Before the COVID pandemic, there was a growing expectation by citizens that interactions with government should be just as easy as those with financial and retail organizations – and that they be available online. When one can use a smartphone and have most anything delivered within hours, there’s little appetite to visit a government office to pay a fee or file a form in-person.
While many governments were moving operations online – for lots of other governments, making the change to operating online was easier said than done. Many were operating with legacy systems that were custom built and not configurable. Often different departments of the same government were operating on different systems that did not talk to each other – much less allow common data sets or data sharing. Online sites when they did exist were often “clunky” and not intuitive or mobile-friendly.
With the pandemic, it was no longer an option for governments to remain offline. Suddenly – if governments wanted to both keep serving citizen needs and keep those citizens and government employees safe — making information and services available online was a necessity. We can also be certain that post-pandemic, even when social distancing needs ease, we will not go back to the way things were. Rather we will enter the “next normal.”
For governments, that means that making information and services available to citizens online is now a “starting point” requirement. That information and those services need to be available through intuitive, easy-to-use interfaces. Doing that well means governments need an enterprise-level, flexible, powerful, and affordable platform to manage operations. Once a government is using a platform, all information needs to be digitized and all processes analyzed to find easier and better ways to perform needed functions.
The right platform should be flexible enough to meet the needs of all departments in a government and to interact with citizen and employee facing portals to make remote and online work possible. It should also create one common dataset so that only one record per citizen or per business is needed (reducing errors and saving time), and so that data can be analyzed to find trends and opportunities for future growth.
Most immediately the change will allow citizens to access information they need (say for finding out how to license a new business) easily and quickly. That is a better experience for both citizens and for government employees who can focus on higher-level work. In the future, there’s tremendous value in the data collected if it is analyzed and actioned – part of making a community “smart.” Governments can spot opportunities for increasing revenues, for investing ahead of growth to avoid “growth pains” like congestion, and for keeping their communities safe.
For governments that have not operated online before, the change is easier than they may anticipate and the payoffs – in efficiency, cost savings, empowerment of employees, satisfaction of citizens, and more – far outweigh the costs. Snohomish County, in Washington State, turned to our platform, Amanda, to manage workflows for land use approvals, building permits and inspection operations. With population growth, the county today is processing about 10,000 permits annually. Giving other county departments access to the data has further helped improve efficiency and citizen service. For example, the County Assessor’s Office previously had to request paper copies of building plans to assess taxable value of a property. Now, the same office can access the plans online. It’s more efficient both for the assessors and for citizens. And, the county uses Amanda’s analytics tools to find additional ways to make processes like online permitting even more efficient.
Any new investments by governments are sure to be scrutinized in the current economic environment – but the cost of bringing your government online is more affordable than ever and the costs savings often pay for themselves quickly. Volusia County, in Florida, started using Amanda in 2008 to manage county land use operations and processes and today several county departments use or have access to the platform. The county professional responsible for managing Amada analyzed efficiency improvements that the county realized from using a platform and concluded that the county easily recouped its original investment in Amanda in 18-24 months.
All of us, in all aspects of our lives, are entering the “next normal” – things will be done differently than they were before. That is especially true for governments, they can no longer delay being online for their citizens – in fact there has never been a better time to make that investment in “going online.” If your government needs help meeting citizen needs online, digitizing your processes, and finding needed efficiencies, we would love to help. Contact us to discuss how our platform can help you do all that and more.