By Donald E. Ashe
Hampden County, Mass., is home to the city of Springfield—the third largest city in the state. The county was formed in 1812, but our roots go back to 1636, when Springfield was founded by English colonist William Pynchon.
The combination of our urban present and our historic past provides an interesting challenge for us at the Registry of Deeds. In addition to storing deeds, affidavits and other documents generated by Hampden’s businesses and citizens, our registry also houses historic documents that authors, academics and genealogists access for various research projects.
This means that we need to give users the ability to access these disparate forms in a cohesive manner, regardless of the format. It’s also important that our document management strategy provide the flexibility to incorporate new types of documents.
When I first became register in 1983, we processed approximately 30 different kinds of documents. Today, that number is closer to 175, and we expect it to continue to grow.
Hampden County has always prided itself as being a technology innovator. We first implemented document-viewing technology in 1998 to improve document access for employees and users. Since then we have continued to improve our system.
However, when we modernized many existing systems in late 2012, our document-viewing capabilities were negatively affected, and we began receiving complaints from our users that the process had become extremely slow. To address this issue, we researched a more modern document-viewing solution and ultimately chose to implement an HTML5, browser-based viewer from Snowbound Software.
Among the benefits of this solution is its “zero footprint”—meaning that it requires no downloads or plug-ins to let users view and manipulate documents. This is a big benefit for our mobile users—including police officers, lawyers and real estate agents—because it enables them to access content from their smartphone or tablet platform of choice.
It’s also an important component for the individuals who use our system for historical research purposes. Because many of these people are located abroad, eliminating the need for any downloads or software upgrades ensures that they are able to interact with our system much more efficiently.
The actual installation of our Snowbound solution was extremely quick, taking less than 30 minutes from start to finish. Once implemented, we noticed a significant improvement in document clarity and processing: I estimate that we’re now seeing 50 percent faster load times than we had with our previous technology.
In addition to giving users access to a variety of documents via their platform of choice, our document viewer also enables them to manipulate the content directly from the respective devices for their individual needs. For example, the viewer allows users to invert and zoom for enhanced clarity, initiate a print job, or convert and export documents as PDF or TIFF files.
Our enhanced document management strategy also facilitates real-time communication between our Springfield headquarters and our sub-office in Westfield, approximately 10 miles away. As soon as a form is recorded at the Westfield location, it populates automatically into our document viewer. This instant communication ensures that our users are making decisions based on the most accurate, up-to-date information available, and that makes our entire operation more efficient as a result.
The response we’ve received since our implementation underscores that our users are happy with the technology. Complaints about our system’s slow processing time have been replaced with positive feedback about the new viewer’s speed and improved document clarity.
As the world grows increasingly mobile, I expect Snowbound’s device-agnostic capabilities to be particularly beneficial to our users. I look forward to helping them meet these and other future document-viewing challenges, while continuing Hampden County’s tradition of technology innovation.
Donald E. Ashe is register of Hampden County, Mass.