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How Municipal Departments Can Overcome Roadblocks to IT Procurement | ViewPoint Cloud

As any modern software sales team will tell you, the process of buying and implementing new software solutions has changed drastically over the last two decades; the roles have almost completely reversed. In an oversaturated market, buyers hold all the chips, and it’s up to vendors to take a more creative, consultative approach by helping their prospects find the best solution for their needseven when that solution isn’t the one they’re offering.

Given this environment, the biggest obstacles to purchasing and implementing new software oftentimes arise internally—difficulties aligning expectations, needs, and processes between different departmental stakeholders. Although company websites explain software features, functionality, and benefits, it can still be difficult to identify which one is the best fit for your departments and community members. All of these stakeholders have their own considerations, as well as existing processes, which have many times been in places for years or decades. 

As a key decision-maker in this process, you are likely tasked with bringing together these voices and finding the solution that encompasses the most needs. No pressure, right? We want to help. Drawing on over two decades of experience helping local governments, our sales, customer support and success, and implementation teams put together the most common concerns communities face when considering, purchasing, and implementing new software. Use these examples and strategies to guide you through the process, and if you’re experiencing something different, reach out to our team with your questions. We’re here to help!

Problem 1: “I’m having trouble getting buy-in from all the departments.”

What’s really the problem here? There are many stakeholders involved in the process of identifying and selecting new software. There’s also uncertainty about how day-to-day operations will change, potentially causing stress and resistance when trying to get all parties on board. Without having concrete examples in front of them, staff members may find it difficult to justify taking the time to learn how a new system could improve their processes, and in turn, create a better citizen experience.

How to solve it. Identify all stakeholders, from the Mayor to the City Clerk, and get them involved in the decision-making process. What are their concerns? What potentially excites them about the change? One way to bring together these voices is to put together a short 5-10 question survey, and have everyone complete it on their own time. That way, you can address concerns up front, and get an at-a-glance picture of available resources and motivations. Bringing stakeholders to the decision-making table will make them more invested in the success of a new project.

As for providing solid, empirical evidence on how process improvements might look and feel, make a day of it. One ViewPoint community set aside an entire day to weigh the pros and cons of all potential software vendors in succession. Their staff was able to make a difficult and abstract decision more manageable by having a centralized discussion, rather than trying to round up disjointed impressions gathered over several days or weeks.

On a similar note, don’t discount a vendor’s flexibility in scheduling time for a presentation. If their sales team can’t make time to help you find the best solution, it’s probably a good indication of what their customer service would be like post-sale.

Problem 2: “My community is already having trouble managing all of our requests, and this new system will only increase the amount of requests coming in.”

What’s really the problem here? This is a common concern among staff members when beginning the conversation about new software. While it’s true that once fully adopted, departments typically see an increase in requests, any software system worth your city’s investment will make processing these requests much easier. By centralizing information and removing the need to bounce physical documents between different departments, both the number of steps and time required to process requests are drastically reduced.

How to solve it. Bring up the issue with your sales representative. Given that this is such a frequent roadblock for those involved in the decision-making process, your rep will be more than happy to a) demonstrate how your workflow will improve within the software and b) provide real-life examples of other communities who were experiencing the same doubts, and were pleasantly surprised once they started analyzing results. Taking this evidence back to departments members who are doubting the process will help them realize their ability to improve operations. In comparison to the government software technology available 10 years ago, modern, cloud-based solutions offer the ability to facilitate greater efficiency at a lower cost, while achieving a higher level of citizen satisfaction—a win-win-win opportunity for forward-thinking municipalities.

Problem 3: “My department and I aren’t very tech savvy. We don’t want to lose control of our existing system by transitioning to a software solution.”

What’s really the problem here? Everybody, to some extent, fears change. People like what they know, and get comfortable with the way they operate. Any disruption to that can be perceived as threatening. A prime example is government reluctance to move from paper-based workflows to cloud computing solutions. Again, it’s important to remember that “not being tech savvy” and not wanting to “lose their existing systems” are distractions from the real problem—fear of change. Some staff members might resist new software because they don’t believe it will be able to replicate their current workflow—“the right way to do it” or “the way we’ve always done it”—in a digital format.

How to solve it. This is another concern that your sales rep should be well-prepared to handle. Have them demonstrate the flexibility and personalization of the software, and if possible, set up a pilot environment so staff members can play around with the interface. The ability to customize workflows will vary between different platforms, from very rigid to highly customizable—consider what makes most sense for your needs.

