As more governments recognize the power of cloud-based software to drive efficiency and streamline workflows, citizens are also seeing the positive effects of modern technology used in the public sector. Processes and systems that once relied upon manual procedures and sluggish paperwork are now being simplified and centralized, thanks to cloud technology developed specifically for governments. One example of this is OpenGov’s Permitting and Licensing solution, ViewPoint Cloud, which has transformed the way public sector agencies route, approve and issue permits to constituents.
We sat down for a webinar with two government representatives who are seeing the benefits of OpenGov’s Permitting to hear their perspective on the current state of permitting in their departments, what it used to be, and where it is headed in the future. Hosted by Carl Anderson, Senior Municipal Relationship Manager with OpenGov, the webinar featured Bharat Gami, Chief Building Official with the City of Stamford, CT, and Dan Ralley, Assistant City Manager for the City of Upper Arlington, OH.
Gami and Ralley shared personal experiences from their respective cities, detailing the challenges of their permitting process before implementing OpenGov and how the Permitting solution has positively impacted their organization.
Both speakers related the pains of manual permitting procedures relying on hard-copy forms and outdated practices. This dependence upon manual processes was a running theme shared between Gami and Ralley’s testimonies. Consequently, Stamford and Upper Arlington suffered from drawbacks such as:
Inter-organizational data and information siloing
Procedures based on paper applications and sluggish technology
Office admins continually bogged down with phone calls from the general public requesting permit application status updates
Lack of visibility and communication between departments involved in the approval process
With all of these issues ailing the city’s permitting process, Gami and Ralley looked for a better way to alleviate these strains that caused headaches for both citizens and government workers alike.
A Clear Solution
In their quest to find a complete end-to-end permitting solution, Gami and Ralley agreed that all the road signs consistently pointed toward OpenGov’s cloud-based Permitting software. The solution’s approachable interface and ease-of-use were clear indicators that this would be an improvement over the old manual paper-based processes that plagued the cities.
After implementing OpenGov’s Permitting, Gami and Ralley recognized obvious process efficiencies spreading throughout their respective organizations. These efficiencies included:
Visibility into the permitting process that never existed before, from both the perspective of citizens and government departments.
Dramatic time savings
Consolidated, simple and user-friendly interface requiring limited (if any) training
Clean and straightforward permit form creation
This level of approachability allowed Stamford and Upper Arlington to take one step closer to bridging the gap between citizens and government.
For more information on how OpenGov’s Permitting solution can bring efficiencies and process improvements to your government, and to hear the full discussion above, view the on-demand webinar.
Whether in a small, rural town of 7,000 or a large, metropolitan city experiencing a boom in development and population growth, many city leaders are surprised to learn how deeply impactful permitting processes can be on a number of important initiatives.
But, after uncovering just how integral the permitting and licensing processes are to growth opportunities and fostering a sense of community, it’s no surprise that making a one-time upgrade to a cloud-based permitting solution like ViewPoint Cloud can pay big dividends across five critical areas.
1. Attract More Community Development Opportunities
The easier it is for contractors, business owners, and developers to quickly understand the permitting and licensing process in your community, the more likely they are to apply for them. The faster your team is then able to process and approve those applications, the more revenue and growth you have to invest back into your city.
2. Streamline Inspections
When homeowners or contractors are waiting on inspector approval before a project can proceed, every additional hour spent waiting could be costing money. Online scheduling features provide constituents with a sense of control over the process, while tools to help inspectors optimize their daily routes allow for maximum efficiency.
3. Increase Constituent Satisfaction
Because permitting requirements vary from application to application, many constituents find they have questions throughout the process. Online application portals guiding applicants through requirements can eliminate superfluous phone calls and cut down on the number of trips to city hall.
4. Environmental Sustainability
Online permitting requires no paper. Access to a 24/7 public application portal means constituents don’t have to get in their cars or use public transit to get to town hall, reducing emissions and city pollution.
5. Make Smarter Decisions for Community Policy
Many communities track how many permits are processed annually and how much revenue is generated from the corresponding fees charged to applicants. Unfortunately, too many communities still do this manually, or are unable to access this data because it’s too cumbersome to report on. ViewPoint Cloud’s reporting function automatically generates reports designed to answer your biggest permitting questions. More information gives leaders insight into successes and improvement opportunities to better shape public policy.
