State: North Carolina
Departments: Community Development—Building, Inspections, Code Enforcement, Fire
Problem Addressed: Cumbersome, makeshift software
Project Highlights: 2 month implementation & inspection management
Kernersville, North Carolina is a town of 25,000 residents and a booming commercial base. Located in the center of “The Triad”—the third largest metropolitan area in the State—the Town is a popular location for business and industrial parks, contributing a vast amount of work to the Community Development Department. One prime example: the 1-million-square-foot Amazon fulfillment center being built in Kernersville right now.
Due to the level of economic development, it’s been increasingly important to the Town that permitting and inspections operations function as smoothly and efficiently as possible. This focus led to their move to ViewPoint Cloud, a transition that took just two months to implement.
Thanks to centralized operations and increased accessibility, Kernersville has since seen their average permit processing time decrease from two months to two weeks.
Cause for change and the search for new software
The Community Development Department’s system was paper-based for many years, later incorporating a non-permitting-specific software adapted from another department. While this provided a temporary workaround, there was a lack of core functionality, organization, and ease.
“Even with the initial switch to software, a lot of our staff had trouble simply using the system and there was no way to conduct inspections in the field or provide access to the public,” Mike Horney, Kernersville’s Development Services Manager, explains.
Community Development Director Jeff Hatling recognized that Kernersville needed to bring their technology into the 21st Century and tasked Horney with finding new software.
The Department wanted a solution to connect with Esri’s ArcGIS so Horney began his search by comparing Esri business partners. That’s how he came to ViewPoint Cloud.
“There were five different companies that partnered with ESRI and I reached out to all of them for demos,” Horney recounts. “When I inquired about ViewPoint Cloud, it was simply a conversation around ‘what do you need?’ and ‘here’s what we can do.’ ViewPoint Cloud was outstanding to work with from day one.”
At that point, Kernersville took the project to RFP, receiving seven submissions—a mix of different sized companies and price points. Horney says that ViewPoint Cloud was the best by far and the most cost-effective.
A two month implementation and customization
Kernersville went live with Building and Inspections on ViewPoint Cloud in November 2018, just two months after beginning work with the implementation team. Compared to the industry standard of year(s) long implementations, Horney and Kernserville were beyond pleased.
Even more than the efficient implementation, Horney found that the biggest benefit to using ViewPoint Cloud is the way the software allows staff to customize their own workflows.
“Sometimes you’re held captive by whatever a software will or won’t do,” says Horney. “The best thing about ViewPoint Cloud is that you dictate how you’re going to use it and it’s so easy to make changes on the backend.”
Now with Code Enforcement and Fire on the platform as well, the whole Community Development Department (spanning 15+ employees) is using ViewPoint Cloud.
Time savings and departmental integration
Horney reports that permitting and inspection operations are much more organized since launching the platform. The old system was stressful and convoluted; inspectors had to print out tickets and an excel spreadsheet functioned as Plan Review.
In ViewPoint Cloud, operations are digitized and fully integrated into one platform with simple accessibility.
“I’ve got a report built where I can hover over the record status bar at any given time and easily see the details,” Horney continues. “Permits are moving out of here so quickly compared to what it used to be. We went from averaging two months to two weeks.”
When it comes to time savings and accessibility, it’s not just the streamlined, intuitive setup of the software or that inspectors can now input results directly from the field—public applicants now have online access as well.
“We’re getting less phone calls from contractors looking to schedule inspections because they can do it all online,” Horney adds. “We had gotten to the point where the phone was ringing so much we almost needed to hire an extra permit person, and now that problem is solved.”
It’s been all rave reviews from staff members too:
“We have a permit tech that’s been working here for 27 years. She would have been the first one to complain if the new system wasn’t cutting it—and she loves it,” says Horney. “Nobody wants to go back to the old way. Nobody.”
Advice for other local governments
Before working in Community Development, Horney spent 10 years in Public Works and served as the Technology President for the APWA North Carolina Chapter. With this wealth of experience, he is very familiar with the changing govtech landscape.
For anyone who might be considering a similar upgrade, Horney recommends that you strongly consider Software as a Service (SaaS). He notes that SaaS and cloud-based software is typically cheaper and easier. Though ultimately, Horney advocates that what’s most important is that you get the permitting system that works for you:
“Be wary of the big, expensive systems that can’t be tailored. A lot of the time super ‘fancy’ solutions are more than you actually want to deal with or need to pay for.”
For Kernersville, Horney says that the experience with ViewPoint Cloud has been “10 out of 10,” and they’re excited by how this move has propelled their growth path, across internal operations and Town-wide development.