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Responding to COVID-19 protocols results in long-term benefits

As we all know, COVID-19 has changed the ways business is being conducted. With facilities closed and person-to-person business interaction reduced, it has become necessary for public sector organizations to provide services to their citizens in ways that keep business active and yet comply with protocols and adhere to regulations and bylaws. Many of these new practices have resulted in long-term benefits, such as more efficient data-sharing and more responsive customer service.

Indeed, digitalizing pre-existing processes can bring mass benefits to any organization. For city halls and departments that are customer-facing, it has become necessary. For example, organizations that enable the online application of permits such as building renovations, new construction, burn permits and business licenses are able to continue doing income-generating activities through the period of lockdown.

This means people do not have to come into buildings to conduct their business in person, thereby reducing the potential spread of the virus. Cloud-based digital processes result in inspectors completing their work in the field, submitting the results back to the office and sending these results to the contractors and owners without needing to handle paper or meet in person.

The City of Longview, TX, a Cityworks customer, implemented such a system in water and tap permitting. The solution allows Development Services to create a new service request that notifies the Water and Sewer Department for new installations. Upon completion of a new field install, the solution relays that notification to the Metering Department to capture the meter readings and then routes the meter details to their Billing Department for the creation of the customer account.

The pre-COVID implementation of a digitalized system kept municipal business moving during COVID and has improved processes and communication between permit holders, contractors and the municipality.

Our municipal customers have seen the benefits of moving to more online services that they intend to maintain once the COVID-19 restrictions have been removed. The result of adjusting existing processes to better meet the pandemic situation has actually netted better service delivery to customers. The City of Kawartha Lakes, ON, implemented an online fire permitting that provides better analysis and issuance of permits. The benefits they have realized include:

  • Better customer service (e.g. online permitting via email)
  • Contactless payment processing (e.g. automatic fee calculation and email invoices)
  • Info-sharing with public safety call-taking and dispatch
  • Efficient data sharing across the municipal enterprise

These two examples highlight the ease in continuing services under challenging circumstances. What’s more, is better data management and analytical decision-making that is hard to find in paper-locked systems.

One final example: The City of Kelowna, BC, went live in the first quarter of 2020 with its Road Use Permitting system at the start of the COVID-19 lockdown. The system automates their permit card delivery and invoicing using Cityworks PLL email notifications. As a result, external and internal communications have improved for managing their Road Use Permits. This helped support their business processes during the crucial early months of the pandemic.

If you are looking for solutions like any of the above examples, I invite you to connect with your Esri Canada account manager so that we can exchange ideas.

This post was translated to French and can be viewed here.

About the Author

Bill Grant is the Industry Manager for Public Works at Esri Canada. Bill has over 25 years of asset and maintenance management experience in the municipal and private sectors. He has worked on projects for federal, provincial and municipal government agencies in Canada, USA and the Republic of Kenya where he introduced the first PC’s into the Ministry of Public Works. Bill’s strengths are working with all levels of staff from senior managers to field workers in the development and implementation of asset and work management programs and the accompanying change management processes.

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