Thursday, May 29, 2008

Business Plan for Norco Civil Division

Strategic Plan Paper
Darcel Gibson
University of Phoenix
MBA/580 – Strategies for Competitive Advantage
May 19, 2008


With trends, consumers want everything available at their fingertips. For example, the consumer pay the bills, check banking, order food and other products on the Internet. Suppliers are affected by trends because if consumers do not purchase their products then the suppliers are faced with an excess amount of goods.

Companies are faced with creating short-term strategies to lure in customers. For example, technology is a basis for many companies. Companies are always looking for ways to please the customer so the company will invest in high speed hardware and software along with creating new ideas to reach an unchartered market. New technology is being invented and in the next five to 10 years, consumers will be able to access everything from home. Many companies will have to downsize because they would need a handful of employees to fill orders; deal with customer care and monitor the computer system to make sure everything is in working order.
A project team must be able to address the issues that the company is faced with. The one strategy that a company could use is strategic thinking. Strategic thinking focuses on finding and developing unique opportunities to create value by enabling a provocative and creative dialogue among people who can affect a company’s direction (What is Strategic Thinking, 2001). Northampton County will have to research companies that have gone through similar issues and how the companies have overcome the situations. For example, the arrival of a global marketplace, information technology and intense competition caused many companies to reevaluate middle management activities to determine just what value was truly being added to the company's products and services (Pearce & Robinson, 2004). The Administrative Office would have to think of some action plans that could help the department.

Company Background

On February 17, 1764, the Assembly initiated an act authorizing trustees to commence construction of the first Northampton County Courthouse which was opened in 1766 and George Taylor (one of the signers for the Declaration of Independence) was one of the trustees that was in charge of the construction (History of the Courthouse, 2007).

The first courthouse was fashioned after the Carpenter’s Hall in Philadelphia and was located in the center of Public Square in Easton. Two years later, the bell cast was placed in the cupola of the courthouse so that the public could be notified of the events. The courthouse had many events, including a group of petitioners that wanted the courthouse to be moved to another location. On August 23, 1860, the County Commissioners accepted an offer of land at $1 that was west of the original courthouse and the structure was built on top of a steep hill for $53,000 (History of the Courthouse, 2007). On June 18, 1861, the first court session was held.
The courthouse has added two additional wings because of the population growth and to satisfy the judicial needs.

In 1978, various offices, such as, the Clerk of Criminal Courts and Clerk of Civil Courts, moved to the newly constructed administrative building to help improve efficiency.

The County Executive is responsible for overseeing county operations that serve the residents and municipalities of Northampton County, and oversees the departments of Administration, Community and Economic Development, Corrections, Court Services, Fiscal Affairs, Human Resources Department, Human Services, and Public Works, and the offices of the Coroner, Public Defender, Sheriff, and Solicitor (Gateway to Government, 2008) and has a four year term.

The courthouse does not have stakeholders, but the public plays a big part in the elections. The executive shows the employees leadership and have the employees share in the same vision. If the County Executive does not work out, the public will vote the party out so that a new replacement could take over the position.

The clerk of courts – civil is also known as the prothonotary’s office. The primary function of the office is to docket and file all legal documents pertaining to civil complaints, civil lawsuits, equity actions, mortgage foreclosure actions and indexing of judgments as well as federal and commonwealth tax liens (Department of Court Services, 2008). The other functions that the office deals with are: processing passport applications; issuing writs of executions for mortgage foreclosure in real estate and personal property; assist in the processing of naturalizations twice a year; and court minutes, such as, commitments from mental health; articles of incorporations; naturalizations, awards of ownerships; legal name changes and swearing in ceremonies. The clerk of courts - civil has another office called the protection from abuse that deals with domestic violence matters. That office assists the victims with filing the paperwork; getting victims before a judge to get a temporary abuse order and later, a final abuse order.

The office consists of clerk of courts – civil/prothonotary, five deputy prothonotaries that have the authority to sign documents on behalf of the prothonotary and assist in supervising the office, six clerks who process civil matters, two clerks who process protection from abuse cases and a file clerk (Department of Court Services, 2008).