We are thrilled to share that ViewPoint has been acquired by OpenGov, the leader in enterprise cloud solutions for government budgeting, performance, communications, and reporting.
A New Chapter
As some of you may know, I co-founded this company 24 years ago with the goal of providing cutting-edge technology to local governments. Since that time, we have helped lead a revolution in the quality of government software, and ViewPoint Cloud is now the leading permitting and licensing solution on the market.
Since its founding in 2012, OpenGov has been on a mission to provide modern, integrated, end-to-end solutions that power effectiveness and accountability for government. We have known and admired OpenGov for a long time, based on their market leadership, attention to the customer, mission-first approach, and the quality of their technology. We could not be more excited to join with them.
This would not be possible without the support and confidence of our customers. Some of you have joined us just this year, while others have been with us for over two decades. To all, we say thank you. Thank you for having the confidence to invest in our company and for sharing our vision for what’s possible to achieve in our communities.
Together, we are paving the way for a new era of government technology–raising the industry standard for products and services, and reimagining what it means for governments and the technology sector to be in true partnership.
What Does This Mean for our Customers?
Joining with OpenGov provides us with access to more personnel, resources, and technological capacity to better serve you and drive effectiveness for your organization. You are joining now with over 2,000 governments leveraging OpenGov to power more effective and accountable government and usher in a new era of innovation.
In the coming days and weeks, we plan to share with you more about OpenGov’s full budgeting, performance, and communications capabilities and how they can complement your use of the ViewPoint Cloud.
What Does This Mean for our Company?
The full ViewPoint Cloud staff is now part of the OpenGov family. Our employees join with the over 220 OpenGov employees building and going to market with the best technology for government. We are excited at the opportunity to share with and learn from this talented team and have already started the process of aligning our processes and solidifying our joint product roadmap.
We cannot overstate our excitement for this new alliance and our gratitude for your continued partnership. We hope to continue serving you for years to come.
Sincerely, Nasser Hajo CEO, ViewPoint VP Permitting and Licensing, OpenGov
Redwood City, CA and Boston, MA – September 5, 2019 – Today, OpenGov, the leader in enterprise cloud solutions for government, expands its market-leading platform with the acquisition of ViewPoint. ViewPoint Cloud – the industry’s fastest-growing and only multi-tenant SaaS software for permitting and licensing – will be integrated into The OpenGov Cloud™, broadening OpenGov’s reach and impact on the public sector.
“Governments deserve innovative and trusted technology to power how they operate and drive value to the residents they serve,” said OpenGov CEO Zac Bookman. “Not only are OpenGov and ViewPoint among the fastest-growing GovTech companies, we are each the only multi-tenant cloud platforms of scale in our respective categories. I could not be more excited for our joint future and to bring this incredible software to every government that wants to take advantage of it.”
“Governments deserve innovative and trusted technology to power how they operate and drive value to the residents they serve.”
OpenGov CEO, Zac Bookman
“I co-founded this company with the idea that governments deserve cutting-edge technology,” said ViewPoint CEO Nasser Hajo. “ViewPoint has since grown to become the cloud-based permitting and licensing market leader, stretching the boundaries of what’s possible to bring efficiency, transparency, and civic engagement to public agencies. OpenGov is the leading enterprise cloud software company in the GovTech sector, and we could not be more thrilled at the opportunity to join forces and continue building the technology that will power governments for decades to come.”
“I co-founded this company with the idea that governments deserve cutting-edge technology.”
ViewPoint CEO, Nasser Hajo
ViewPoint is OpenGov’s third announced acquisition since 2016. In October of 2017, OpenGov acquired Peak Democracy—the leader in citizen engagement technology. In April of 2016, OpenGov acquired Ontodia—the leading provider of open data solutions using CKAN, the premier open-source standard used by thousands of governments around the world. These solutions have since been integrated into The OpenGov Cloud™, which is now the premier, end-to-end Budgeting, Performance, Communications, and Reporting cloud solution for government.
This acquisition comes on the heels of OpenGov closing a $51 million Series D financing round led by experienced GovTech investors Weatherford Capital and 8VC, with participation from existing investor Andreessen Horowitz. The company has now raised more than $140 million from Andreessen Horowitz, 8VC, JC2 Ventures, Emerson Collective, and other top investors since its founding in 2012.
