Operations Expert Lisa Desmarais Improving Process and Transparency
COVINGTON - Lisa Desmarais, the City's new Operations Director is all about efficiency and is helping to move the City towards it goals. Since coming on board, initially as the City's IT Manager - she was promoted this September to her new role as City Operations Director - Desmarais has focused on System Optimization and Change Management, helping the City be equipped with the appropriate resources and Systems.
To date, Lisa has:
Helped to secure the contract with Springbrook, the City's new finance and accounting software. Working with Finance Director Lisa Goetz, Lisa's expertise in software procurement and implementation enabled the City to diagnose its system needs. The City is now working on a plan to implement Springbrook in early 2015.
Assisted in implementing Paycor, the new payroll processing software. Paycor is the first upgrade to the City's previous system that operated using outdated DOS (Disk Operating System) based programming. Paycor's implementation has streamlined and automated many of the Finance Department's tasks. Allison Hudson, Payroll Specialist for the city, said, "Now that Paycor is here, I can focus my efforts on more proactive behavior instead of menial tasks that took up much of my time. It has allowed employees like me to expand our role and take on more responsibilities. These are things that have been overlooked in the past, like collaborating with other staff members, assisting staff accountants with their tasks, and also taking on special projects."
Consolidated the City's multiple copier/scanner/printer contracts into one universal contract - Before the consolidation, the City worked with 6 different vendors to provide copier/scanner/printer services. This consolidation project reduced the City's fleet of machines from 79 to 34 unique devices and is expected to save over $34,000.
Revamped the City's cell phone policy and established a new contract with AT&T - Lisa negotiated the new contract for cell phones and hot spot data cards and is managing the project from start to finish. She is handing out the phones, deactivating the old phones and working with Police and Fire to issue them new hot spot data cards. Cost savings: $47,000 Annually
Created an Organization-wide Inventory of Computer, Software and Other Electronics - This research provided visibility on the duplications, status and condition of all technology and telecommunications resources within the City. Creating this meticulous inventory identified several old telephone lines that were not longer needed but still on the City's monthly billing. Cost Savings: $26,300 Annually
Consolidated the Parking Payment Process - After Kristina Conner from the Finance Department got the ball rolling internally by consolidating and merging data, new technology was adopted to make the process of paying tickets more efficient for both staff and clients. Parking tickets can now be paid online. Also, instead of manually-written carbon copy tickets, the Covington Police Department is now utilizing two new handheld devices to issue citations. These devices allow photos to be taken of the parking offense, track multiple offenders more easily, and run reports for various offenses. When issuing a citation, the officer will be notified if the vehicle has several outstanding tickets so the car can be booted immediately. This change has drastically reduced the amount of paper processing in the City Finance Department and has reduced the number of copies written, which prevents Finance personnel from having to manually enter ticket information into a ticketing system or to collect payments at the City Hall window.
Online Payment, according to Desmarais, is something Covington is going to see more of. "The ability to pay tickets, taxes and other City-managed services online provides a better service to clients; it cuts out the middle man and makes things more efficient," says Desmarais.
Lisa is the first to tout her colleagues for all the work that has been accomplished. “The team here is extremely talented; a lot of the leg work on these projects was already in play when I arrived, which made it a lot easier to wrap things up,” she said.
"Our Customer interaction has already improved because of these new channels." said Allison Hudson.
On an average day, the City Finance Department fields about 200 calls a day. Before these system changes were implemented, the department was challenged to deal with the flow of queries in addition to managing the internal day-to-day work.
Since the new systems have been in place, staff performance has greatly improved, according to Assistant Finance Director Vickie Cox. "When calls come in now, clients are directed to a specific person instead of being bounced around. I think the clients are getting better and more consistent information, as opposed to just individual staff perspectives on a matter." said Cox.
The new systems have fostered a more enjoyable work environment. Staff is more focused on what they are doing instead of juggling multiple tasks, they have more job satisfaction and feel accomplished every day. "For me and [the Finance Director], it's easier to manage the staff in this new environment." said Cox.
From a procurement standpoint and in terms of managing the City's budget, Desmarais is actively consolidating the number of vendors contracted by the City. The aim is to make everything more manageable by getting better prices, buying in larger quantities and making the cost of resources more predictable.
"Lisa is able to communicate with everybody, at every level and they respect her opinion, so she is able to pull everyone together on the same page. She's taken time to meet with each department and spend time with them; she gets out there, learns what's going on and figures out what people need. This position is a game changer for the City," said City Manager Larry Klein.
In the scope of her current role, Desmarais plans, organizes and directs activities that provide timely, cost effective and efficient systems, programs and customer service. She upgrades, implements and monitors City-wide systems and processes, policies, internal controls, standards, and procedures with an emphasis on developing additional capacity through the elimination of non-value-added activities in and across all departments.
Lisa's duties include, but are not limited to, Information Technology and Data Management, Operational Risk Management, Products and Services Procurement, Vendor Contract and Compliance Monitoring, and Facilities Assessment and Maintenance.
On a recent walk downtown, Desmarais commented on the Roadwork construction happening in Covington's urban core. She said, "People come into Covington and hear the noise [from all of the construction happening]. They say to me 'Gosh, it's so noisy' and I think, 'It's not noise, it's the sound of Progress!' she laughs. "There's a lot of progress going on in Covington these days, both inside City Hall and literally outside its door step."
**Photo of Lisa Desmarais with Dave Bright of Morristown, OH, working on 7th Street and Madison Avenue.