Value Statement

The Civil Division has been faced with creating a webpage where consumers could review the Sheriff’s Sales. Title abstracts companies and law firms have been pressuring the county to come up with a solution for them to review information on houses on the Sheriff’s Sale lists. Things are being worked out, but the project will be up and running in a few months.

The current problem is that three employees left their positions creating additional stress for other employees. The jobs will have to stay open until 30 days because of union rules and if the employee needs more time, they get an additional 30 days added before they have to give a definite answer about not coming back to the Civil Division.

The problem that the department is facing is that the Northampton County Civil Division does not offer online services for the public.

Vision Statement

The Civil Division will enter into the competitive market with the other courthouses so that the department will be able to increase its revenues by 60% within in the next five years.
The department will offer online services to the public. With implementing the new technology, the Civil Division’s software package will have firewall protection so that viruses will not attack the system nor will hackers have accessibility to the software.

The department will improve the work environment for the employees through training sessions and raising employee wages that would include the cost of living.

Mission Statement

Northampton County Courthouse’s mission statement is to plan, implement, and direct a comprehensive Personnel Management System for all County Employees (Human Resources, 2008). The definition of the mission statement is that a plan is implemented guide each department to achieving the goals set forth for the courthouse, each employee should implement a form of professional conduct towards the public and management should guide each employee about the rules and regulations of the company. The mission statement not only identifies what product or service a company produces, how it produces it, and what market it serves, it also embodies what the company believes (Pearce & Robinson, 2004).

When creating a new strategy, the strategic management process should be reviewed. First, the mission statement should be restructured if the company makes changes to the values. Second, an internal analysis should be done so that the company can assess the strengths and weaknesses of the company's management and organizational structure (Pearce & Robinson, 2004). The company could focus on future capabilities. Third, the external environment could have an effect on the competitive situation and the strategic plan. Fourth, the policies that empower action. Fifth, action plans and short-term objectives. Six, the long-term objectives should be implemented in the mission statement. The county would have to review the mission statement to see if changes have to be made.

Environmental Analysis

The Northampton County Civil Division must examine the internal and external environments because the two play an important part when implementing short- and long-term objectives.

Internal Environment

The remote environment comprises factors that originate beyond and usually irrespective of, any single firm's operating situation: (1) economic, (2) social, (3) political, (4) technological, and (5) ecological factors (Pearce & Robinson, 2004). A company will research the factors for opportunities, threats or weaknesses that would influence on a company’s decisions for the company. For example, the trade agreements that resulted from improved relations between the United States and China and the United States and Russia are examples of political factors that impact individual firms (Pearce & Robinson, 2004).

Social and Cultural Factors

One of the social changes that society has been facing is an increase in female employees in the labor market. This has not only affected the hiring and compensation policies and the resource capabilities of their employers; it has also created or greatly expanded the demand for a wide range of products and services necessitated by their absence from the home (Pearce & Robinson, 2004). Firms who act quickly to the change will offer child care services, microwave ovens, fast food restaurants and microwavable foods. A second profound social change has been the accelerating interest of consumers and employees in quality-of-life issues (Pearce & Robinson, 2004). At Northampton County Courthouse, the number of women hired has increased in recent years as well as the number of employees who are retiring and some of the retired employees come back to work because the pensions are not enough to get by. According to Pearce & Robinson (2004), evidence of this change is seen in recent contract negotiations. In addition to the traditional demand for increased salaries, worker demands such benefits as sabbaticals, flexible hours or four-day workweeks, lump-sum vacation plans, and opportunities for advanced training. Northampton County Courthouse employees have voted in a union because the employees want pay increases because the pay hand not increased in the last three years and the treatment of the employees was getting abusive at the workplace. The employees needed a neutral party to help with the employment issues, bring in opportunities to allow seniority to play a factor in promotions on the job, and training sessions for employees to improve behavior on the job. When the contract was negotiated, the employees received pay increases, more added time for vacation hours, and other demands. Some employment issues are being discussed in the contract, such as, a disciplinary board that oversees the complaints from employees (neutral parties are evaluating the situation and rendering a decision in the matter). Cutting across these issues is concern for individual health (Pearce & Robinson, 2004). Northampton County Courthouse changed insurance carriers because the company believed that employees would benefit with the new changes.

