This guest blog is by Shannon Haynes, the Assistant Town Manager for Breckenridge, Colorado.
As government leaders, we often hear that it’s impossible to get things done quickly. We all know that government frequently gets a bad rap for making processes more difficult than they should be.
Our processes are too cumbersome and antiquated. We require too much information and we take too long.
I would love to say the criticism is unwarranted, but, sadly, there’s truth in these accusations. More often than not, change comes slowly. But, in many municipalities, it is coming, slow, but sure.
In Breckenridge, we’ve come to understand the need for change. We saw that we needed to simplify our operations in order to make business easier for our customers and staff to navigate.
We’ve found that one area primed for improvement is permitting.
Like most localities, we issue permits for everything from building and construction to road work, business operations, and events. As we evaluated our procedures from these permits, we found they could use updating. As a mountain resort community, we focused particularly on our events permitting process.
Events are incredibly important to the Breckenridge community.
You may have heard of a few of them: Ullr Fest, International Snow Sculpture, and Breckenridge International Festival of Arts, to name a few. There is an event here nearly every weekend. Often, there are multiple happening simultaneously. There are hundreds of applications every year for basic animation (small to mid-size events) and events that bring tens of thousands of visitors to Town.
Some require no town resources, and some require more resources than we can provide. Half the time, event producers submit in a timely fashion, but, the other half, they are late. As a result, the process needed to be comprehensive, must involve a multitude of individuals, and, in order to ensure we meet our customers’ needs, must allow us to be versatile and nimble.
Several years ago, the Town moved the event permitting function from town staff to the Breckenridge Tourism Office (BTO). Prospective event producers would fill out an online form, and the event coordinator would then forward that form electronically to every individual responsible for approval: police, finance, public works, fire department, liquor licensing, and more.
The process was cumbersome, to say the least. Asking questions or providing feedback was difficult and not as transparent as we’d like.
So, we did the unthinkable and cut through the red tape!
Two years ago, we contracted with ViewPoint Cloud to provide a permitting system intended to simplify and modernize the process. Now, producers complete an application that becomes available to every individual in the approval system.
The system is completely electronic so questions and requests get to the producers without delay. Inquiries and comments can be seen by everyone involved. There is no duplication of efforts or reduced delays, and everyone is on the same page.
As the last person to approve a permit before it is issued, I can provide a personal perspective into the benefits of using the ViewPoint Cloud software.
First and foremost, we have been able to provide a better product to event producers. We are timelier with feedback and approvals. Multiple approvers can work on a permit application at the same time.
As the final approver, I can easily review the permit application and quickly determine what questions have been asked and answered. In addition, I can review a permit application at the same time as other approvers are working on it.
The ViewPoint Cloud software system isn’t a panacea for the event permitting process, but the decision to convert to this software has made a huge difference in streamlining our workflow and creating efficiencies in our process.
We have dramatically improved our customer service. We have been able to add innovative requirements to the planning process, such as requiring critical emergency plans and sustainability strategies, without drastically increasing the application burden on producers. We’ve simplified the process for BTO and Town staff and, as a result, can be more thorough throughout the process.
Moving to a cloud based software product for event permitting has afforded the Town flexibility as we continue to operate in the structure we find most beneficial. While we have moved to other cloud based products for different functions, ViewPoint Cloud has provided one of the most seamless transitions we’ve experienced to date.
The effectiveness of this transition is due, in large part, to our staff understanding the needs of the community, the event producers, and the individuals who approve permits.
Jurisdictions looking to modernize their workflow should review the structure of their current processes to determine how it will function most effectively. They should then consider the product options available on the market to ensure the choice clearly meets the community needs.
There are a plethora of cost effective software options available to allow governmental organizations the ability to be more effective and efficient while providing exemplary customer service. In Breckenridge, ViewPoint Cloud is helping us break the myth of cumbersome government while ensuring that all our events are run safely and smoothly.