Walton County Improves Accessibility of Permit System with BCD PHP and Portal Tools
Originally published in MCPress Online by BCD
County IT director in Florida scores hit with agencies by quickly deploying new PHP applications.
Business Computer Design today announced that the local governing body for the northern-most part of Florida's gulf coast in DeFuniak Springs recently acquired software licenses for WebSmart PHP and Nexus Portal. With these tools, it developed a Web-based permitting system on its IBM i server, a system that county employees now can access online. Even officers patrolling Walton County beaches can access it from their wireless laptops in police cruisers.
Prior to the new applications, Walton County's permitting process was under scrutiny. Information penciled in by permit applicants was manually transferred from a paper form to green screen by a courthouse employee. The consensus was that law enforcement access to active permits was more challenging than it needed to be. An officer who wanted to check the validity of a permit had to call the courthouse and ask a clerk to verify it.
A Cost-Effective Solution
WebSmart PHP coupled with Nexus Portal emerged as a cost-effective solution, according to Alex Alford, Walton County information technology director. "I was surprised at how inexpensive it was," says Alford. "Apart from the fact that it would really speed up the development process, the price was one of the things that pushed me past the tipping point." The license fee was only $4,250; BCD then provided Alford with a license for Nexus Portal, a solution that offers a secure menu system to control access to the PHP applications for the cost of annual maintenance. Since WebSmart PHP generates PHP, Alford didn't need to acquire a runtime server license.
As Alford began creating his permitting application, he found that due to an earlier introduction to PHP, he became productive within an hour of installing the solution. WebSmart PHP's templates and wizards almost instantly generated all of the HTML and base PHP code, he says. By answering prompts for DB2 database and customer master file information and others for how he wanted files joined, he says he flew through the process. Alford started with a maintenance template that he created within moments of the time he started to use the tool.
He then hit a control called "Finish," and WebSmart generated all of the HTML, the style sheet, and the PHP code. Upon selecting the "Generate" control, WebSmart FTP'd the PHP file, which includes the HTML, to his system's IFS. The whole process took less than five minutes, and he now had a functioning PHP program.
Changes and modifications to the permitting ordinance occur frequently, says Alford. "Changing the system to reflect updates to the ordinance is much easier in PHP," he adds.
Access Web Applications Within a Secure Framework
Walton County's Web applications are accessed through BCD's Nexus Portal, an IBM i hosted Web portal. Nexus provides a secure framework and menu system to control access to the Web applications created with WebSmart PHP, and facilitates secured access to other applications, documents, dashboards, and user tools.
"Our employees first log into Nexus from our intranet. Based on authorities already established within IBM i, they can gain quick access to the information they are looking for," says Alford. "When a tax collector uses the portal, he or she gets what they're after and nothing more. The same is true for the workers who issue permits, the employees who enforce them, and so on. Users really love the fact that they can access the system with their IBM i user ID and password. Absolutely no one wants to memorize another password."
Sometimes users see application modernization only in the larger context of Web enabling every green-screen application in the enterprise, according to BDC. However, in many instances, including Walton County, what drives modernization is not a sea change or seismic shift in thinking. The fact is that many of Walton County's applications still have green-screen interfaces that still meet the needs of their users.
Alford concedes he probably still would be working on the permitting system and portal had he developed them from scratch in PHP. "Coding a secure menu system takes a long time," he says. "This is working out much better for us. If I need to roll out changes, I can create them very quickly."
Alford has received lots of feedback since introducing the permit systems. "Users now enjoy the benefit of the centralized menu system, including easy single-point access to all of the applications that are central to their job. They can access current information instantly and see all of the county's important events right there on the Portal," he says.
New Development Projects
The applications produced at Walton County have opened the door to other applications, many completed, and some in development. Alford will soon create an app that takes full advantage of the chart and graphing capabilities in WebSmart PHP by producing a dashboard so court officers can monitor progress on performance metrics. "They'll be able to see how well they're working against their quarterly goals in real-time and issue appropriate grades for performance," says Alford.
All of Walton County's constitutional offices--the courts, tax assessor, appraiser, sheriff, and others-- access applications that run on an IBM Power 520, 8204-E4A. Apart from their Sungard financials, this system serves many apps that are specific to each office, while others reside on UNIX and Windows servers.
For more information or a demonstration of WebSmart PHP or Nexus Portal, call BCD at 630.986.0800 or write to email@example.com.