Political Factors

Political factors define the legal and regulatory parameters within which firms must operate. Political constraints are placed on firms through fair-trade decisions, antitrust laws, tax programs, minimum wage legislation, pollution and pricing policies, administrative jawboning, and many other actions aimed at protecting employees, consumers, the public environment (Pearce & Robinson, 2004). At Northampton County Courthouse, all employees have to follow the rules and regulations of the employment laws because the employer would have to pay for the consequences of the employees’ actions. The county has established policies that the employees have to follow in the company handbook. Employees can be given a verbal warning as well as a written warning. In recent years, some employees and some of the prisoners have filed lawsuits against the county because their rights have been violated and no one was listening to the problems that the individuals were having with the other employees. Human Resources have been lacking education in some areas of harassment on the job because some of the employees are not aware of the federal and state laws pertaining to employment. The county has started some training classes that involve communication, ethics, customer service, and leadership so that employees could be trained to prevent future problems.

Political activity also has a significant impact on two governmental functions that influence the remote environment of firms: the supplier function and the customer function (Pearce & Robinson, 2004). The supplier function occurs when the government decision affects the strategies of a company. For example, the County Executive’s decisions affects how business is done at the county. If prices are raised on the different filings in various departments, lawyers have to increase the fees with clients and the consumer will have to find a way to pay for the increased costs. The customer function occurs when the government demand for products and services can create, sustain, enhance, or eliminate many market opportunities (Pearce & Robinson, 2004). For example, the County Executive wanted employees to get an increase in pay, but wanted employees to keep out the union. HR wanted health and wellness addressed.

Technological Factor

A technological breakthrough can have a sudden and dramatic effect on a firm's environment. It may spawn sophisticated new markets and products or significantly shorten the anticipated life of a manufacturing facility (Pearce & Robinson, 2004).

Technology is a big factor at the Northampton County Courthouse because the county uses a computer system for daily activities. The computer system keeps a daily record of all activities within the courthouse. At the Civil Division (also known as the Prothonotary’s Office and Clerk of Courts – Civil), the public can come into the office to access any file that is not sealed by the courts. Thus, all firms, and most particularly those in turbulent growth industries, must strive for an understanding both of the existing technological advances and the probable future advances that can affect their products and services (Pearce & Robinson, 2004).

The Civil Division employees use the computer systems to make daily entries of filings and have access to email, but the employees cannot send civil documents to the public as attachments because the Civil Division does not have that kind of software package system like some of the other counties. For example, some counties offer civil documents on the Internet where the public can purchase civil docket entries and other civil document via credit card or Pay-Pal service along with filing electronic documents from attorneys and pro se individuals (individuals acting on their own behalf). The Civil Division will have to think of ways to please the public and to compete with the other counties with an upgraded computer software system.

If the Civil Division wants to make any upgrades on the computer software, the Prothonotary would have to meet with the County Executive, the Controller, the County Solicitor, and the Director of the Information Department to discuss the upgrades. Once approved, the Director and staff of the Information Technology Department will create a software package that will allow the feature available for the public, but will have to create firewall protection and other means of protection so that no one can plant viruses on the county’s computer system.

Demographic Factors

The demographic factors involve the relationship between business and ecology. Specific concerns include global warming, loss of habitat and biodiversity, well as air, water, and land pollution along with the threats to our life-supporting ecology caused principally by human activities in an industrial society are commonly referred to as pollution (Pearce & Robinson, 2004). For example, some law firms file lawsuits that concern asbestos cases with the Northampton County Civil Division because some of the big companies in the Lehigh Valley have had their employees working in buildings that contained a high concentrate of asbestos and after so many years, employees were diagnosed with different kinds of cancers and other health related problems. The Civil Division has one clerk that handles the filings for the asbestos where they are posted on Lexus Nexus plus that clerk has to go into court for the swearing of the jury and reading the verdicts for the asbestos cases. The courthouse has one judge that is assigned to hear the asbestos cases along with a court appointed attorney that argues the cases in the courts.

External Environment

A trend is nothing but the general direction of the price of an asset or market in general and can be apply to equities, bonds, commodities and any other market which is characterized by a long-term movement in price or volume (Trade Trending, n.d.).