If breaking away from traditional processes is a major concern for you and your team, opting for a more malleable platform will be the best way for you to move forward with a given vendor. Using such a product allows your team to build their departments’ unique steps into the overall workflow, and alleviate any fears that moving to a software solution will severely disrupt their day-to-day work. Remember to keep team members informed of new changes as you move through the process. Change can be hard, but time, pilot environments, and the opportunity to discuss concerns will make the transition easier.

Read: 6 Steps to Efficient Government Software Implementation

Problem 4: “Each department has it’s own process and no one is willing to change it.”

What’s really the problem here? It’s true. Each department does have it’s own processes, which can seem irreplaceable, having been honed for months or years. Whether these processes are the fastest, most efficient, and reliable way of getting things done is another topic entirely, and it’s the one that needs to be addressed when approaching this problem. However, department members may have been using the same systems for years, so relinquishing them can cause significant anxiety and frustration.

How to solve it. This is one of the most common frustrations for municipal departments implementing any new software, but solving the problem is actually quite easy. ViewPoint’s Client Success Manager, Valeria Amato, suggests scheduling a time for relevant departments (or department heads) to meet for a few hours as you lead the group in creating a process map.

  • First, ask each team member to write down every step of their portion of the workflow up until they hand it off to the next person.
  • Then write each individual step down on a separate post-it note and arrange them in order.
  • Finally, take each department’s bundle of post it notes and lay them out on a wall or a whiteboard from left to right (left being the beginning of the process, e.g. an applicant submitting a permit request and right being the end of the process, e.g. an applicant receiving their permit).

This gives all departments an opportunity to see an overview of internal processes, as well as identify inefficiencies, gaps, or redundancies. After this activity is completed, you can work together to create a process that makes more sense for everyone involved, and automate these new workflows in the software. Involving the entire team in this process is an integral piece to any successful software implementation.

Problem 5: “How will I show my team that the software is working and improving our processes?”

ViewPoint Cloud Analytics Dashboard
ViewPoint Cloud Analytics Dashboard

What’s really the problem here? Team members may have different metrics for evaluating the performance of new software. Keep in mind that some people may never be perfectly happy, but having measurable goals will help you and the rest of the team feel more confident in the value of the software.

How to solve it. Most modern software has reporting functionality. ViewPoint Cloud, for example, has robust analytics that allow customers to pull reports based on any field in their database. Pre-built reports will tell a high-level story of how many applications have been processed in a given time period, among other helpful metrics.

Even with these tools at your disposal, you still need to put in advance work to make sure you’re getting personalized value. Spend some time identifying how things have been done—how quickly, how many, and how often—so that you have a starting baseline. Then identify the most important metrics of success for each department (as well as the team as a whole). This pre-work doesn’t need to take long, but it will pay off when you start seeing the value of the software in numbers that are highly applicable to your team’s goals.

Problem 6: “We’ve spent all of this time setting up our solutions, and now we’re worried that our constituents aren’t going to use it.”

What’s really the problem here? When introducing new public-facing software to your community, citizen adaptation can be one of the biggest factors in a successful launch. Part of the issue here is that those who will be interfacing with your digital initiatives will have a wide range of potential uses. Contractors, for instance, come in many different forms; some are more tech savvy than others, and some have more capacity to learn how to use a new interface. As the team implementing new software, it’s your job to ensure constituents are on the same page. They are your customers, and as such, they deserve a user-friendly process.

How to solve it. The first step to getting constituents to use a new program is to ensure that you have a user-friendly, intuitive product. As the standards in the private sector increase, citizens expect better customer service from their governments. In order to keep up, forward-thinking municipalities are prioritizing customer-centric technology that’s easy to use internally and for the public.

You should also gather feedback from the people who are going to be using these services throughout the consideration and implementation processes and beyond. Effective citizen service comes from using feedback to continuously improve your processes.

With permitting software, for example, contractors are going to be the main user group. Most building department officials could easily identify “frequent flyers”—those contractors who are constantly in and out of City Hall. Why not hold a small focus group or send out a survey to understand their greatest pain points? Once you’ve set everything up, invite those contractors to come in and test-drive the software. To address ongoing concerns from new or less frequent users, consider offering a kiosk service, where someone in City Hall can speak with applicants, help them learn the new system and answer questions. Most importantly, forward-thinking municipalities remain in the mindset of continuously improving in order to provide high-quality citizen service.

Moving Forward

As you can see, there are many important questions to consider when picking and implementing a new software solution. It’s important to remember that good communication and interdepartmental transparency are key in resolving each. You’ll be off to a great start by making sure you’ve outlined everyone’s visions and concerns, shared this information with your sales representative, and made sure to keep everyone involved at each step of the process. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to take on too much by yourself—government administration is a team sport after all, and the more you play together, the easier it becomes to do what you do best: providing your citizens with a level of government service that makes you proud.

