The Boston Planning & Development Agency

Modernizing government services and reducing risk

PROBLEM

Paper-based processes at the BPDA were laborious, slowing down projects and impeding the agency's ability to deliver services to citizens. Employees had a hard time finding the information they needed because file versions were scattered across physical files, emails and local hard drives. Content lacked robust security.

 

SOLUTION

Employees at the BPDA easily collaborate on content internally and with other departments on Box. New hires are onboarded in the cloud with Box. Security is improved by using links to provision access to content. The BPDA is also exploring automating certain workflows with Box Relay.  

 

OUTCOME

Cycles for everything from day-to-day collaboration to new hire onboarding happen faster because Box has replaced manual and paper-based processes. Errors and risk are reduced by tightening version control and cutting content duplication by 40%. 

Content duplication and fragmentation was out of control at the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA). Forty percent of the BPDA's content was duplicate content, resulting in rampant version control issues and confusion over which file to use. Chief Information Officer Michael O'Shea describes what that looked like: "Employees would want a copy of a physical document for their own records. So they'd scan the hard copy and save it as a PDF. But sooner or later, they'd need to be able to edit the file, so they'd come to IT and ask us to turn it back into a Word doc, which they'd then edit and print." The result? Redundant files scattered willy-nilly around on local drives.

O'Shea's role is to modernize the agency and improve business processes through IT investments. "The work we do requires an enormous amount of communication, collaboration and approvals," he says. He saw this whole situation not as the status quo, but as a problem that could be solved. The first step was to streamline existing business processes based on user requirements from all stakeholders. O’Shea points out that “people seem to instinctively run to technology for solutions. Unfortunately, moving to new IT solutions without first understanding the problems within the process usually leads to different problems down the road, such as adoption.” Once the core business processes were re-engineered for optimization, O'Shea and his staff were able to properly identify IT solutions. That helped set in motion a move to the cloud for all content organization-wide. And that's how the BPDA found Box.

 

Collaboration beyond org charts

"The talent here is unparalleled; there are some really bright people," O'Shea says. "And they work well together within their units." But government workers often need to be able to work with outside stakeholders, citizens and external agencies. O'Shea admits, "When they started sharing information across departments, they'd struggle. That's where Box will help." 

With the secure sharing capabilities Box provides, city workers will be able to share fluidly with others they're collaborating with — not just with those within their own org chart. Instead of gray sheets carried around in person and files sent insecurely back and forth via email, all content will now live on Box. When they want to share content, city workers can simply email a link to a secure file.

"One of the great things we can do is let people see only what they need to see and nothing else," says O'Shea. "It's great from a security standpoint, but also from a customer experience standpoint." Box simplifies the experience for employees, and it also secures content-sharing for the city government — which naturally experiences high attrition among employees. "Much of the work we do requires collaboration with other city departments and agencies," O'Shea explains, "and we experience turnover like everyone else. Sometimes we find out, down the road, that a person has left a particular city department... so that person still had access." With Box Governance, the ability to disable access to a link or limit how long a user has access enables the BPDA to apply stronger retention and disposition rules.

 

"Security, for us, is making sure the right people have secure access to the right information, anytime, anywhere. You hear that a lot, and it sounds cliche, but we have a broad range of constituents, and we work with people both internally and externally." 

Michael O'Shea, CIO, Boston Planning & Development Agency

Streamlining the flow of paperwork from the moment of hire

Content sharing and governance is just the first step to fixing processes at the BPDA. O'Shea says, "With its automation and workflows, having Box Relay is going to be absolutely tremendous for us. That's what people are excited about."

Within the HR department, for instance, onboarding is currently a pretty chaotic process by default. A new hire receives an email packet with about twenty documents attached, and is asked to print them out and bring them to orientation. If he forgets, the packet needs to be printed out again. In any case, all of that information must be manually entered back into an electronic system to be usable later on. Various stakeholders require access to different pieces of information, so the new hire paperwork gets shuffled around.

Content sharing

 

With Box, the process will be drastically streamlined. New hires can fill out paperwork in the cloud at their convenience. Important stakeholders can then step in and use the various pieces of data they need to complete the onboarding process, independent of one other. No one gets held up by anyone else.

 

"We'd love to leverage automation. We think it enables an enormous amount of efficiency, and everyone's really excited about it." 

Michael O'Shea, CIO, Boston Planning and Development Agency

 

The future of content collaboration for the BPDA

"As we modernize more and more, and everything goes digital, we'll naturally use more solutions," says O'Shea. The BPDA already uses Box for Gmail — and G Suite for everything — and the organization is also exploring Office 365. He's currently looking into integrations that will digitize the business while enabling content underlying these services to be secured in Box, including Okta for identity management and DocuSign for eSignature

Machine learning is another area where the BPDA could benefit tremendously. Currently, the development-focused organization stores abundant images of things like streets, buildings, houses and trees. To find the right image often requires sorting through thousands of archived maps and photos. Metadata has not been entered consistently on any of them. Machine learning could tag all of those digital assets so it would be much easier to surface images as needed. "It would be huge for us," O'Shea says.

With more efficient, collaborative and secure content-sharing mechanisms in place, the BPDA is on a path to fulfill on this entire wishlist in the near future. 

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