This guest blog is by ELGL member Lori-Ann Fox, the Director of Technology
for the Town of South Kingston, Rhode Island.
Cloud-based, being open 24×7, customer centric, going paperless…..all of these phases are trends (and hopefully goals) in local government.
So when the State of RI (the smallest state in the country) wanted to utilize a single platform for permits it should be simple, right? Any project, regardless of size, can be challenging at times.
It’s more about bringing people together and having the right partner in place so change can be made easily and to benefit all parties involved (internal staff, customers, residents, contractors).
The State of RI selected ViewPoint and their ViewPoint Cloud (VPC) solution as their partner which South Kingstown had been using an earlier version of their product for about two years. South Kingstown is a coastal community of about 30,000 that recently went through a technology overhaul streamlining most processes.
Getting staff motivated to move to another system when we just moved 2 years prior. Understanding the benefits of a single statewide cloud-based platform to property owners and contractors working in South Kingstown along with being able to integrate State agencies and data made this challenge a bit easier.
The single platform allows customers (residents and contractors alike) to have 1 account for any community in RI. Interfacing with the State agencies (Building Official, Fire Marshal) allows information to flow easily without the customer having to run around to various agencies across the state. Data from State databases allow staff and customers to confirm contractors are licensed and insured.
Those old statewide forms for building, plumbing, electrical and mechanical permits! As our team worked together we quickly realized that many of the forms were dated and difficult for customers to understand. Many asked questions that customers would not how to answer and some were best answered by internal staff. VPC allowed us to customize our forms.
Each team member went through the forms marking up what was not needed, internal or just plain confusing. I compared all the remarks and changed the form to incorporate the team’s input. Text boxes became drop downs or check boxes for data uniformity. Much of the old forms’ fields become internal fields since staff was filling these out previously anyway.
Linking these forms to our GIS database allowed even greater options when it came to routing workflow. Rather than moving paper and maps from departments, all reviews are done online and paperless.
Comments and changes are made to the plans for the customer to see. Customizing our forms simplified the process. We’ve had numerous customers tell us they like the site and ease of use!
The customization went so well with building permits, we migration all our business licenses. Again old forms were reviewed and simplified. Previously business owners filled out several forms for each license they needed.
In some cases, the business owner filled out the same forms five or six times! As part of creating these forms, I created a series of check boxes that the business owner clicks on. Depending on what type of license is checked, corresponding questions are asked. We held a number of classes to help our business owners with the new process. Most were done in 10 minutes or less!
We are now looking to Public Works and Planning applications in the hopes we can automate these process.
What’s the takeaway here? If you can think it, you can make it happen! Good software helps you to develop and streamline to benefit your customers.
Don’t let technology, the process or people hold you back! You got this!