Bureau of Technology annual report - January 2017

"The future is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed." —William Gibson
Not long ago, Cook County had a reputation for being a technology backwater. There were '80s-era applications running on mainframes and legacy systems that had passed their useful lives before the class of 2017 college graduates were born. Today we're very close to the dream of modernization, but we still have a lot of hard work to do. 2020 is in our sights—the year we retire the last of the legacy systems and break free of the past.

The push for modernization began in 2011 when newly elected County Board President Toni Preckwinkle took office and prioritized upgrading the County’s technology. We have made tremendous progress in that time, but we have more to do.

Last year Cook County launched two major cloud-based applications: a Countywide financial system, which consolidated eight other legacy systems, and a new Time and Attendance System. These are two of what we refer to as the Big Four technology projects.

Cook County uses more than 200 unique applications. Application modernization is a key priority. App modernization begins with the oldest technologies residing on legacy platforms which are expensive to maintain. Through new applications, we will transition away from predominantly manual and paper-centric business processes and into the digital realm.
A core principal of Cook County's technology strategy is to favor shared applications that span multiple agencies and offices. To this end, the County's "Big Four" are all shared and collaborative.

The Big Four (+1)

Integrated Property


IPTS is an unprecedented modernization effort for the County’s land agencies: Assessor, Board of Review, County Clerk, Geographic Information Systems, Recorder of Deeds and Treasurer. This project will create an enhanced, centralized database of the County’s two million land parcels and the corresponding data from all agencies.

IPTS streamlines processing of land services as they travel between each agency. It also replaces 40-year-old mainframe applications, whose hosting costs Cook County $5.5 million per year.

In 2016 the team completed the inventory of current processes. In 2017 they are moving on to define the new system and determine how iasWorld will be tailored to handle the operations of Cook County. Then, in the second half of 2017, development and testing will begin.

Integrated Justice


The Integrated Justice system will allow automated communication for all of the County's justice agencies: Chief Judge, Clerk of the Circuit Court, Public Defender, Sheriff and State’s Attorney. It translates and routes data between all the various systems used by these agencies. This system creates major improvements in communication.

The ESB ensures quality, accuracy, accessibility and timeliness of criminal history information. Data will soon pass quickly and securely from one agency to another. This will also help solve the problem of communication errors causing detainees to be released too soon or past the date when they were due to be released.

The first data exchange — automating the transmission of charging data — is now complete, and work is under way to open new exchanges and explore future possibilities. The system may have applications well beyond the justice arena. The potential uses for connecting disparate applications and is very exciting.

Enterprise Resource Planning


The Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) System will operate Countywide to manage business processes. ERP is a project of the Bureau of Finance's Department of Enterprise Resource Planning, and BOT assists with some parts of the implementation and ongoing maintenance.

ERP allows the County to collect, store, manage and interpret data across all aspects of County operations, allowing the County to manage all its resources efficiently and cost effectively. This project includes financials, supply chain management, human resources and payroll, as well as reporting analytics.

ERP provides valuable real-time reporting and analytics for finance and human resource functions across all County agencies. ERP replaces an assortment of older systems that neither worked well individually nor worked well with each other.

ERP core financials were rolled out Countywide in the beginning of 2017. BOT is supporting the application after rollout. In 2017 ERP is continuing work towards the next phase of the project.

Cook County Time


The Time and Attendance Project comes from the Bureau of Finance's Department of Enterprise Resource Planning, and the BOT assists with some parts of the implementation and provides support for the application and timeclocks post-launch.

This project is bringing forward modern biometric time clocks and eliminating paper pay stubs. This solution will streamline time and attendance management and reporting Countywide. It will significantly reduce manual timekeeping processes, ensuring improved payroll processes, labor allocation, cost control and data reliability.

The system will accurately track and report time for the County’s roughly 23,000 part-time and full-time employees across approximately 100 different locations. It will also reduce payroll costs by minimizing errors that occur in manual processes and the corresponding administrative overhead.

The time and attendance project will finish its Countywide roll out to all agencies in the beginning of 2017.

Integrated Revenue


The Integrated Revenue project brings together diverse tax types within a centralized and modern administration system. The system will streamline and automate many processes, improving efficiency and accuracy. It revolutionizes the way businesses interact with County government.

ITPS allows taxpayers to register, file returns and pay their taxes within a single application. It lets the Department of Revenue conduct tax discovery audits, investigations and collection activities in an integrated system.

ITPS will lead to greater compliance among existing taxpayers, which in turn will maximize revenues. It replaces an assortment of spreadsheets and stand-alone systems. Projected revenue increases of at least $3 million and as much as $6 million are expected in the first full year of implementation.

As part of this system, a centralized collection of revenue for Animal and Rabies Control, the Law Library, the Medical Examiner and the Criminal Apprehension Booking System (CABS) were developed in 2016. In 2017 the project will continue to unify disparate systems across the County.


Cook County has embarked on long-term plans to move critical systems to modern technology platforms. At the core of this effort is infrastructure. Modernization of applications requires modernization of the environment in which they exist. These are long-term, expensive investments, but they are mission-critical.

