Hillsborough Township, New Jersey, Creates Efficiencies, Becomes More Sustainable with Their CivicPlus® Agenda and Meeting Management Solution
City:Hillsborough Township, New Jersey
The clerk and deputy clerk spent hours preparing meetings and agendas using a paper-based process
Implemented the CivicPlus Agenda and Meeting Management solution
Stakeholders save hours preparing for each meeting
When Sarah Brake was learning the Hillsborough Township Clerk’s office duties, she initially spent a significant amount of time at the copy machine, while preparing for meetings. She watched her predecessor vigilantly occupy the copier, shuffling papers, organizing then reorganizing documents, pulling pages out, and putting them back. Brake noticed that this highly manual process was complex, time-consuming, and inefficient and wondered if there was an easier way to get the job done.
“I had a bit of a technology background before entering this field, “Brake said. “I look to digitize everything that I can.”
Brake asked her predecessor about digital solutions and was told that the Township had explored some options in the past but that it hadn’t ever been the right time. With Brake taking up the mantle of Deputy Clerk, and with the full support of Township Clerk Pamela Borek and Township Administrator Anthony Ferrera, it was time for a digital transformation.
I can’t tell you how much time we’ve saved preparing the minutes because the tool compiles them for us. It used to be an arduous process hunting down and searching for all the documents and compiling them; that’s been completely eliminated. The person who takes our minutes now spends maybe an hour when it used to take her a full day or more.
Deputy Clerk and Technology Implementation Specialist, Hillsborough Township, NJ
Taking on the Role of Change Agent
“When I took on the role of Deputy Clerk, I was able to restart that process of searching for an agenda and meeting management system and began the search again for a solution,” said Brake. “That’s when I found CivicPlus. After reviewing many products, it really came down to two things. The software demonstration was one of the best we had seen, and the fact that the person giving it was a former clerk was refreshing. She spoke the same language, knew what we were dealing with, knew the solution intimately, and could speak to the issues we face. We didn’t feel like we had that kind of connection with some of the other vendors. The other big factor was the price. CivicPlus’ costs were reasonable for us.”
Brake is complimentary of the extended CivicPlus staff she has met during their partnership.
“The CivicPlus implementation team has been great across all products and made us comfortable with the switch and moving forward,” Brake said. “We’ve worked with a few different people, and they’ve all been very helpful.”
Finding Major Time Savings
Today, as Brake serves as Hillsborough Township’s Deputy Clerk and Technology Implementation Specialist, she spends little time at the copy machine, and she’s spending significantly less time preparing, updating, and collating agendas and meeting minute documents.
“The time we spend preparing for meetings has gone from days to hours,” Brake said. “We’ve been able to get more people involved. Departments put their resolutions on the agenda. They’re part of the entire process now. If you have to make last-minute changes, it’s very quick and easy.”
Brake also reports seeing significant efficiencies during and following Township Committee meetings.
“There’s the meeting breakdown—I can’t tell you how much time we’ve saved preparing the minutes because the tool compiles them for us,” Brake said. “It used to be an arduous process hunting down and searching for all the documents and compiling them; that’s been completely eliminated. The person who takes our minutes now spends maybe an hour when it used to take her a full day or more.”
Brake adds that she’s using the time she’s saved creating paper-based agendas to find more opportunities for digital transformation in the clerk’s office.
“The solution has freed up a little of my time to focus on different technologies,” Brake said. “We’re about two-thirds of the way through our implementation with CivicPlus’ Employee Management solution. Because implementing the agenda and meeting management system has been a success, it gives me more leeway to try new things within the CivicPlus offerings.”
Creating Less Waste with Digital Solutions
Sustainable Jersey is a network of community organizations working together to bring about change toward a better life for future generations. All of the Township’s departments work with the Hillsborough Township Sustainability Director to set goals each year to help the Township earn a certification. Hillsborough is proud to be a Sustainable Jersey Silver Certified town, and the Clerk’s Office is proud to be contributing to that campaign’s efforts as they remove unnecessary waste from their processes.
“Our Department’s goal is to eliminate all paper in this office,” Brake said.
She described how her office had cut the need for nearly all their hard-copy packets, saying,
“We’re not reprinting anything. Now we have a sign with a QR code that people can scan to access packets right on their phones. We still put a few paper copies out for those who want them, but it’s been huge in helping us save resources. The public seems very receptive to this new way of doing things, and they’re grateful to have more information sooner.”
Other aspects of the agenda and meeting management process also saw notable improvements, particularly the Township Clerk’s Office’s ability to gather input on agendas in a central repository from stakeholders. In addition, the agenda and meeting management system notifies stakeholders to log in and provide feedback on documents and provides reminders until the reviews are complete.
“It’s channeled all our efforts,” Brake said. “Things aren’t getting stuck in somebody’s inbox anymore because everything is in the system. So at any given point, you can log in and see where we’re at.”
Communication with the public has been optimized as well.
“We direct people to the public portal to review documents when we get phone calls,” Brake said. “We may have people asking questions or requesting information, and now we can just send them in that direction, rather than printing things out or having residents come in to pick things up.”
Enabled Operations During COVID-19
Not only is CivicPlus’ Agenda and Meeting Management solution helping Hillsborough Township eliminate paper, but it was also critical in continuing operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our meetings were still held in person, but we had a hybrid Zoom version going on for some time, but we didn’t have the public coming in,” Brake said. “That wouldn’t have been achievable without having the means to distribute the documents online. You can sit and listen to a meeting, but without being able to follow along and look in detail at the resolutions and ordinances that we were passing, it’s just not the same.”
“We’re Ready, Here We Go”
After implementing CivicPlus’ agenda and meetings management solution, Brake says the atmosphere in the office on meeting days has changed.
“Meeting days themselves used to be a little frantic, making copies and setting things up,” Brake said. “I still stay and make sure that no one has any issues and that everyone’s got their phone to log in and then follow along. Now, the whole day is peaceful and quiet. CivicPlus has changed the whole tone of the meeting day from scrambling to, ‘’we’re ready. Here we go.”
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