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The Secret to Digital Permitting Adoption: The Technology Help Kiosk

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.

The technology help kiosk from Town of Bolton, Massachusetts, which is used to increase constituent adoption of ViewPoint Cloud and answer permitting application questions.

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.”

Jenny Jacobsen, Health and Permitting Assistant with Town of Bolton, Massachusetts

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.” 

Tim Monea, Chief Building Officer for the City of Wooster, OH

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.

Conclusion

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.

Inside ViewPoint: Meet Michael Fitzwater

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?

The Kardashians.

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. 

Inside ViewPoint: Meet Gerrell Johnson

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.

The Importance of “Finding your Tribe” at TLG

Leadership expert and frequent TEDTalk presenter, Simon Sinek, has a lot to say about the idea of modern tribalism: forming a social network based on certain feelings such as trust, respect, and understanding. The modern tribe today, he contends, is most often a person’s place of work, where a shared set of values provides a “sense of purpose and cause.”

This past week, we saw a modern tribe in action as local government leaders from around the country gathered in Reno, NV for the Alliance for Innovation’s 25th Annual Transforming Local Government Conference (#TLG2019).

Among the many themes from TLG, the importance of peer support and learning, finding avenues for concrete action, and building an inclusive community stand out. Here are the key highlights.


TLG Attendees Support One Another—Across Different Cities and Sates

The warm, friendly atmosphere among local government attendees was immediately apparent at TLG. There were flurries of handshakes and hugs, inquiries about smart projects, legislation changes, and challenges—crossing the divide of different cities and departments. 

One attendee described the feeling of relief this conference instills, being surrounded by a group of people who “just get it.” She spelled out the contrast between discussing day-to-day challenges with TLG’ers versus a close friend, or even a spouse. With TLG, she finds instant understanding, shared endeavors, and connections to return to for support when enacting change. Most of all, unlike general lamenting, the Alliance actually provides solutions to help communities address, implement, and improve the status quo.


The Future of Innovation Relies on Peer Learning

Joel Carnes, President and CEO of the Alliance for Innovation, encouraged attendees to utilize TLG as a connecting point for this tribe of innovators—a place where leaders are supported in their quest to achieve efficient government operations and elevate communities across the country. The Alliance’s forthcoming Innovation Leagues is a specific part of this vision, mapped out as a network of regional bodies comprised of city leaders, universities, technology companies, and other stakeholders who all have the shared goal of helping their region reach its full potential.

The Alliance facilitates peer-learning between members who want to address a certain issue and members who have already excelled in that area. To showcase how this works, The Alliance pre-selected teams from cities to present to their peers at TLG on how they achieved certain successes. Bloomington, MN, for example, shared how to work outside of the traditional org chart to strengthen workplace cohesion. Attendees raved about the presentation, filling the conference app with photos and highlights.


Private Sector Partners Should Want to Help You, Not Just Sell You

Back in 2016, the Alliance created their Corporate Partner program with the express intent of connecting local governments directly with the latest private sector technology and innovation companies committed to push meaningful member initiatives forward. At TLG, Corporate Partners contributed to the knowledge base with Learning Labs—hour-long sessions focused on municipal education and processes improvement.

We teamed up with NIC to share three innovations to eliminate pain points in technology procurement, helping navigate a necessary process many Alliance members find particularly frustrating. In addition to new procurement strategies, the session focused on shifting away from the traditional vendor/customer dynamic that is a one-time transaction. Instead, local government leaders should seek out value-based partnerships with modern companies dedicated to relationship building. This  creates a feedback loop to continuously improve government services.

 

TLG attendees gather in Corporate Partner Alley to learn about the latest govtech innovations.


The TLG Conversation Continues Year-Round

Rounding out these pre-slated Learning Lab and peer support sessions, the Alliance also offered an additional “unConference” track where attendees got to brainstorm common areas they were keen to discuss and vote on their favorites. The top ten became dedicated breakout sessions throughout the conference. Topics spanned artificial intelligence & customer service, data dashboards & how to utilize them, infrastructure for aging populations, and project prioritization through the lens of equity.

After the conference, The Atlas, an online government marketplace and this year’s TLG Technology Partner, will enable these conversations to continue remotely— helping government leaders find best-fit technology solutions to help their communities thrive.  

