Veterans help Englewood Ditch Paper for the Cloud

Frank Huttle III, Mayor of the City of Englewood commented, “When I first became Mayor I promised to bring the best practices of business and the private sector to City government. Bright Star has today helped to fulfill that promise. The integration of the Bright Star system into one of the most important functions of City government will streamline service delivery and bring the City’s systems rapidly into the 21st century greatly reducing costs and enhancing responsiveness.” The Mayor continued, “I would like to thank Bright Star for all of their efforts in making this system operational in the City, it is a momentous achievement and I am pleased the City is at the forefront of better, more efficient delivery of municipal services.”

By Myles Ma/NJ.com NJ.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on April 25, 2014 at 7:00 AM, updated April 25, 2014 at 7:06 AM ENGLEWOOD — A group of veterans is helping put Englewood city government in the cloud. Bright Star, a Newark company, helps governments and businesses go digital. They came to Englewood to alleviate congestion in the city’s construction office, among the busiest in Bergen County, according to Tim Dacey, city manager.

“The humanity of helping soldiers needs to be a priority.”

Since 2010, the city, like every municipality in New Jersey, has had to deal with a 2 percent cap on tax increases. In response, Englewood has turned to technology to simplify the city’s work. The construction office was an obvious target. The permitting process requires a four-page document to explain, and it relies heavily on paper forms, which can get lost. In addition, the office is only open during business hours, when many people can’t come in. “It’s a very time-consuming, paper-oriented process,” Dacey said.

Dacey decided there had to be a better way. After looking around, he found Dorothy Nicholson, CEO of Bright Star. The company’s work will allow residents to submit permits and track their progress electronically. “The goal is to have happier customers and to make sure we don’t lose anything and that the permit process goes smoother and quicker,” Dacey said.

Nicholson founded Bright Star in 2008 with $30,000 of her own savings. The company is her second startup. What sets Bright Star apart is that its employees are U.S. veterans. Many of Nicholson’s family members are veterans, and she made them her focus after seeing friends return from Iraq and Afghanistan have difficulty holding down jobs.  “There really was no leeway to enable them to slowly get back to the practice of working with other people,” she said.

Employing veterans requires flexibility. Many need to be out of the office twice a week for therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder.  Bright Star uses a job sharing program to allow other workers to fill in. The company also practices job sampling, which lets new workers try various positions. On the upside, Nicholson said, veterans are motivated and willing to learn.

Dacey, a veteran himself, said Bright Star’s use of veterans was one of the things that attracted him to the company. Englewood is piloting the digital permitting process with a few frequent users. “The guys that are doing it really like it,” Dacey said. “It makes it easier to submit your stuff and follow your progress with permits.” All of the building inspectors have been equipped with iPads. They use the devices to log inspection results, which are automatically uploaded to the cloud. Contractors can see how their permits are faring over the Internet instead of coming to City Hall. “It compresses the amount of time it’s going to take to process inspections and permits,” Dacey said.  Englewood paid Bright Star $100,000 for the work, as well as the cost of the iPads.

Bright Star’s other clients include the State of New Jersey, which had to approve the new digital coding process in Englewood, as well as the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the Borough of Roselle. Digital permitting will go live for all Englewood residents May 13. Nicholson hopes Bright Star can be a model for other organizations.

“Yeah, there’s a bottom line that you’ve got to be aware of,” she said, “but at the same time the humanity of helping soldiers needs to be a priority.”

Smart Solutions in the Cloud

Bright Star provides smart solutions in the cloud for government and business .  Permitting, paperless agendas, licensing and more can all be done online in just a few simple clicks.  Citizens, customers and you interact and connect easier and faster. Our Smart Cloud Solutions decrease costs, increase revenues and improve relationships with citizens and customers.  We also provide business process management, records management and document scanning services. All services are implemented by our team of United States Veterans home from Iraq and Afghanistan.   We are on GSA Schedule 36, contract number GS-03F-0149Y and on New Jersey State Contract number 89099-T1818. Bright Star’s team of United States Veterans are professionals with a strong commitment to excellence, a disciplined style of performance and achievement, and an unsurpassed work ethic.  They are trained to use advanced technologies, and as soldiers, airmen, naval forces and marines, are process experts.  Bright Star works as a unified force to deliver outstanding services and exceed customer expectations.