OpenGov is the leader in enterprise cloud solutions for government. The OpenGov Cloud™ is the only integrated cloud solution for budgeting, performance, communications and reporting. This multi-tenant Software-as-a-Service (“SaaS”) solution connects stakeholders to the budget process, engages them for real-time feedback, accurately forecasts personnel costs, and integrates with key government systems, resulting in improved outcomes, enhanced internal efficiencies, and more time for strategic planning.
Over 2,000 public agencies use OpenGov—including the State of West Virginia; the State of Ohio; the City of Richmond, VA; and Lincoln NE. OpenGov was founded in 2012, and is backed by Andreessen Horowitz, Emerson Collective, 8VC, Thrive Capital, and Weatherford Capital.
ViewPoint Cloud is the fastest-growing and only multi-tenant SaaS software for permitting, licensing, and code enforcement operations. Built with the idea that local and state governments deserve the same design and technology standards as the private sector, ViewPoint Cloud provides next-generation permitting for forward-thinking governments. The all-in-one platform offers a seamless, user-friendly experience for public applicants, fully integrated with powerful workflow automation for department staff.
ViewPoint serves over 200 towns, cities, counties, and state agencies of all sizes from coast to coast and maintains a 98% customer retention rate over our 24 years of service.
It’s a daunting task because of the sheer number of components involved—cabinetry, counter tops, fixtures, appliances, electricity, and more—so homeowners spend a lot of time with contractors and designers thinking about the plan before they make any decisions, or purchases.
We want you to think about your community’s government technology strategy in the same holistic way.
Instead of purchasing a single software product, communities are now building technology product suites, designed to bring constituent services into the 21st century. This ambitious objective is more attainable than ever before thanks in large part to cloud-based integrations.
If you’re not a technical person, cloud integrations may sound intimidating. But chances are you’re probably already using them for many professional and personal purposes, such as logging in to social media.
What Does “Cloud Integration” Actually Mean?
Cloud integrations are systems of tools and technologies that connect various applications, systems, repositories, and IT environments for the exchange of data and processes. In other words, a network of distinct cloud-based software applications that can directly communicate with each other. Cloud integrations allow data to be shared across platforms with less manual effort.
When software-as-a-service (SaaS) boomed in the early 2000s, the development of cloud integrations was an inevitable next step. As more data and information was being captured, stored, and exchanged online, there was a need for these applications and systems to communicate with one another in order to avoid creating data silos or manual workflows.
In addition to the daily workflow benefits, integrations also allow teams to evaluate a wider array of software products and select the best ones for their needs, knowing that they can be seamlessly integrated with each other and existing systems.
What Are Some Examples of Common Integrations?
Depending on the purpose of the cloud software in question, this answer can vary widely. Within ViewPoint Cloud’s permitting platform, for example, the most common cloud integrations directly relate to the workflow steps associated with approving a permit or license application: GIS applications, financial systems, and reporting tools.
Here’s what this looks like in practice:
Reports: ViewPoint Cloud integrates with all major reporting packages. By automatically pulling data collected by ViewPoint Cloud into reports, public officials are able to save time while making more informed policy decisions.
Finance: When constituents pay for permits using ViewPoint Cloud’s public portals, the platform passes fee data along to a community’s existing financial software to access—no manual calculation required.
We’re continually looking for ways to simplify and automate integration procedures so governments can become more efficient, while still controlling their data and processes. Future integrations currently in the works include E-plan review, document management, and our very own application programming interface (API).
Understanding the Challenges and Benefits of Cloud Integrations
For governments constantly collecting and processing data, the benefits of cloud integrations outweigh the negatives. Data sharing among cloud-based applications makes information more uniform—improving connectivity, visibility, and ultimately optimizing business processes.
Increased integration abilities ensure that when accessing data online, different departments are always viewing the most up-to-date and synchronized version. By connecting applications together, previously complex and tedious workflows can be automated, which reduces both errors and operational costs in the long run.
For communities, having an internal understanding of data and systems architecture can greatly inform decisions about software procurement—and reduce complexity in the future.
Two Types of Cloud-Based Integrations
Now that you’re an expert on the integration basics, an important thing to note is that there are two distinct types of cloud-based integrations: real time and batch processing. Depending on the software you are evaluating, you might encounter one or both types in the future.
