to come,” said Mayor Alexander-Basta.
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