Paperless Agenda Case Study: Large Licensing Bureau in NJ

Bright Star provides paperless agenda services for a large licensing board located in New Jersey. The licensing bureau licenses, monitors, manages complaints, and enforces regulations. They have about nine meetings per month and an average of 2000-3000 pages per meeting, which equates to about 100 to 200 documents. The board staff creates the meeting agendas using the eAgenda Pro system, uploading documents from their SharePoint repository (created by Bright Star) as necessary. They can also request that Bright Star pick up a paper version of documents that needs to be scanned in order to upload it ot the the repository. Usually, there is a less than 48 hour turnaround.

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Visions for the Future

CEO Dorothy Nicholson said, “The coming together of social networks and mobile device technologies has created new and expanding requirements for better management of information and processes.” According to her, “Citizens and businesses aren’t confined to one space anymore.  They’re mobile and virtual. ‘Smart Cities’, big data, BYOD (bring your own device) and the new cyber mega-consumers (drinking in and pouring out terabytes of information every day) has revolutionized citizens’ expectations.” She commented, “It is critical that government catch up…that it remove barriers and encourage citizens to participate in government to help enrich responsiveness and create possibilities, across and within communities. eGovernment is the first step.”

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Bright Star’s Team of Veterans Implement All of our Solutions

They are brave. They are heroes. They are Americans and they risked their lives for our safety.  Vietnam, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Desert Shield, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom were the wars in which they fought.  They are our children, our sisters and brothers, our fathers and mothers.

They deserve jobs when they get home…careers that will help them “come home” for good.  You’re project gives Bright Star the ability to hire more veterans, helping them transition from military life to civilian life.  It’s not an easy thing to go from an environment where you trust your battle buddies and wing men to protect your back, to a corporate environment where there is little compassion and forgiveness.  This is one of the reasons so many veterans end of up the street.  Don’t let that to happen.  Be their hope!  Help us give opportunities to more veterans.  It’s a really good feeling…I promise.

We Were Immersed in Teamwork

By Hakida and Alain Edmond, Veterans of the United States Army

There are two types of soldiers leaving the armed forces; those who adapt to civilian life and those experiencing difficulty reintegrating. From our first days in BCT (Basic Combat Training), we are immersed into the concept of teamwork. We absorb military culture, learn personal accountability and self-sacrifice all for the good of our country. We go through the hallmarks of life together such as marriage, children and even death, binding us to one another for life. Many of us are abruptly separated from service through injuries or unforeseen circumstances. After years of regimented lifestyle, we find ourselves living in an environment where everyone is a singularity. For those dealing with the pressures of isolation, depression and homelessness, we reach for you. Our goal at Bright Star is to reach fellow veterans and offer community, encouragement and employment.  Call us. We’re here to help!

No one goes down-range alone.

Transitioning from Military to Civilan Life…Culture Shock

By Hakida and Alain Edmond, Veterans of the United States Army

There is a sharp contrast between civilian and military life. In 2003, I was in Korea. A minor typographical error caused Defense Finance not to pay me for three months. When my wife made me aware of this, I told my squad leader. Within minutes, everyone chipped in financially to help my family. Later that day, my platoon sergeant accompanied me to Finance Battalion and resolved the matter. My battle buddies and senior officers knew that if I couldn’t take care of my family, I couldn’t focus on my job. They were concerned and took action.

After leaving the Army, I worked for a logistics company. Through soldiers’ goggles, the whole place seemed strange. Both the company and its employees were interested in maximizing profit with no regard for one another’s well being. They had no bond and no common purpose. I went from an environment where loyalty and dedication were codes to live by, to a place where those words were foreign concepts. A saddening prospect. In the end I couldn’t stay there. There’s a work ethic instilled by the service that prompted me to not only deliver excellence but demand it as well. If, as a veteran, you’re feeling isolated in alone in the civilian sector, you’re not the only one.