Real time means that there’s a direct process to an application programming interface (API), which is a set of clearly defined methods of communication between various software components. Simply put, APIs allow software applications to speak the same language. This is important for integrations because through communication, software systems can share information and work in tandem, sometimes automatically.
For example, ViewPoint Cloud interfaces with the ArcGIS API to render complex spatial visualizations for inspectors, assessors and other public officials to complete a variety of tasks, including optimizing inspection routes and reviewing active projects across the city.
Batch processing means that two databases are connected to each other and moving data around, usually with minimum human interaction. Integrations with financial software are an example of a batch processing as permit records, fee types, and user data captured through ViewPoint Cloud are regularly exported to the community’s financial reporting system for further analysis without any manual effort required by city officials.
Whether your community has just started the transition to online services, or you already have an entire suite of software products, a firm understanding of cloud integrations and systems architecture will ensure you are fully prepared to evaluate your existing technology strategy.
Why Should Local Governments Care?
Governments rely on mission-critical systems to provide services to constituents and run internal operations. From issuing permits to local businesses, to budgeting for new public works projects, government processes affect entire communities.
Historically, public-sector technology solutions have been created with a one-size-fits-all approach that can’t be modified or adjusted for communities’ respective needs without extensive consulting or exorbitant customization costs.
We believe that to create the best technology system, one that makes things easier for constituents and public servants, government purchasers must have the power of choice—and should be the driving force behind improving government technology. Cloud integrations make it possible to have a diverse set of tools and technology solutions at your disposal in a way that has never previously been possible.
Wondering how ViewPoint Cloud fits into your community’s software strategy?
If your community is looking for a high-impact way to reduce constituents’ carbon footprint and paper consumption caused by frequent travel to local government offices, paperless permitting is the answer.
As a modern, nimble company working to disrupt an entrenched govtech industry, we’re always looking to partner with local government innovators cultivating positive change in their communities.
We work to help cities and towns across the country modernize their tools, and in doing so improve the lives of their employees and constituents. Moving the wheels of large institutions is hard, so we are interested in the conditions that support proactive change.
How does innovation happen within a department or an organization? Across a region, society, or industry?
I was intrigued after recently learning about, author and management consultant, John Hagel’s idea that change happens at the edge. The underlying concept: mainstream anything becomes like a black hole. It consumes what gets close, absorbs all energy, and continues to grow larger.
The core is where the power has amassed, and it absorbs and conforms most of its surrounding environment.Diversity and innovation cannot thrive in this vacuum, and so existing processes, ideas, and power structures becomes increasingly entrenched.
“Because of the relationship between mass and gravity, this means [black holes] have an extremely powerful gravitational force. Virtually nothing can escape from them—under classical physics, even light is trapped by a black hole.” *
Not only do black holes absorb all surrounding energy, but they also cloud the ability to envision something new.
“This creates an observational problem when it comes to black holes — scientists can’t “see” them the way they can see stars and other objects in space.”
Over the last couple of decades, the rise of the internet and modern software have disrupted the “black holes” in most industries. With decentralized access to consumers and cheaper scalable platforms, new companies have quickly diversified competition and improved the quality of products and services for the benefit of consumers.
The Disruption Taking Place Within Govtech
Unfortunately, the public sector (particularly state and local government) has been one of the last areas to benefit from these gains.
Many of the large, entrenched companies that have dominated the govtech industry for the last several decades have become an increasingly large black hole. Despite providing subpar products and services at exorbitant prices, companies like Accela and Tyler Technologies have continued to own the market at the expense of cities and towns across the country.
Outdated procurement laws, originally designed to provide transparency and accountability around government spending, have not only hindered the growth of new players, but have also provided a continued advantage for the black hole (dinosaur companies that have mastered the art of navigating complex procurement processes).
Local Government Now Driving Change with Decisions
So how do leaders create change against the gravitational force of the black hole? How do local government innovators and leading govtech companies foster healthy competition that will develop products of the same caliber as consumer software?
Hagel argues that change happens at the edge, or in other words—change happens when leaders move away from the core. A small minority of leaders hit the core, and instead of being consumed, they will ricochet off into space to create their own satellite.
“Sometimes as matter is drawn toward a black hole, it ricochets off the event horizon and is hurled outward, rather than being tugged into the maw. Bright jets of material traveling at near-relativistic speeds are created. Although the black hole itself remains unseen, these powerful jets can be viewed from great distances.”