A force is an interaction between two objects and their environment. For example, an environment relies on five forces to create a strategic agenda in a competitive market. The five forces are:

The threat of entry. New entrants enter into the industry bringing a desire to gain market share, new capacity, and substantial resources to shake-up the other markets to begin leverage in the industry (Pearce & Robinson, 2004).

The bargaining power of customers. Customers will have competitors in the industry against on another because of the demand for different products or services in the market forcing a price reduction. Consumers tend to be more prices sensitive if the consumers are purchasing products that are undifferentiated, expensive relative to the incomes and of a sort where quality is not particularly important (Pearce & Robinson, 2004).

The bargaining power of suppliers. Suppliers can squeeze the profitability out of an industry unable to recover cost increases in its own price (Pearce & Robinson, 2004). Suppliers will either raise the prices or reduce the prices of the product or service, but other industries are affected by the changes causing erosion in that particular industry. For example, bottling companies are in competition with powdered mix, fruit juices, and other beverage companies.

The threat of substitute products or services. Substitute products that deserve the most attention strategically are those that (a) are subject to trends improving their price-performance trade-off with the industry's product or (b) are produced by industries earning high profits and could rapidly into play if some development increases competition in their industries and causes price reduction or performance improvement (Pearce & Robinson, 2004).

Jockeying among current contestants. Rivalries amongst competitors in the market take a form of jockeying. The companies will use tactics, such as, introduction of a new product, advertisements that degrade the competition or competition with prices.

With the collective strengths of the five forces, the ultimate profit potential depends on the industry (Pearce & Robinson, 2004). For example, the tire and metal can industries will not have a spectacular return on investments, but the soft drink and toiletries industries will have high returns on investments.

Long-Term Objectives

The Civil Division’s strategic plan could be implemented, but the department would follow six strategic long-term objectives so that the Civil Division could enter into the competitive market. The objectives are: invest in upgrading the technology; offer online services to the public; hire additional employees to help with the increase of filings; re-train employees and hold stress management classes; downsize some of the job positions and raise employee wages so it includes the cost of living.

With a limited income, consumers are living paycheck to paycheck and cannot afford to pay the mortgage. Mortgage companies will be filing more complaints in foreclosures. The filings will increase to about 60% at the Civil Division in the next 10 years. The situation would cause employees to become overworked; absenteeism would increase; conflicts will increase amongst the employees and the office would be understaffed. The Civil Division will need to hire more employees. The department would need 12 additional employees (six to help with the Sheriff’s Sales and six to input the increased paperwork) plus the county will have to increase employee wages. If an increase of unemployment occurs in the next five to 10 years, domestic violence and divorce filings would increase. Some consumers will become frustrated and angry causing more domestic violence cases to be filed with the PFA (Protection From Abuse) office. The PFA office will need to hire more employees because the office would be understaffed; an increase in absenteeism; overworked and would cause conflicts amongst the employees. The opportunity would be to hire seven employees in the next 10 years.

The department will have to invest in upgrading technology and hire tech support operate the online services. With the Civil Division implementing new technology, marketability would increase in the competitive legal market and increasing revenue by 60% in the next five years. The department would not need as employees working in the department because most of the new complaints will be processed via the Internet. The department needs two deputies (one handles mortgage foreclosures and the other handles the PFA department), five employees and a file clerk who will handle walk-in filings, mail; run receipts; file requests and mail. The county could train an assistant Director of IT to oversee and implement all managerial functions f or the Civil Division, train one IT specialist that will be trained to handle the job functions of the three civil deputies, and train eight IT technicians to do the civil functions of the department (the IT staff members would be replacing the prothonotary, three deputies, and seven employees). The change in positions would cut down on costs for hiring additional employees; increase the employees’ wages; decrease employee complaint and decrease unethical behavior from its employees causing an unhealthy work environment.

The department will enter into the competitive market in the legal system, offer ongoing training for the employees with stress management classes and raise employee wages so it includes the cost of living.

Strategic Analysis and Choice

Northampton County could research other courthouses, such as, Lehigh County and Montgomery County. The other company that could be researched is Delta Air Lines because the company had a great deal of issues dealing with situations, such as, downsizing, mergers, supplier diversity programs, Chapter 13 bankruptcy and the company figured out a way overcome the situations.