Read: Why ePermitting is ‘Low-Hanging Fruit’ for Improving Citizen Service

Why State and Local Tech Collaboration Should be the Norm | ViewPoint Cloud

In 2015, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner saw that while Chicago was a nation leader in government technology, the state as a whole was in the bottom fourth of the country for efficiency and customer service outcomes. This spurred the creation of Illinois’s “Smart State” initiative, a holistic approach to improving technology across the state and it’s local municipalities.

Many other towns, cities, counties, and states are seeing similar opportunities for collaboration on government technology projects. Instead of approaching projects in silos, forward-thinking public agencies are seeing the benefits of creating technology “eco-systems” that innately benefit from their connectivity across governments.

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3 SaaS Features for Easy Implementation | ViewPoint Cloud

Buying new government software is a big investment. After the work of researching, evaluating, and selecting the product, the last thing you want is a difficult implementation process. As many governments have found out the hard way, successful implementation can make or break an entire project. So before you start searching, here are a few tips to ensure you’re successful.

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Claremont New Hampshire ViewPoint Cloud Case Study

Population: 12,857
State: New Hampshire
Departments: Building, Code Enforcement, Health, Planning & Zoning, Fire
Problem Addressed: Outdated software and inefficient permit processing
Project Highlights: Shared cross-departmental workflows & integrated record history

Purchasing new ePermitting software was far from a snap decision for the City of Claremont, New Hampshire. Building Inspector and Deputy Health Officer Sean Glasscock helped lead the City’s year-and-a-half long research process, comparing the different companies and products available to them.

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Using cloud-based software is standard practice for modern industries and most consumers, yet many local governments have still not fully understood and adopted this technology. That’s why we teamed up with the folks at ProudCity to talk about the benefits and best practices around adopting cloud-based software in local government.

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Choosing the Right IT Vendor | ViewPoint Cloud

Rebecca Woodbury, Senior Management Analyst for the City of San Rafael, CA, recently published an article, “What I Learned ‘Buying’ Our New City Digital Services.” Her insights into procuring a technology vendor are valuable for anyone looking to go down the same path.

Woodbury was tasked with overseeing the creation of a new city website, as well as implementing constituent relationship management (CRM) software. Armed with a consultant and a sincere desire to improve the lives of staff and community members, her team started down the long, familiar road of procurement.

Here is what she learned.

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CRCOG Contract Extension | ViewPoint Cloud

ViewPoint Government Solutions is thrilled to announce that the Capitol Region Council of Governments (CRCOG) in Hartford, Connecticut has signed a contract extension with ViewPoint through 2023. With this agreement CRCOG will continue to offer Connecticut municipalities streamlined procurement of ViewPoint Cloud, the company’s cloud-based permitting, licensing, and code enforcement software. Originally signed in 2009, the extension will usher in almost 15 years of continuous service to Connecticut communities.

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Rhode Island's ePermitting Initiative a Digital Transformation Success | ViewPoint Cloud

By Jeff Friedman, Director of Modern Government, Microsoft Corporation on February 8, 2017
Republished from Microsoft CityNext blog

A little over a year ago, I wrote that Rhode Island was leading the nation with a pilot program launching the first statewide online permitting initiative in the U.S. Today, with eight municipalities and two state agencies on ViewPoint Cloud’s Azure-powered platform, Rhode Island is a model for how digital transformation can deliver better and more cost-effective citizen services, and cultivate a business-friendly environment.

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Population: 12,314
State: Rhode Island
Departments & Divisions Involved: Building
Problem Addressed: Making internal operations more efficient
Project Highlight: Rapid implementation

North Smithfield’s Building Department knew they needed a modern ePermitting system. Their old paper permitting and manual data entry were no longer efficient enough to keep up with the rising bar of local government citizen service. Ready to join Rhode Island’s statewide partnership with ViewPoint Cloud, they were still nervous about the time it would take to get the software up and running. But thanks to a little preparation, a user-friendly software design, and ViewPoint Cloud’s proven implementation process, North Smithfield launched their new ePermitting platform in just 30 days.

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Online Permitting Transforms Orange CT Permit Process in 90 Days | ViewPoint Cloud

Population: 14,000
State: Connecticut
Departments & Divisions Involved: Building, Fire Marshal, Health, Planning & Zoning, Police Department, Public Works
Problem Addressed: Connecting inter-departmental workflows
Project Highlight: Rapid implementation

The Town of Orange, CT went live with online permitting today just 90 days after kicking off the process-improvement initiative.

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