Safer from the gravitational pull of the black hole core and with clearer vision, these satellites are breeding grounds for innovation. And the successful ones will start amassing energy from the core, bringing the equilibrium into greater balance.
Your Spend Is Your Vote
Visionaries across the public and private sectors are moving away from this core. Smaller, nimble govtech companies are now leading product development by providing modern, user-friendly software products and services at competitive prices. Municipal innovators are now searching farther and wider, seeking to provide agile, user-centric solutions to their employees and constituents. New government marketplaces and procurement tools are popping up to help connect these groups, and help them build the products that will soon benefit the majority.
In a marketplace, your spend is your vote. Government officials are starting to bravely invest in these modern, nimble companies, because the risk of investing in yesterday’s technology is starting to outweigh the ‘risk’ of investing in a company that may be newer. Leaders see the gap between public and private sector services widening, and they know the positive impact that investing in new technologies will have on their communities for years to come.
To all of the visionaries working to make your corner of the world a little bit better: the time is now. Together, we have the power to build the world we want to live in.
*source for all quotes: Redd, N. T. (2019, Jul 11). What Are Black Holes? [Web log post]. Retrieved Jul 26 from www.space.com.
We refer to government technology that is outdated, cumbersome, and no longer serving the needs of local government users as “Dino-software.”
The name may be fun, but the consequences to local communities are nothing to joke about. Use the resource below to spot the five warning signs that it might be time to upgrade your government technology partners.
Thanks to technology, modern life is becoming increasingly efficient. Companies like ParkMobile provide apps for parking to help you avoid waiting in a queue (or worse, paying with actual coins). Shopping services like AmazonFresh will deliver household items to your door on a predetermined schedule. And now, ViewPoint Cloud has even improved local government services by bringing the entire permitting experience online with customizable automation software.
But as with any new technology, it’s crucial to understand how adoption comes into play. Technology can’t work unless people first understand it, and then utilize it. That’s why we’re sharing strategies from two different cities using technology help kiosks inside of city hall to increase constituent adoption of ViewPoint Cloud’s permitting automation technology.
What Is a Technology Help Kiosk?
A technology help kiosk can be a simple computer, laptop, or table designated solely for constituents to use online city services.
By design, kiosks are inexpensive and instructive, offering an astoundingly practical solution for time-strapped teams (which is to say, all teams in local government). They can be self-service, but more often are utilized as a way to guide customers through certain transactions or processes.
The concept isn’t new—they’ve been used in airports, grocery stores, and parking structures for decades. The application for providing access to new software to all constituents, however, is a genius example of how far dedicated public servants are willing to go to ensure everyone in their community has equal access to emerging technology.
Why Use of Kiosks is On the Rise in Local Government
For many communities considering bringing permitting processes online, one of the major hesitations in making the investment in ViewPoint Cloud is whether or not community members will understand how to use the public-facing storefronts to submit permit and license applications. Technology help kiosks offer the simplest path to adoption with two major benefits. First, they increase technology equity by assisting populations with limited access or comfort with technology. The City of Wooster, Ohio, for example, sits 50 miles south of Cleveland, just north of Holmes County, which contains “the second largest Amish community after Lancaster, Pennsylvania,” according to Tim Monea, Chief Building Official.
“There are a large number of Amish contractors using ViewPoint Cloud via the kiosk in our department lobby. Additionally, there are others who ask for assistance and want to use the kiosk,” Monea shares.
The Town of Bolton, Massachusetts, with a population size around 5,000, uses the kiosk similarly. “We offer our kiosk to any applicant who doesn’t have access to a computer, has travelled into Town Hall in pursuit of a permit, or is uncomfortable with technology,” explains Jenny Jacobsen, the Town’s Health and Permitting Assistant. “I can sit with applicants to help them get acclimated.”
Jacobsen is in charge of assisting community members with permit applications. She acts as the point-person for constituent questions for their specific project needs. Which brings us to the second major benefit of kiosks: they reduce staff time spent on troubleshooting, while increasing constituent satisfaction. “Constituent feedback has been very positive,” says Jacobsen. “The best part about our kiosk is that our door doesn’t become a dead end. You can still accomplish what you came in for in the first place.” Monea agrees that in Wooster, Ohio, “nearly all of our customers leave our lobby happy and appreciative of the personal assistance.”