Paper to Paperless

Scanning…it’s so easy! All you have to do is put paper in a scanner and watch it pop up on a computer screen… right?

Wrong!

The time it takes to go from paper to paperless depends on the size of the project. It takes one or two days for a small project, and up to several months for a larger one.  The journey from paper to paperless takes time, lots of painstaking attention to detail and a team of people ensuring that no paper is left behind.

For Bright Star’s eAgenda Pro solution, our team of skilled Vets work together so that when the meeting comes around, our customers open up their laptops or tablets to find their digital agendas formatted and ready to go.

We sat down with Operations Manager Paulius Kutavicius, who provided us with some insight into the paper to paperless process.

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A Message to our Customers…Thank You!

On behalf of the many Veterans facing challenges every day, thank you! Thank you for giving us the opportunity to help them transition back into civilian life…thank you for letting us provide you with the services that will enable us to support them.  It can be a very scary thing coming home after serving your country. With your help, it is a lot less scary.

Case Study: Board Meeting Services

Bright Star provides Board Meeting Services (different from eAgenda Pro) for over 40 boards in a large licensing bureau in New Jersey. The licensing bureau licenses, monitors, manages complaints, and enforces regulations relating to many different practices from dentistry and accountants to gaming boards and hair stylists. There are about 50+ meetings per month. The agenda size ranges between 150 and 2,500 pages. Each agenda has from 5 to more than 20 “items” that are reviewed during each meeting, with associated records. Continue reading

Document Scanning and Records Management and Clean-up

As the letter hit her desk, the Clerk saw the signature of the City Manager telling her to get it done.  The new City Manager wrote an email to all departments telling them that they needed to reduce costs of delivering services to citizenry while speeding up response time, enabling them to take in more revenues.  The City Manger also pointed out that some of the biggest problems in the town were:

  • Lost information.
  • Extra time wasted on getting work done.
  • Lack of organization.

The City Manager pointed out that there was paper everywhere, that everything is manual, and as staff retires, their knowledge goes with them…nothing is written down.   He also pointed out that even though most everyone has smart phones, tablets and computers and are doing a most things online, they were still requiring their citizens come to the municipal government office to do anything. The Clerk realized that everything could not be fixed at once, but where was she to start?  Looking around her, she noticed that paper was everywhere.   How in the world was she going to get it done? File cabinet after file cabinet in two very large rooms. In one of the buildings, the file boxes were lining the hallways because they had run out of room.  Sound familiar? Going through all of this paper and organizing it is a big job for sure and one that most people put off until it becomes absolutely necessary. As agencies move toward an economically lean and more intelligent digital environment in which to manage their records, this is a task that must be done and it must be done right. Enter Bright star.  Using detailed, step-by-step processes that ensure 99.5% accuracy, Bright Star deploys their team of skilled veterans (usually ones that served together in Iraq or Afghanistan) that take on these challenges with magnificent organization and purpose. After Bright Star’s task force has done what they came to do, customers are elated:

  • Lost records are found and accounted for.
  • Time and cost of finding records has dropped by 85%.
  • Filing time is cut in half.
  • Twenty to 30% of their records (those whose retention schedules are up) are boxed up waiting for shredding.
  • There is extra room in the office and the walkways are no longer a fire hazard.

From determining what records an agency needs to keep to organizing them by retention time and record series number, Bright Star’s management team has helped over 20 departments and agencies in New Jersey get certified for scanning from the NJ Department of Treasury/Division of Revenue and Enterprise Services. It has also helped them acquire authorization for shredding.  Bright Star has extensive experience working with New Jersey records management guidelines and legislation; retention schedules; document scanning requirements that allow the digital copy to be the legal record in a court of law (enabling them to shred the paper versions); and for disaster recovery policy implementation. We can help you reduce expenses and get organized.  And by doing so, you are directly responsible for putting Veterans to work.  Call us today for a free quote.