HARDWARE — BOT is continuing to refresh and update devices and software for the Offices under the County Board President, as well as assisting IT departments in the offices of the other County elected officials. This is the front line of infrastructure modernization for the County's 23,000 strong workforce.

SERVICE DESK — In a time of rapid modernization, the role of the IT Service Desk has never been more important. In addition to supporting existing applications, the Service Desk is supporting new systems at a growing rate. To resolve service tickets faster and improve service, BOT is using advanced data analytics to strategically deploy resources as well as to identify root causes and improve the systems themselves.

THE CLOUD — Cook County has a cloud-first policy. Cloud technology can save us money and improve functionality. Cloud technologies can improve sustainability, security and drive innovation by accelerating new functionality and capabilities. In 2014 Cook County had fewer than 5% cloud applications; in 2017 our footprint of SaaS (software as a service) and PaaS (platform as a service) solutions are at 25% and growing.

DATA CENTER — We are also modernizing and consolidating the hosting environment for the County's applications and data in the new County Core Data Center. We are decommissioning server rooms across the County with the intent to consolidate down to two primary locations — core and redundant. In 2017 the Hawthorne server farm and other major areas will be decommissioned.

NETWORK — We will continue upgrading Internet speed and reliability for our thousands of users in 2017. We have increased network capacity by 200% in the last two years. In 2016 we completed the final phase of upgrading the County 10-gigabit Broadband network, laying high-speed fiber cables between hospitals, courthouses and the downtown campus.

TELECOMMUNICATIONS — Central to our modernization of internal communications strategy is the implementation of a new Countywide unified communications system. This will reinvent the way telephone systems have been done at Cook County for the past 15 years, bringing ease of use, efficiency and mobility in communications. BOT will begin this project in 2017.


Another key area of focus for the BOT is to leverage technology to bring increased transparency, accountability and improved services to the residents of Cook County.

The needs and expectations of County residents and County agencies are constantly evolving. In order to stay ahead of the changes, IT must continually innovate and modernize.


GIS is now using ArcGIS Online cloud mapping platform to transform how data can be presented throughout Cook County agencies. This software allows County employees to easily create and share maps throughout the organization and with the public. This allows access to critical location information from your desktop, browser, tablet, or smartphone, anytime, anywhere. Mapping can empower County employees to perform analysis to identify and quantify the implications, consequences, and impact of their decisions.

Cook County's GIS Department manages and provide 60 terabytes of geospatial data for our partners that includes: 5,381 data layers; 1.9 million parcels;

ORTHOPHOTOGRAPHY — photos of the earth that are geometrically corrected to support engineering studies and mapping

OBLIQUE IMAGERY — aerial photography at a 45 degree angle allowing measurement of the sides of objects such as buildings to support tactical missions, property assessments, etc.

LIDAR — laser measurement from a plane that creates a three dimensional model of the earth for use in flood modeling, engineering, imagery, etc.


To increase the surface area between the public and government, we rolled out a new County website in 2016. The new website was structured to help residents find and use the many services Cook County offers. The website included a complete rebuild of the County’s public-facing web site cookcountyil.gov using the open source Drupal platform to create a more current, flexible, and dynamic site structure to improve our online communication channel.

  • Average 5,000-6,000 daily user sessions
  • Average 13,500 daily page views
  • Over two million page views from launch (July) to the end of November 2016


BOT oversees the County’s Open Data Catalog that was established under the 2012 Cook County Open Government ordinance. The open data catalog at data.cookcountyil.gov provides the public with a wealth of information in the form of data sets from various sources throughout the County. In 2017 BOT is rolling out improvements to make the data catalog more user-friendly, and increase the types of data provided to the public.

Open Data Accomplishments

Rising number of new data sets:

• 2015: 166

• 2016: 196

Total listings in catalog

• Datasets in catalog: 296

• + 131 Maps

• = 419 specific data sets (data and maps) in catalog

Average traffic views

• 2015 monthly average — 8158 user sessions, 6446 users, 22,964 pageviews

• 2016 monthly average — 13,000 user sessions (31% increase), 15,000 users (57% increase), 30,800 pageviews (25% increase)


We face a tremendous competitive pressure when hiring and retaining in-demand tech personnel in a region that has experienced higher tech-job growth than Silicon Valley in the last few years. For this shifting IT environment, we needed some new skill sets. In the last three years, about one-third of BOT employees were either new hires or internal promotions. In the same timeframe almost a third of our job descriptions were either revised or new. Hiring and retaining experts and innovators is a key element of our strategy for innovation, and this is a key area for focus for us in 2017.


Another key priority for Cook County is to train the County workforce to use the new technologies we're bringing forward. As systems and processes change, so do the roles of the people who use them. We want to make sure that County staff has the skills to allow them to get the most out of our new technologies so we can all move forward together.


The Bureau of Technology is bringing forward and managing more contracts than ever. Getting the most value from those contracts is key for the County’s tech strategy. BOT’s Contract and Vendor Manager’s role is more important than ever in this environment. By carefully reading the fine print and comparing each contract to industry standards, BOT has realized significant savings.


We are very excited about what's ahead and proud of all we have accomplished together. Thank you for your support.


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