“It is like training wheels. They’ll be riding on their own two wheels before they know it.”
Tips for Making the Most of Constituent Interactions at Kiosks
Before you rush off to implement a kiosk program, both Monea and Jacobsen shared a few pieces of sage advance to help ensure success.
Tip #1: Just because you have a kiosk, doesn’t mean constituent questions will stop.
Be sure to have a dedicated staff member who is comfortable with how the technology works and can patiently answer constituent questions and troubleshooting needs. In Wooster, OH, Monea attributes the success of the kiosk to having the right person in seat to walk constituents through the software and answer project-specific questions.
“The critical component is having someone assigned to assist customers who walk in and want to use the kiosk,” explains Monea. “We have an administrative assistant whose responsibility is assisting these customers with the kiosk, scanning submittal documents, as well as helping customers calling in with ViewPoint Cloud questions.”
“It’s not just the kiosk; it’s the person who is helping them use the kiosk to get their task completed. These two things go hand-in-glove.”
Tip #2: The goal of the kiosk should be to reduce usage over time, but don’t expect usage to stop completely.
The old managerial adage, “Make yourself obsolete,” applies here, meaning kiosks should empower individuals to utilize ViewPoint Cloud’s public-facing application portal on their own, once they become comfortable with the technology.
“While our in-person customers have dramatically declined, we have daily users on the lobby kiosk,” shares Monea. Jacobsen agrees. “While I hope it will enable everyone to become comfortable enough to apply from home, I remind them that they are always welcome to use the kiosk,” she affirms. “I have a few contractors who do come in regularly.”
Tip #3: Leverage kiosks to incentivize “going green” after making the commitment to fully digitize permitting.
Back in 2017, the City of Wooster, Ohio decided to eliminate all paper processes for permitting across their Building, Planning, and Zoning Departments. Today, they do not allow paper applications or construction documents to be accepted. “At the outset we were committed to putting all of our workflow processes in the cloud using ViewPoint,” explains Monea. This includes “all plan reviews, permitting and inspection questions, reports, and other related tasks.” Therefore, kiosks have been vital in making the leap to get all stakeholders on board.
While the Town of Bolton, Massachusetts hasn’t fully eliminated paper applications, they now assess a fee for permit applications where filers insist on using paper forms. “Use of the kiosk is free,” Jacobsen shares, which incentivizes individuals to utilize ViewPoint Cloud’s public-facing application portal instead to save some money.
The new adaptation of technology help kiosks is perhaps one of the best examples out there to highlight the spirit and character of local government leaders. You care deeply about your constituents and seeing the communities you share grow and thrive. Ultimately, you are there to help. And this strategy allows you to help all constituents—business owners, developers, entrepreneurs, and others—approach permitting, licensing, and code enforcement applications with cheer.
Ready to transition to digital permitting? Ask us how.
Name: Michael Fitzwater Job title: Community Support Manager Hometown: Concord, NC How long have you been with ViewPoint? 1 year Describe yourself in three words: Energetic, Authentic, Empathetic Astrological Sign: Sagittarius
What’s your favorite part of the job?
I really love interacting with people! Since I was young, I’ve always been a “people person,” so it’s very rewarding to have the opportunity to talk with our users. I get a lot of enjoyment out of troubleshooting and resolving problems for users because I’m partial to quick resolutions myself.
Describe your most memorable moment at ViewPoint, from around the office, at an event, getting to know a co-worker, or anything else.
Actually, two come to mind. The first is last year’s office party because it was great getting to know everyone outside of the office and meet their partners. I also love our group lunches every day. A few of us try to take a lunch break together daily, which helps us to continue to bond as a team.
Speaking of “outside of work,” what is the nerdiest thing you do in your spare time?
I recently got a subscription to the New York Times and I’m weirdly obsessed with their crossword puzzle app. I do at least one a day, mainly on my commute to and from work.
What achievement to date, personal or professional, are you the most proud of?
Definitely moving to Los Angeles! On a whim, I gave two weeks notice in my previous role, packed as much as I could fit into my car, and drove across the country to California. I had never been to L.A. and had very little money to my name, but I made it work. I haven’t had a single regret since.
What’s the one thing you love most about Los Angeles?
