KEY USE CASES
Field operations management
PRODUCTS & INTEGRATIONS
agency employees on Box
parcel maps managed
- File sprawl was rampant, and retention issues plagued the agency
- Field employees couldn't easily upload critical data while out on the job
- The volume of data was spiking — and file storage costs were rising — in the on-prem model
- Now there's a centralized place for content, with Box Relay providing automated retention and other critical features
- County employees working from anywhere can add their data to the mix from a handheld device
- Unlimited, scalable data storage resulted in an initial cost savings of 50%+
Serving OC from the field, not behind a desk
Field employees for the Orange County Public Works department often report from roads, flood channels, and the field as they measure stormwater volume or inspect a building site. The agency employs a hefty fleet of over 800 people: surveyors, engineers, vehicle fleet technicians, permit technicians, procurement specialists, GIS technicians, environmental experts, construction and building inspectors, heavy equipment operators, and more.
In the past, data collected in the field had to be uploaded by FTP or sent over email — a less than ideal process, but the only process the agency knew. Moving to the Content Cloud streamlined this process for all kinds of projects and enabled the agency to get important content directly into a secure, centralized place.
Now, with Box, OC Public Works has a drastically simplified (and far more effective) way of managing, sharing, and even protecting content — and the county is saving money on file storage, too.
Moving 800 employees to the Content Cloud
The backstory: Their existing collaborative platform was deprecating some of the products the team used, and even with the continuing tools, OC Public Works couldn't share with external stakeholders — including the public, who were often involved in public works projects.
IT faced pressure to rethink data management and content workflows, but needed to find a solution that would work well with Microsoft Office tools. Since the agency already used Box for small things here and there, a wholesale shift to the Content Cloud seemed to be the next logical step.
Cameron Smith is the GIS manager of OC Public Works, in charge of all the maps created for the county — and the abundance of data associated with those maps. His job directly affects the oversight of road and flood control as well as 600,000 legal lots, or parcels, which must be assessed and kept track of — which creates a lot of data, too. As something of an expert on the agency’s data usage and needs, and with a lot of knowledge of the IT infrastructure, Smith was brought on to help incorporate Box into the everyday lives of diverse groups of employees.
With Smith’s help, over the course of a year, OC Public Works has migrated terabytes upon terabytes of content to the Content Cloud and taken advantage of Box APIs to streamline and facilitate all kinds of workflows.
Reducing complexity in a busy government agency
Historically, content storage had been handled in a siloed way at OC Public Works, with project groups only able to access their own files. This approach created a lot of file sprawl and hindered collaboration between teams. “Then there's version-control issues,” says Smith. “When you have multiple versions of files, in multiple locations, it's a problem. The major appeal of Box was being able to think about collaboration in a different way.”
Now, teams can keep their content secure but still enable coworkers, outside partners, and even county citizens to view files with one secure link. “That collaboration has really helped us cut down duplication errors and increase our efficiency on projects,” says Smith. “Being able to work with external collaborators, sign documents, and track movement through workflows — all the different tools Box offers have led to positive perceptions of Box as a whole.”
Lowering not just complexity, but cost
As new technologies such as drones began to produce more data than ever before at OC Public Works, cost became another driver of the switch from on-prem content management to the Content Cloud. Storage needs were increasing tremendously, and as a result, file storage costs were escalating. A terabyte of data in a week wasn't an unusual amount, and that kind of data storage gets costly with on-prem solutions. “With Box,” Smith confirms, “we have unlimited data storage, which is hugely appealing.”
That was the scalability piece, but in addition, Smith says, “We saw over a 50% cost savings migrating to Box — and that is not even return on investment, that’s just straight-up dollar saved.”
He expects the ROI of the recent move to the Content Cloud to prove even more financially favorable over time, because it also enables the team to get work done more quickly and collaborate more efficiently. Smith admits, “Those are harder numbers to quantify, but I can say outright that file storage costs are cut in half — and then there’s the added bonus of Relay, Sign, and the security suite that we didn't have before.”
Faster signatures make work flows smoother
The Content Cloud also brought some key functionality to the agency. Critically, Box Sign provides the ability to e-sign on contracts rather than require “wet ink” signatures. This is important because even such seemingly small tasks as performance evaluations require up to five signatures per document, and those signatures have to happen in a certain order, in a certain way.
Smith describes, “When I have 30 staff who have to conduct performance evaluations, and I’m managing all the signatures — that can be a daunting task. Having to manage it was always a nightmare for me. Now, I set it up in Box Sign and I send it out; it's super simple.”
Box Sign has helped to simplify the process of getting through the signature process on all kinds of documents, not just performance reviews.
Box Relay speeds up public records requests
Box Relay is another tool within the Content Cloud that has helped Smith and his team with workflows. Here are three brief examples Smith cites:
- Public records requests: Historically, responding to requests for information from members of the public has been time-consuming and inefficient, requiring IT to get involved. Now, with Box, records retention is automated, and access to information has become much easier to manage.
- Corner records: The agency often relies on outside county surveyors who send in a type of content called a “corner record” that shows benchmarks in the field. Because corner records are used as legal documents, they can cause a paperwork backlog for the county. Box Relay automates the uploading and management of those documents in the cloud from external users.
- The Orange County Office on Aging: This group had a clunky way of collaborating with external stakeholders that involved an SFTP server and a non-intuitive user interface — plus a lot of glitches around file retention, which frequently caused data to “go missing.” Now, with Box Relay, the Office on Aging has a much better workflow that also incorporates Box Sign.
“With Relay,” says Smith, “searching is easier, and it’s a quick click to set up the records retention. If something is affected by either a legal hold or a public records request, there are categories that automatically apply.”
Change made easy for busy county employees
The tech advances and cost savings of the Content Cloud were more than justifiable, but the next step was to inspire adoption among all employees. The Content Cloud provides a way to grant access to critical information in the moment employees and county residents need it, but change management was important to making the move work. “People don't typically embrace change, and changes are often met with apprehension.”
Smith happily reports that the response from employees has been positive. He says, “There was a lot of apprehension prior to deploying Box, but the overwhelming feedback I hear is positive. A lot of the people who were the most vocal critics have now said, ‘Okay, I get it.’”
Because they get it, they use it, and because they use it, workflows that rely on data, content, and signatures have become much more simplified — and less expensive — with Box.
The top three things OC Public Works loves about Box, according to Smith:
- Simplification: “The unlimited file storage is very appealing, and so is the collaboration with both internal and external people.”
- Security: “Having security being handled within the platform has been ideal.”
- Additional Box tools: “Box Sign and Box Relay have been an added bonus that we weren't really looking for, but they’ve turned out to be great efficiency tools.“
With Box, we can natively collaborate with external customers and the public, and access their control level. That’s really appealing.