Companies

Lehigh County

Lehigh County’s Clerk of Courts Office, consists of the civil division, criminal division, Recorder of Deeds, and Recorder of Wills. The office is responsible for the complete, accurate filing and maintenance of original records for the Lehigh County court system (Clerk of Courts, 2008). The first strategy for Lehigh County was downsizing one of the supervisory positions so courts combined the two offices together so that one supervisor running one office so that money would be saved. Downsizing is eliminating the number of employees, particularly middle management, in a company. The second strategy that the courts used was allowing the public to access public records via the Internet. The software that is used is called Odyssey Public Access. For example, the public could go on the site and receive a tutorial on how to set up a subscription, a username, and a password. The new release of Odyssey's public access site is now certified to work with Internet Explorer version 7 as well as continuing to work with IE version 6, but Odyssey public access is not certified to work with browsers other than Internet Explorer (Odyssey Public Access, 2008). The third strategy was that the Clerk of Judicial Records position is an elected position. The clerk has a term of four years. This strategy allows the office to receive new ideas from a fresh face and offices problems are limited because each elected clerk has ways of doing things.

Northampton County could have the Prothonotary’s position for the Civil Division an elected one. The term would run every four years where the department. The department would get a fresh face with new action plans that could be developed to focus on upgrading technology for the office and considering downsizing some of the positions by combining different departments.
The idea would eliminate some of the issues and concerns in the office so that the Northampton County Civil Division could enter the competitive market with the other county courthouses in Pennsylvania.

Montgomery County

The Prothonotary is the elected civil clerk of the Court of Common Pleas and is responsible for recording all civil procedures before the court (Prothonotary’s Office, 2008). The courts came with a strategy to enter into the competitive market by creating a pilot program for electronic filings for court documents. The pilot program will be open to all Pennsylvania attorneys [current e-filing initiative is designed to handle all permitted civil filings in the Montgomery County Civil Courts starting with initiation of suit by a Summons or a Complaint-Civil Action. Initially, the system is permissive, not mandatory. (E-filing with Montgomery County, 2008)]. E-filing will allow legal documents with exhibits and attachments to be filed on the county’s website. The legal documents will not have to be delivered through the mail nor hand-delivery service. The process will cut down litigation costs and time. If attorneys wanted to file other paperwork that involved pleadings, the pleadings could still be delivered by mail or hand delivery service at the Court House in Norristown.

Northampton County Civil Division could create a website that attorneys could file e-filings so that the courts could cut down of litigation costs and time. The office could create a strategy with the information technology systems to create software that would help them enter into the competitive market with the other counties. The Net will allow the global enterprise with different functions, offices, and activities dispersed around the world to be seamlessly connected so that far-flung customers, employees, and suppliers can work together in real time (Pearce & Robinson, 2004).

Delta Air Lines

In the 21st century, the company dedicated to Supplier Diversity Managers who help coordinate certification, introduction, and ongoing performance measurement process for the small, minority-, and women-owned businesses because Delta wants to assure the highest quality products and services for managers to maintain continuous dialog with the buyers and this provides Delta with the necessary criteria for determining the most qualified diverse suppliers (Supplier Process Overview, 2007). The company has a four step process of: reviewing certified business, identifying suppliers, matching supplier with opportunity, and measuring performance that helps Delta determine which companies will participate in the diverse supplier program.
Delta hired Neil Shah as the vice president. Shah was hired to helping the company focus on building a world-class cargo business that leverages the size and scope of Delta’s global network and helps create the company to be one of the world’s extensive air freight operations (Delta Appoints Vice President to Lead Cargo Division, 2007). President Ed Bastian believes that this will be an opportunity for Delta to create a new form of brand equity and cargo revenues.
Delta Air Lines offers more destinations than any other airlines in the global market and has more than 600 weekly routes to 58 destinations. Delta carefully planned the company’s supply chain strategy [is the idea that applies to a total systems approach to managing the entire flow of information, materials, and services from raw materials suppliers through factories and warehouses to the end customer (Chase, et al., 2006)] to develop a plan to create a new form of revenue.