It’s hard to name just one thing, but my top three are the people, the beach, and our lifestyle. Say what you what about the “California stereotype,” but I think we know how to make the most out of life. Most of our activities revolve around being outside. I love that I can get just about anything I could possibly want within this city.
Can you share one of your favorite photos taken in L.A.? What’s the story behind it?
This is one of my favorite pictures taken because it was post-hike with my best friends after we had a picnic in the park. I love experiencing this city with my friends, and I couldn’t make it through life without them.
What’s the best live show you’ve ever seen, and why?
It’s a tie between Lady Gaga and Fleetwood Mac. Lady Gaga puts her all into giving her audience the best show she can possibly put on. Fleetwood Mac is on the list because…Stevie Nicks, obviously.
What’s something that you love that everyone you know hates?
What’s the last book that you read?
I read The Cuckoos Calling by Robert Galbraith.
What is the greatest piece of advice you’ve been given?
My college professor used to always say “There’s no growth in the comfort zone and there’s comfort in the growth zone.” I try to remember this often. I try to be as comfortable as possible in both of these “zones.” It’s not always easy, but I’m constantly trying to grow as a person in my personal and professional life.
Modern technology can transform the way you work in local government, saving time otherwise spent on manual, tedious tasks. Yet any new implementation project needs to be approached with the utmost scrutiny—especially when you consider that approximately 30% of projects are cancelled before they reach completion and another 50% exceed their initial project cost estimate, according to research conducted by The Standish Group.
Throughout our twenty-four years as a company, we’ve been involved in hundreds of procurement discussions from the vendor side. In that time, we’ve realized that the communities who ask us the 10 questions below often have the most success in implementing their new solution. Today, we’re passing that information along to you.
Establish How Customizable the Product Is to Your Specific Needs
1. How easy will it be to make additional updates to the configuration after initial set up?
Most solutions require some degree of preliminary setup. Once that initial newness wears off, be sure you understand whether your team will be able to adapt the solution to evolving needs. For example, do you need the vendor or IT staff to make simple updates to the environment (e.g. updating workflows and forms)?
You should also understand the level of access your internal users will have to dedicated support, in the form of consultants or online help, to answer questions. At ViewPoint Cloud, we have a full-time team dedicated to responding to user questions and requests. Our median response time is just 10 minutes.
2. What are some creative things that we can do with this technology that will make us stand out from neighboring municipalities?
Our workflow automation platform is best-known for streamlining permitting, licensing, code enforcement and inspections—but it also does a lot more than that. The cities and towns we work with consistently invent new and impressive uses like:
Adding tax checks to permitting workflows to make sure people can’t get permits until they pay back taxes
Creating smart projects that adapt permitting requirements based on an applicant’s specific project criteria
Developing in-depth FAQ sections to help applicants with their requests
Software tools need to be customizable in order to adapt and change with the evolving needs of your community. Make sure you have that flexibility early on.
Know What the Implementation Process Will Look Like—And How Involved Your Team Will Be
3. Does implementation cost extra?
Certain vendors look to keep costs low by selling their technology solution as a standalone item. They provide no insight on how to best use the tool, how to migrate your historical data into the new software, and they do not offer support for troubleshooting or Q&A. Alternatively, sometimes vendors will sneak in ‘hidden’ implementation or consulting fees after the initial contract is signed.
Our team believes that in order to make the most of your software investment, support is a necessary component of a successful project—not a nice-to-have extra. That’s why we work with communities to create a transparent, customized service plan tailored to support the duration of platform deployment.
4. Are there additional fees for onsite training or consulting time after a certain period?
Depending on the vendor, user training is sometimes included in the cost of the product. Others offer up-front training, but charge for additional engagements after the preliminary onboarding period. Be sure you’re clear on how your potential vendor operates and whether this will impact the overall investment.
5. Will we need to have a dedicated person or team available to ensure successful technology implementation?
In many cases, large-scale technology implementation projects fall to IT staff. If you work on a smaller team, or have a small IT department supporting a large organization, figure out who internally has the capacity to act as the point-person for your project. This individual (or committee) is an instrumental partner in supporting change management and translating priorities internally and externally.