The “unConference” schedule, which was determined by TLG attendees throughout the event.


Conclusion

For the “doers” in local government, The Alliance for Innovation’s Annual TLG Conference provides a safe space to build an extension of their modern tribe. Leaders connect with other leaders from cities across the country and the knowledge transfer that occurs between sessions, learning labs, and conference networking provides a strong foundation for innovation between public and private sector partners. If #TLG2019 was any indication of the progress that can happen in just two days, we can’t wait to see how the TLG Tribe evolves throughout 2019 and into next year’s conference in Phoenix, AZ.

 

Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority | ViewPoint Cloud ePermitting

Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority Selects ViewPoint Cloud for Modern ePermitting

ViewPoint Government Solutions is excited to announce that Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) has selected ViewPoint Cloud to bring modern, user-friendly permitting to the agency. VTA will be using ViewPoint Cloud to manage construction permitting in and around their transportation hubs, furthering their mission to provide community-focused transportation options that are innovative, environmentally responsible, and promote the vitality of the region.

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Process Automation Customized for You--No Coding or Consultants Required

Process Automation Customized for You—No Coding or Consultants Required

Far too many government staff members find their daily workload bogged down by inefficient and unintuitive processes and tools. Whether it’s trying to physically deliver paper documents and manually track applications, or using outdated software that doesn’t quite fit your needs and makes collaboration difficult. Local governments everywhere are realizing that decades-old tools are no longer cutting it.

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Introducing Inspections: a Full-Spectrum Enhancement for Efficiency and Ease

Inspection capabilities are crucial when it comes to the health of municipal permitting and licensing processes. Building codes serve as the tentpole for ensuring physical public safety, but they’re only as valuable as a municipality’s ability to conduct quality inspections and ultimately confirm compliance. This is why the upcoming release of the new Inspections feature in ViewPoint Cloud is taking the product to the next level.

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Five Forward-thinking Ohio Cities Power ePermitting with ViewPoint Cloud

Five Forward-thinking Ohio Cities Power ePermitting with ViewPoint Cloud

Population: 160,000 (total); 26,761 (average)
State: Ohio
Municipalities Involved: Hudson, Upper Arlington, Wooster, Fairfield, Bexley
Problems Addressed: Improving customer experience, integrating back and front end, moving to cloud-based software
Project Highlights:  Saving money on cloud-based software, improving process efficiency

Over a hundred years old and situated next to Ohio State University, the community of Upper Arlington, Ohio has seen recent rises in property values spurring new development, and in turn, permitting and licensing requests.

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Online Permit Portals: The Smart City Hall

You’re an entrepreneur looking to open a food truck in your city. You vaguely recall where City Hall is, but haven’t interacted much with your local government. Your idea for a business spurs the first real introduction.

You go to the your city’s website in search of answers to these questions:

  • What do I need to do to legally operate my business?
  • How much will it cost me?
  • Where do I do it?

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Gloucester's Unified Storefront for Citizen Services | ViewPoint Cloud | SeeClickFix

Gloucester’s Unified Storefront for Citizen Services [Webinar Recording]

Deploying new solutions and services to better support constituent needs remains a difficult task in government today, but strategic project management and communications can make all the difference. With the help of modern GovTech partners, leading local governments are tackling these challenges because they recognize the operational and fiscal benefits to both employees and community members.

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Technology as a Catalyst for Process Improvement | Municipal ePermitting

Technology as a Catalyst for Process Improvement

This article was authored by John Covey and originally published in the Alliance for Innovation’s Solutions Journal.

About John Covey
Having worked in the technology field for the last 36 years, John currently serves as the Chief Information Officer in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. As a civic technologist, he supports ViewPoint in continuously improving ViewPoint Cloud, bringing modern permitting services to more forward-thinking local governments like the Town of Shrewsbury. 

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Introducing Smart Projects | ViewPoint Cloud3

Introducing Smart Projects: a Customer-First Solution to Demystify the Permitting Process

Casey is a local entrepreneur looking to open a seafood restaurant in the City of Park View, USA. She has her business plan mapped out, but even so, the permitting process for her restaurant remains a daunting task. Park View has a website, but it’s unclear which forms she needs and which departments should be involved. The process feels unnecessarily slow and cumbersome. Her government feels disconnected and inaccessible to Casey’s ambition for development.

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