Northampton County Civil Division could research the ways of how outsourcing [the act of moving some of a firm's internal activities and decision responsibility to outside providers (Chase, et al., 2007)] and planning [for example: Long-range planning is generally done annually, focusing on a horizon greater than one year (Chase, et al., 2007)] that works for Delta. The Civil Division could examine how Delta selects companies that will benefit in the diverse supplier program through a four step process.

The Civil Division will need to examine alternative solutions that the department could help with employee satisfaction and update computer software that would satisfy the public.
The Controller would have to create a budget that would include any additional costs that may be incurred when implementing the projects.

Plan Goals and Implementation

The Civil Division will need to a project team that will benchmark other courthouses and corporation to create ideas to help the department to enter into the competitive market in the legal system along with offering different services to the public.

The Director of IT and staff will create the software for the upgraded technology along with will be installing new hardware, conduct tests to make sure the software is in working order, and create firewall protection on the software so that no viruses could get attached nor could hackers obtain access to the software.

The Controller would have to create a budget that would include any additional costs that may be incurred from the new projects and will have to re-evaluate the employees’ pay rate.
The Civil Division would need to be restructured so that the new technology would be acceptable by the employees as well as the public. The department would need on-going training sessions, such as, computer training, code of ethics, interpersonal skills training, stress management and managerial training. The county will have to hire an outside consulting firm that could help the Civil Division with restructuring. The outside consulting firm could examine the strengths and weaknesses of the department so that a training program could be implemented for the employees along with assisting the IT department with ideas concerning the computer upgrades. First, the outside consulting firm would examine the strengths of the Civil Division. The department does have its strengths that allow the Civil Division to be at its best.

The strengths are:
Each employee is trained to do a job.
The Prothonotary has four deputies that help her check each employee’s work.
Registers are counted daily. (This prevents employees from embezzling money). All checks and cash are put in locked bags each day with a deposit slip and sent up to the Tax Department to be re-checked and later sent to the bank.
Public is treated with care.

Second, the outside consulting firm will examine the weaknesses of the department. Unfortunately, the Civil Division’s weaknesses outweigh the strengths. The weaknesses are:
Poor management skills. (Prothonotary needs help dealing difficult employees).
Too many bosses. (A few employees believe that they answer to know no one and the Prothonotary listens to the solutions for the workplace).
Favoritism. For example, one to three people are being cross-trained on different job duties and others are trained to do three job functions.
Employees lack knowledge of the federal and state employment laws. For example, employees do not respect others.
Poor communication skills between management and employees.
No educational training classes for proper work ethics.
Increase in employee overturns. For example, three employees left the office in the Spring 2008 to pursue other jobs in different departments compared to two employees leaving in 2007.
More employees are dissatisfied with jobs.
Mission statement too vague for employees to understand.
Employees are disgusted with the union. For example, the union keeps everything a secret and does not hand out newspapers or meeting notes.
HR ignores the problems that are happening within the Civil Division.
The weaknesses are rising and if the problems are not fixed, the Civil Division will face more overturns; increase in absenteeism; conflicts amongst the employees; an increase in grievances and an increase in lawsuits filed in federal court. The result could be that the department gets closed down until the problems are resolved.

The Northampton County Civil Division has the opportunity to correct the weaknesses. First, re-training could be done for all the employees so that everyone is cross-trained on every job duty. This situation would eliminate the favoritism amongst the employees. Second, all employees will need to have pay increases so that they are not frustrated and take things out on other employees. Third, the county needs to have on-site stress management classes for the employees. The classes will help relieve daily stress from day-to-day functions on the job. Fourth, a disciplinary board could be created. The county could elect four individuals who oversee the conflicts, grievances and other issues that are going on in the Civil Division. Fifth, weekly or monthly meetings need to be created to open up communication lines between union, management and employees. Six, on-site training classes (involving work ethics, the federal and state employees, and business etiquette) should be on-going.

