The Will County Sheriff's Office in Illinois had a clear goal in deploying Microsoft BizTalk Server 2013 earlier this year: To streamline the process of issuing warrants and getting them into the hands of deputies.
In the past, after a Will County judge signed and issued a warrant, it took between two and three days to make its way from the Circuit Clerk's Office to the Sheriff's Office. In the interim, the suspect would have time to hide or leave the county, which made it difficult for deputies to make an arrest.
Because the Will County Sheriff's Office manages warrants for nearly 40 police agencies, the paper-based system was especially time consuming and inefficient. To modernize, the county selected BizTalk 2013 because it streamlines business processes and works well with the county's existing Microsoft environment.
BizTalk 2013, Microsoft's business process integration platform, lets organizations integrate and manage automated business processes across the enterprise. Many organizations use BizTalk to automate invoices and purchase orders, but in Will County's case, BizTalk automates the way it processes warrants.
With the BizTalk deployment, Circuit Clerk's Office clerks scan the warrants into the system and email them to the Sheriff's Office, where BizTalk electronically distributes the warrants to deputies. With the waiting period over, in some cases, the county has been able to issue the warrant and apprehend a suspect in the same day.
For agencies looking to automate business processes, here are some best practices to guide the deployment.
Rather than try to revamp every system or process in the Sheriff's Office or Circuit Clerk's Office, the Will County team set a clear goal of speeding up the warrants process. Consider the time frame required to accomplish the task.
Although the county had $80,000 in funding from a federal Community Oriented Policing Services grant, resources were tight, so it sought ways to reduce costs. One area of savings came from having Will County's central IT department host a virtual instance of BizTalk 2013 on one of its VMware servers. It didn't make sense to spend $10,000 for each physical server when the county could easily provision a virtual instance and centrally manage the application.
Look for similar opportunities to collaborate and share resources with the central IT department and other departments or agencies.
During one of Will County's tests, errors occurred when the PDFs of the warrants didn't come through cleanly in the XML file. The fix was to make some coding changes and republish the web service that executed the transaction for the warrants.
To create the test environment, set up a BizTalk server from scratch and work through the install. BizTalk makes system administrators start from scratch if they miss a step. Run through the process a few times to practice creating a clean install for when it's time to go live.
Don't plan for the next year or two, plan for the next five to seven. Finances are always challenging for state and local governments, so any implementation needs to last for the long haul.
While the Sheriff's Office holds responsibility for issuing warrants for all police agencies in Will County, that may change in the next few years. The county allowed for any transition by using BizTalk 2013 to create a folder for every police agency. The Circuit Clerk's Office can simply send the warrant to the correct agency based on the origination number.
Don't rest on recent accomplishments and stay current on all software patches and updates. Microsoft publishes a lot of information about BizTalk Server on its BizTalk Team Blog at blogs.msdn.com/b/biztalk_server_team_blog/. All deployments present challenges, but by following these recommendations, an IT team should be in a strong position to successfully automate business processes.
For Will County, hearing from deputies in the field that the new system has led to faster arrests makes it all worthwhile. IT can really make a difference in helping government streamline business processes and fight crime more effectively.