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Texas winter storm and extreme weather lead city to build cyber resilience into workflow

Town of Northlake

Northlake, TX

After Winter Storm Uri prevented the growing town of Northlake, TX, from accessing its onsite servers and providing key services, including employee payroll, town leadership decided to build resilience into its workflow via cloud-managed systems. This eliminated dependency on onsite servers to do essential work.

Topics Covered

Open Data
Transparency
Energy Disruptions
Cybersecurity & Communications
Process Improvement

Funding

General Fund/Existing Public Funds

Project Status

Operational since 2021

Gov Champion

Finance Director

Problem Addressed

The town of Northlake wanted to upgrade its ERP after the inability to access onsite servers during Winter Storm Uri halted town operations.

The city of Northlake is growing, with the population doubling roughly every two to three years.

Despite the rapid evolution of the town, their processes were stuck in time. Onsite servers hosted the Town’s website and all information needed to provide essential services was accessed through physical telecommunication lines. That means work could only be done in one place: the office.

In February 2021, Winter Storm Uri swept through Texas, bringing freezing temperatures and snowstorms to Northlake. Because accessing the servers required being onsite, town operations came to a halt for two days. Work could not be performed remotely and town staff was unable to update the website or put an away message on the phone service. To make matters worse, the first day of the ice storm coincided with the day the town performed payroll. Because performing payroll was was an essential service, police officers were sent to the utility billing clerk’s home to accompany her to the office so she could access the necessary systems.

The ice storm proved to be a turning point for the town in taking action to modernize its financial systems.

John Zagurski, Northlake’s Finance Director, said “When we got the budget cycle, I said ‘we have to get on a cloud ERP’ because if we can’t run payroll during an ice storm or when someone gets sick, if we can’t pay our employees, people aren’t going to show up to work.”

Solutions Used

Switching to a cloud-based financial system enabled Northlake to reflect on how it currently provides services for residents and plan to improve how those services are delivered in the future.

Using tools from OpenGov for budgeting, managing financials, and a public transparency portal, Northlake now has the capability to perform the necessary financial functions that keep the town running from any location. Staff are no longer dependent on the health of physical telecommunication lines or being in the office to be able to continue performing their jobs. Core accounting processes including accounts, payable, general ledger, and payroll are available to all team members with internet access and can continue uninterrupted during storms, server outages, physical building damage, or unforeseen events. Plus, their systems are much more secure from cyber attacks.

Along with building resilience into its workflows through cloud-managed platforms, Northlake invested in improving its accountability and transparency with residents. Using the Reporting & Transparency Platform, town staff can better understand organizational performance as well as communicate clearly with stakeholders around community growth. Through Northlake’s Financial Transparency Portal, residents are able to view visualizations of business growth in the town and stay informed of the town’s financial well-being.

Outcomes

1

Northlake’s transition to cloud-based financial systems eliminated town staff dependency on onsite servers

2

Town residents are informed of Northlake’s financial well-being and growth via a publicly accessible website

3

Northlake staff have new tools to gauge organizational performance and improve processes

4

The system upgrade led the town’s leadership to look for ways to innovate other services it offers residents

Who Should Consider

Growing towns or cities whose key systems and processes limit staff from performing necessary services off-site for employees and residents.

Last Updated

Mar 25th, 2022

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