Introducing Our Celebratory Blog Series: Showcasing the Remarkable Achievements of Maryland’s Award-Winning Counties!
Join us on an exciting journey as we embark on a special blog series dedicated to honoring the exceptional accomplishments of the counties that triumphed in the National Association of Counties (NACo) 2023 Achievement Awards. Each week, we will shine a well-deserved spotlight on a few remarkable counties, delving into their accomplishments, innovative initiatives, and the profound impact they have had on their communities. Let’s dive in!
Howard County receives 15 Information Technology Program Awards.
Each of these will be highlighted in a three-part article.
Contribution to Liquor License Online Payments – Phase One & Two
The County Council Liquor License Administration requested to enhance the liquor license renewal process by digitizing the process online. In Phase One, the Department of Technology and Communication Services (DTCS) digitized a paper-based process, providing a modern, streamlined experience for the constituents and a simplified, automated tool to process the renewals. In Phase Two, Council and DTCS pushed to implement an online payment solution on the DTCS SNAP platform. DCTS leveraged this project to expand online payment support to the entire SNAP platform. The system was a Phase Two liquor license application program initiative initially built on the Microsoft.NET framework and required extensive upgrades and functional enhancements to work as intended. The SNAP platform team built and maintained the new system that met all the functionalities requested by the County Liquor Board. The major outcomes and successes of this program include improved UI/UX allowing for a seamless transition from SNAP to the external payment portal, availability of real-time updates on case and payment status, an expedition of the liquor license renewal process for applicants, and capability to begin integrating the online payment solution across the SNAP platform.
IT Contribution to the Office of Human Rights and Equity’s Case Management Program
The Office of Human Rights and Equity (OHRE) tasked the Department of Technology and Communication Services (DTCS) Development team with upgrading its legacy system. One of the major challenges was fulfilling legal requirements to maintain the confidentiality of resident data and ensure the data would be available for legal proceedings. Working in under 11 months, the Development team initiated requirements analysis, development, iterative testing, and implementation while incorporating stakeholder input and guidance from subject matter experts. As a result, the team produced a one-stop shop for receiving, documenting, and tracking Human Rights and Equity issues that help the office facilitate just and equitable economic development opportunities for all. Key outputs were a public-facing form enabling anonymity, case management that enabled seamless tracking for managing case assignments and monitoring outcomes for referrals, and a critical document repository tool. The result was a secure system that enabled OHRE employees to manage the entire lifecycle of a reported case while reducing the time to resolve Human Rights and Equity issues.
IT Contribution to Trees for Bees Program
The development team of the Department of Technology and Communication Services (DTCS) built a front-end registration application. It expanded upon a back-end management application from previous tree giveaway programs to help increase community engagement and partnership. The County offers multiple tree giveaway programs to assist in the beautification of the County and support sustainable stormwater treatment. Working with the Howard County Office of Community Sustainability, a requirements analysis led to creation of a new Trees for Bees program that engaged constituents and business partners. This online application enabled residents of the County and first-time non-profit Watershed Protection and Restoration Fee partners to participate in the tree giveaway, allowing the County to reach additional areas targeted for stormwater treatment. The timeframe from initial design to “production-ready” was three months. This considerable effort required significant development, project management, and stakeholder testing to meet its unique requirements. However, the Executive Tree Giveaway group called it the smoothest rollout of an event since its inception, with the program launching on March 15, 2022.
IT Enhancement to Moderate Income Housing Unit’s Online Application
Since its initial deployment, the Moderate Income Housing Unit (MIHU) system has had software upgrades due to a lack of technical personnel to support and maintain it. As a result, the Department of Technology and Communication Systems (DTCS) was approached to enhance the current MIHU online application with these objectives: reduce the number of applications that were missing information (with additional work required from MIHU staff to collect missing data) and reduce the number of applications that didn’t meet the initial requirements for eligibility. The DTCS team completed the enhancements in three months, allowing for testing and verification from the MIHU staff. The scoping and requirements gathering conducted by the engineer and project manager played a vital role in the success of this project. The enhanced program was successfully rolled out to users and stakeholders on September 27, 2022. It provided a user-friendly system to indicate when information is missing or required, as well as prompts for when the information entered into the system fails to meet the basic requirements for the program. These upgrades tangibly improved and optimized the MIHU system’s operational performance and program implementation for business owners.
IT Redesign of the Bureau of Utilities’ Landing Page
After receiving a request in March of 2022 from the Bureau of Utilities regarding the visibility of the “Report an Issue” link, the Department of Technology and Communication Systems (DTCS) reviewed the Bureau’s pages to determine the root cause and better address the problem. The conclusion was that the Bureau’s pages did not give each vital function in its own space, which caused issues with usability and search engine visibility and failed to direct users properly. To solve this, the “Utilities” landing page was heavily reworked to behave as a hub page for users, with new pages created for frequently used Public Water & Sewer resources. These resources can now be found directly via search engines, and reporting utility issues is significantly easier for constituents, allowing the Bureau to respond to these issues more promptly. This new version of the Utilities site was officially launched on October 11, 2022.
Together, let’s explore the remarkable stories behind these award-winning counties and draw inspiration from their passion, creativity, and commitment to making a positive difference. View all 2023 NACo Achievement Award winners through their interactive and searchable map. View our full series of 2023 Maryland Award Winners.