Departments: Code Enforcement and Planning
Problem Addressed: Lack of centralization and flexibility
Project Highlights: Tailor-made templates and high-level reporting
When Town Manager Kendra Amaral and then Code Enforcement Officer, Bob Marchi, set out to improve Kittery’s permitting process they were looking for a platform that would bring start-to-finish tracking and a centralized database. They wanted a solution that would help the Town streamline their workflows and lessen the load on residents and business owners—overall, making the process as efficient and responsive as possible.
“We were getting to a point where we were pushing so much paper, traveling between so many hands and different departments, that tracking applications and maintaining accountability was a real challenge.” Suzanne Esposito, Secretary to the Town Manager, explains. “It was a lot of forms and spreadsheets, and they were very detailed, but switching to ViewPoint Cloud is the first time we’ve had an all-encompassing platform to really manage it.”
Customization & Streamlining Processes
When implementation began, Esposito happened into a leading role for the project, thanks to some techy know-how and having the time to assist a very busy Code Enforcement Department. She began building forms and structuring templates to get the Town’s Code and Planning Departments going, and learned the system to then pass that knowledge on.
In the course of onboarding, Kittery found huge gains in the level of customization available through ViewPoint Cloud, even organically improving processes while digitizing.
“There’s a lot of creative freedom in being able to make our own templates, inspections lists, and forms…to specify everything and make it exactly what the Town of Kittery needs,” Esposito details. “It definitely helped us improve the forms themselves too, getting away from some of the information that made things more cumbersome. Being able to put in tidbits of why information is required or include verbiage directly from the Town’s code has been really helpful for both sides of the permitting process.”
Kittery quickly learned that once they had those templates and outlines built, it was easy to create new forms and workflows for additional needs. Now, it’s not just Esposito building out the platform.
“Since implementing,” she says, “the Code Enforcement and Planning Departments have really taken it and run with it. They built upon that foundation and have done a really good job of digitizing—just about any permit or document you would need is there now, in ViewPoint Cloud.”
Improved Tracking & Information Accessibility
Having one central space where everything can be uploaded and stored—on the back end and the applicant end—has been extremely helpful for Kittery’s day-to-day operations. It’s allowed on-site staff members to better help customers stopping by and gives workers in the field necessary flexibility while staying connected.
Before ViewPoint Cloud, employees in the field had to know everything they needed before leaving the office, even bringing physical plans and documentation with them.
“Now, our Code Enforcement Officers can pull up the app on their devices and view everything. They can build their inspection checklist plus take and upload photos right there. They’re not lugging around as much and they know exactly where all the informations is,” Esposito explains.
Stephen Wilson, Kittery’s current Code Enforcement Officer who took over in July, was blown away by having the platform in place when he started the job.
“Every municipality should get something like this as soon as possible. Having everything online, paperless and in one place, is just invaluable,” Wilson advises.
For applicants, having the ability to submit and pay online means they can escape the often confusing process of submitting a permit application, and skip physical trips to Kittery’s Town Hall altogether.
“On the resident and business owner side of it, the tracking has taken the stress and guesswork out of things too,” says Esposito. “Being able to see the entire process from beginning to end, including who’s working on each step or which steps get paused and require additional information, really helps our applicants because they don’t need to call as often with follow-up questions or looking for status updates. It’s helped improve the focus on workflow for our folks in the office too, as we don’t have to answer those types of questions as frequently.”
Another particularly useful feature for Kittery is ViewPoint Cloud’s reporting function—used for a variety of high and low level analysis within the platform.
One staff member in Assessing has certain reports that she runs just to keep on top of changes she may need to make, even though she’s not directly involved with the stages at the time. It’s also helped Town Manager Amaral run bigger-picture reports as a way to learn about where the staff’s needs may lie.
“To be able to accurately track how many permits are in play, what stages they’re in, and where they may be lagging allows us the ability to adjust our staff and make sure that we’re covering every part of the process as fully as we can,” Esposito explains.
Advice and moving forward
For Kittery, the question of what modern permitting looks like is clear.
“It’s 2018 and this is the kind of platform everyone needs,” Esposito remarks. “ViewPoint Cloud has so many things set up to get you started. Even if you don’t know what to build in the beginning, you learn really fast and end up saving a lot of time.”
“You also need a support chat option where you can send gifs,” Esposito adds, half jokingly.
Since going live, Kittery’s Code Enforcement and Planning Departments have seen so many positive gains, the Town now plans to move all permitting operations in the Clerk’s office onto ViewPoint Cloud. With a platform designed for flexible scalability, this move will centralize and automate all of these departments’ permitting data, communication, workflows and more—a sign to staff and community members that Kittery is leading the way for Maine governments in the digital age.