The other alternative that the department could implement is downsizing. The department would not need as many employees in the Civil Division because most of the new complaints and filings would be sent via the Internet. The department would only need two deputies (one handles mortgage foreclosures and the other handles the PFA department), five employees and the file clerk that would take in any filings over the counter; run receipts; handle file requests and handle mail requests. The county could replace the prothonotary, three deputies, and seven employees. The county could just have an IT department that handles all civil matters where eight IT technicians, one IT specialist (handles the three civil deputies’ job duties) and an assistant Director of IT (handles the prothonotary’s job duties) to be trained on all aspects of the civil functions. The changes would cut down on costs for hiring additional employees where the county could increase employee wages and the department would not have to deal with poor management issues or unethical behavior from its employees causing an unhealthy work environment. Employee complaints would be reduced by 80%.

Critical Success Factors

The first factor that influence the Civil Division that the County Executive because they are elected every four years and they bring new strategies to be implemented for that term. The executive will deal with new ideas; new projects; and cleaning up any problems that the last County Executive might have left unfinished.

A second factor that would impact decisions in the Northampton County Civil Division is the rise in prices in the economy. Many consumers are feeling the crunch. In the next five to 10 years, the situation is going to get worse. Consumers will be limited in purchasing products or pay the bills. The situation cause more civil actions to be filed at the county.

The third factor would be downsizing. Companies are becoming more advanced in technology and need fewer employees; some have merged with others and some have gone out of business because of the increased costs.

The fourth factor that would impact the decisions of implementing the new technology in the Civil Division is the appointed judges. Some of the judges may disagree with having civil filings accessible through the Internet because they do not like to use the equipment so the project leader would have to meet with all the appointed judges to discuss the importance of moving into a more competitive market and how some changes will affect their offices, but they could chose to hire an IT staff member to help with adjusting to the changes and to teach the judges and their staff members the new computer system for the Civil Division.

Financial Projections and Analysis

The Northampton County Civil Division has one of the lowest rates for no-fault divorces. The county charges $132. Attorneys have been filing divorce cases with the county so that the costs are reduced for the clients and profits are increased at their firms. The competitors are: Cameron and Potter counties because they try to increase revenue by offering no-fault divorces at a cheap, convenient rate.

The other situation is technology. Some counties offer docket printouts and scanned copies of files online to the consumer. Law firms and title abstract companies do not have to leave the office or home to receive a copy of public file. The Civil Division would have to invest in high speed software and hardware that would prevent viruses or spyware or hackers from getting into the computer system so that the department could compete with other counties. The fees for the civil filing will have to be adjusted because the department would have to put additional fees for printouts from the Internet site. The fees will have to keep increasing each year by 5%.

The Civil Division could increase the fees for filings, inquiries, and requested if the county offers online services. For example:
Fees for new complaints filed on the Internet would be $200.
Fees for divorce complaints filed on the Internet would be $350 and up (depending on the additional counts).
Fees for child custody complaints would be $300.
Requests for complete files sent via as an attachment by email would be $20 and up (depending on the files).
Requests for docket entries sent via as an attachment by email would be $3 for the first page and $1 for each any additional page.
Requests for divorce decrees sent via as an attachment by email would be $3 for an uncertified copy and $15 for a certified copy.
Requests for certain file request sent via as an attachment by email would be $5 for the first page and $1 each for any additional page.

The Civil Division will have to upgrade the payment system for all filings, inquiries, and requests from the website. The department would have to offer a pay pal system (the system would include debit card access, check card access, credit card and check by phone access). The pay pal system would help the department keep track of all payments.

The costs for the new equipment and software would be $40 million. The costs would include having all the county departments upgraded so that they will be able to be converted to Internet accessibility along with ongoing training computer classes, stress management classes, managerial training, and different employee training programs. The upkeep of the equipment would be less costly and more efficient.

Downsizing some of the job positions in the Civil Division would have a positive effect on the department. For example, the department would have a decrease in employee complaints; decrease in absenteeism; decrease in the employees’ unethical behavior and an increase in a healthy work environment.

With the necessary changes, the Northampton County Civil Division would be able to offer online services and compete in a competitive market in the legal system along with creating a health work environment for the employees.

