BC Assessment upgrades property information tools

A provincial Crown corporation in British Columbia is using business intelligence tools to provide public sector workers with a wider range of property assessment information.

British Columbia Assessment has worked with

Cognos, an Ottawa, Ont.-based provider of business intelligence and corporate management solutions, to implement Assessment LinkBC, which provides real-time access to property information via Web browsers. Assessment LinkBC, powered by the Cognos Enterprise Business Intelligence Series, allows users to analyze trends — whether by municipality or by neighborhood — in property types and values.

“”We’re using a few of their products,”” said Darlene Smith, consultant and data mart specialist at BC Assessment. “”We’re using a product called PowerPlay, and the purpose of that is to give . . . statistical data for properties in the province. We’re also using something called Impromptu Web Reports, which allows us to do your more standard-type reporting.””

BC Assessment is currently replacing that product set with Cognos’ ReportNet, which allows users to create, modify and distribute invoices, statements, weekly sales documents and other types of reports. Smith said that the online resource — currently only available to authorized users with a government user ID — will allow the corporation to make documents accessible over the Web, thereby cutting down on paper costs.

According to an official at Cognos, extranets are playing an increasingly important role in determining how governments disseminate information to employees and to the public.

“”Today extranets are truly becoming just part and parcel of the way we do business,”” said Michael Branchaud, director of global marketing campaigns at Cognos. He stressed that security, ease of use and scalability concerns are market drivers. “”It’s interesting how governments have been a leader in embracing this. What we’re finding is business intelligence is a natural (way) to extend the self-service ability to access information.””

Branchaud added that entities in the public sector, as well as those in the financial services, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, insurance and retail industries, are starting to take a more holistic approach to managing and delivering information from all of their disparate data sources.

“”You can imagine offering up business intelligence access to broad constituencies and having those individuals become frustrated with the fact that the solution is slow — perhaps it’s just not performing in a way that meets their requirements,”” he said. “”So you need to be able to deliver a solution that’s available 24-7. It needs to be able to deliver content in a zero-footprint environment.””

The extranets Cognos provides give governments the tools needed to enhance their e-government portals with data from their own databases, according to Branchaud, and end users are then able to access a wider range of data.

That the public sector should be drawn to business intelligence extranets should come as no surprise, said Roberta Fox, president and senior partner at Fox Group Consulting in Markham, Ont. For one thing, employees are pushing for greater access to the resources they need.

“”The challenge of migrating the legacy government information databases to be usable by the public securely and safely is lengthy and expensive,”” said Fox. “”Government employees are very comfortable using Web-based, browser-based tools. So I think this is a way to have more government employees use information in an easy to use format…All of the government clients that we have are definitely wanting to have more information pushed out to more employees.””

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