Compare to Other Industry Players
6. How does the speed of development and roadmap of this product compare to industry standard?
Modern technology companies employ roadmaps to visually share their strategic plan and the features they plan to develop next. While this information isn’t always publicly available, it’s worth asking your potential civic technology partner what their product priorities are for the upcoming year. Depending on the vendor, you and your community may even have an opportunity to shape future development through user feedback and recommendations.
7. Are our values aligned with this partner?
A small, but growing cohort of modern technology companies now exist–all focused on bringing about positive change in local government through innovation. We consider ourselves a member of this camp, as we are dedicated to bringing local government leaders best-in-class solutions. It’s worth having the conversation with potential vendors to learn about their history, mission, and motivations for working with local government.
Ask for and Analyze the Results
8. What is this vendor’s track record with other municipalities?
Modern govtech companies will gladly provide you with case studies, impact numbers (including methodology), and success stories because they are proud of their work and the outcomes they were able to bring about.
9. How would similar communities describe working with you?
Don’t be afraid to request references when evaluating a new solution. You should speak to a variety of communities to see how the same solution worked in different ways. Speaking directly with users will help you determine whether the technology is a good fit.
10. What is key to a successful implementation and how do I measure that?
Ask your potential technology partner to share what’s needed before, during, and after implementation to ensure success. Are there specific data points that should be collected in advance to best allow you to demonstrate progress using your new solution? If so, ask them how similar communities have tackled this, along with their recommendations as to how you should get started too.
As we explored in our previous blog post, getting enough consensus and internal buy-in to even decide on a technology solution is a major achievement. But after going through all of this up-front effort, you owe it to yourself, your team, and your constituents to ask potential civic technology partners the key questions above.
Name: Bassil Silver Job title: Chief Operations Officer Hometown: Arlington, MA How long have you been with ViewPoint?: 18 years Describe yourself in three words: Motivated, Energetic, Excited Favorite App: Strava
Any busy city official will tell you, there’s nothing worse than a crowded inbox or non-stop notifications with no clear path for how to dig yourself out. A missed deadline or overlooked application step could mean non-compliance, an incomplete inspection, or unwanted delays to community development.
The ViewPoint Cloud office has been ablaze with excitement as we near #ELGL19. For this year’s conference, we’re sending a first-time attendee, Tom Crosby, and we thought it would be fun to have him sit down with our resident ELGL veteran, Rachel Keyser, to chat about the upcoming event.
Name: Gerrell Johnson Job title: Municipal Strategist Hometown: Los Angeles, CA How long have you been with ViewPoint? 1 year Describe yourself in three words: Inquisitive, empathic, and adventurous ViewPoint Cloud Superlative: The All-Time Weekend Warrior Award
What’s the biggest thing people often don’t know about SaaS, government technology, or permitting?
The impact potential—SaaS solutions in the municipal space have the potential to improve the day-to-day lives of pretty much every constituent in any given city, town, village, or community.
How does your role at ViewPoint fit into that?
I think I have one the coolest jobs in house. I get to strategize, test, experiment, iterate, and refine processes to contribute to a perpetually improving growth machine that connects us to the communities that really want to modernize services. My job here at ViewPoint Cloud is extremely fulfilling and I only want to get better at it!
If you were stranded on a deserted island, what three co-workers would you want to have with you, and why?
Rachel Keyser because of her perpetual optimism and our knack for embarking on the most epic existential debates
Tom Crosby because I’m sure he’s read at least 20 books on general survival and could probably build our shelter and keep us fed, clothed, and entertained
Kelsey Price because of her superior skills in skee ball, which we could wager to get out of tricky situations
When was the last time you really laughed?
The last epic laugh attack that comes to mind was from my recent camping trip to the Sequoias.
Can you share one of your favorite photos taken there?
This is a picture from my last camping trip to Sequoia National Park. I love to camp, hike, and take day trips here. It’s only a three-hour drive from Los Angeles and every time I go I feel like I’m in another world—miles away from all my worries, concerns, and all of the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s my happy place.
What’s the best live show you’ve ever seen, and why?
Kid Cudi, Coachella Music and Arts Festival, 2014! Cudi is my all-time favorite artist and his set was magical. I was in the desert with all my friends and his set was right at sunset. All of the lights, the desert breeze, his energy—all combined it was the best music experience I’ve had to date!
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in the last year?
Life is short and tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone. Tell the people you love that you care about them, that they mean something to you every chance you get.