Controls and Procedures

The County Executive is responsible for overseeing county operations that serve the residents and municipalities of Northampton County, and oversees the departments of Administration, Community and Economic Development, Corrections, Court Services, Fiscal Affairs, Human Resources Department, Human Services, and Public Works, and the offices of the Coroner, Public Defender, Sheriff, and Solicitor (Gateway to Government, 2008). A County Executive is elected every four years and a new strategy is implemented for that person’s term. The executive will deal with new ideas; new projects and cleaning up any problems that the last County Executive might have left unfinished. Each employee will be observing to see if the executive will tend to the needs of the employees. Some employees may not like the new strategic plan that the County Executive may bring and the employees struggle with the changes.

The courthouse does not have stakeholders, but the public plays a big part in the elections. The executive shows the employees leadership and have the employees share in the same vision. The organizational culture is similar to an individual’s personality. For example, that personality influences the behavior of an individual, the shared assumptions (beliefs and values) among a firm's members influence opinions and actions within that firm (Pearce & Robinson, 2004). If the County Executive does not work out, the public will vote the party out so that a new replacement could take over the position.

If the changes are to be made in the Civil Division, the prothonotary must meet with the Controller, the Director of Information Technology Department and the County Executive to get approval.

The Controller is the individual who will create the budget for any projects that the Civil Division would like to do.

The Director of IT will create the software for the upgraded technology along with the staff who will be installing new hardware in the IT department and the Civil Division. The Director and staff will conduct tests to make sure software is in working order.

The County Executive, HR, County Solicitors and Controller would have to restructure the Civil Division and create an organizational structure and chart to show the changes, such as, technology and downsizing. The County Executive would have to downsize the Civil Division if the department offers online services because there would be an excessive amount of employees. The department will only need two deputies (one handles mortgages foreclosures and the other handles the PFA department), five employees and a file clerk to work the counter, data entry, run receipts and retrieve files. An IT support team could run all civil functions and online services where an assistant Director of IT (will handle the prothonotary’s job duties), one IT specialist (will handle three civil deputies’ duties) and seven IT technicians could be trained to run the civil functions of the department.

References

Chase, R. B., Jacobs, F. R. & Aquilano, N. J. (2006). Operations Management for Competitive
Advantage, 11th Edition. New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies.
Clerk of Courts. (2008). Retrieved May 5, 2008, from
http://www.lehighcounty.org/Elect/electbody.cfm?doc=elect_clerk.htm
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http://www.delta.com/about_delta/corporate_information/index.jsp
Delta Appoints Vice President to Lead Cargo Division. (2007). Retrieved May 5, 2008,
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http://www.delta.com/about_delta/corporate_information/delta_stats_facts/index.jsp
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http://www.delta.com/about_delta/corporate_information/delta_stats_facts/delta_through_ decades/index.jsp
Department of Court Services. (2008). Retrieved April 14, 2008, from
http://www.northamptoncounty.org/northampton/cwp/view.asp?a=1521&q=620168
E-filings with Montgomery County. (2008). Retrieved May 5, 2008, from
http://prothy.montcopa.org/prothy/cwp/view,a,1673,q,64380,prothyNav,%7C.asp
Gateway to Government. (2008). Retrieved April 14, 2008, from
http://www.northamptoncounty.org/northampton/cwp/view.asp?a=3&Q=620819&
NorthamptonNav_GID=1977
History of the Courthouse. (2007). Retrieved April 14, 2008, from http://www.nccpa.org/
geninfo/history.html
Human Resources. (2008). Retrieved April 14, 2008, from
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northamptonNav=&northamptonNav_GID=1977
Odyssey Public Access. (2008). Retrieved May 5, 2008, from
http://www.lehighcounty.org/Elect/elect.cfm?doc=elect_home.htm
Pearce, J. & Robinson, R. (2004). Strategic Management: Formulation, Implementation and
Control, 9th Ed. New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies.
Prothonotary’s Office. (2008). Retrieved Maya 5, 2008, from
http://prothy.montcopa.org/prothy/site/default.asp
Supplier Process Overview. (2007). Retrieved December 22, 2007, from
http://www.delta.com/about_delta/partnering_with_delta/supplier_diversity/supplier_process_overview/index.jsp
Trend Trading. (n.d.). Retrieved April 28, 2008, from http://www.tradersedgeindia.com/
trend_trading.htm

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