Think about what might have happened if Steve Jobs had tried to build the Apple I Computer alone. His friend, Steve Wozniak, had already gone through the process to create the prototype and learned tough lessons along the way—so why would Jobs start from scratch, when he could simply build upon the work that had already been completed?
The same question applies to local government IT procurement.
Why should each municipality individually work through the complicated, tedious process of researching, sourcing, and evaluating new IT solutions when they can collectively achieve better outcomes through peer collaboration?
The Capitol Region Council of Governments (CRCOG) in Connecticut had the same thought—only they took it one step further.
The Spark That Started Connecticut’s ePermitting Revolution
CRCOG is comprised of a voluntary council of governments, guided by leaders across 38 municipalities surrounding Hartford, CT. The organization has existed with the same goal for more than 50 years: to improve individual cities and thereby improve the entire region.
In 2009, the organization received a state grant to undertake a regional IT project. This begged the question: what was the biggest challenge local municipalities wanted to tackle first?
Constituent pressure had been mounting across multiple municipalities that there were too many barriers to development with the existing system in place. Contractors were driving around to different towns to pull permits they needed for projects since this information wasn’t centrally located.
Given this challenge, several members identified ePermitting as a top priority that could bring substantial change to their communities fairly quickly. They decided to use the grant funds to implement regional permitting solutions and CRCOG’s Online Permitting Program launched soon after to oversee the required procurement process.
Power in Numbers: Innovations in Regional Procurement
CRCOG then entered into an in-depth Request for Proposal process to evaluate different online permitting solutions. By joining forces during procurement, Connecticut communities were able to combine their thinking, sharing resources and their own prior procurement experiences—a huge advantage in the eventual success of the project as a whole. This procurement collective had great diversity in terms of town size and vision, which ultimately led the group to select two different solutions to address their permitting challenges.
A sample of Connecticut municipalities participating in CRCOG’s Online Permit Program.
One of these was ViewPoint Cloud, chosen to provide modern ePermitting and licensing software. The platform’s online functionality, user-friendly interface, and customer support were all key factors in the decision. It was important to CRCOG leadership that this vendor would not only support them during the IT implementation phase, but also on an ongoing basis for those utilizing the software post-launch.
CRCOG also crafted the agreement so that all Connecticut municipalities, not just existing members, could participate. This is still in effect today, eliminating the need for municipalities across the state to independently source ePermitting technology.
Substantial Impact, 10 Years Later
Almost 10 years later, the Online Permitting Program is one of CRCOG's most well-known and in-demand services. CRCOG Program Manager, Brian Luther, acts as an educator and communicator for municipalities, and explains how the biggest impact of implementing ePermitting and licensing has been an improved customer service standard within building departments.
“The convenience factor for contractors with online permitting is almost necessary, and there’s huge incentive to do it. Imagine being a contractor with businesses all over Connecticut, and every time you have to pull a permit for an individual job someone has to drive out to the town’s office,” Luther details. “If you have an opportunity to go to a town that doesn’t have online permitting, that could be the deal breaker. Towns want to limit that barrier to development.”
Continuous Community Through Annual User Events
This long-standing partnership has meant these municipalities can rely on the same company, people, and program, year after year, while continually being upgraded to the newest modern platform. CRCOG’s municipal customers maintain a collaborative relationship with ViewPoint by continuously engaging in events like User Group Meetups that provide an opportunity to improve technology skills and network with other customers.
“In partnership with ViewPoint, we host a user group meeting every year, which has been a great way to stay in touch and actively get feedback, instead of just reacting,” explains Luther. “Especially with building inspectors, you don’t have a lot of meetings or opportunities to feel heard and that’s really appreciated on their end,” said Luther.
Customer meetups have proven an important opportunity to develop that two-way relationship with users, whose ideas and feedback directly shape the development of the product.
“Municipalities operate in a variety of ways and achieve different levels of service for their communities. Understanding what works and the resources already available is the best advice I can give to a municipality looking to expand their offerings and boost local development,” contends Luther.
Whether or not regional procurement is on the horizon for your municipality, CRCOG’s innovative approach and collective mindshare continues to allow Connecticut communities to maximize operational benefits, cost savings, and constituent satisfaction. The project provides an exemplary model for local, regional, and state collaboration.
Who knows, your municipality could be the next great disruptor—the Steve Jobs (or Steve Wozniak) of local government.
Looking for more strategies to improve the traditional govtech procurement process? Don’t miss our session at the upcoming TLG Conference on April 11 at 10:30 a.m. Join us for Taking the Pain Out of GovTech Procurement: 3 New Innovations in 2019 to learn how to find more modern companies, streamline the research process, and learn from other local governments seeking similar outcomes.
About ViewPoint Cloud
ViewPoint Cloud is the industry’s leading cloud-based software for permitting, licensing, inspection, and code enforcement operations. Built with the idea that local and state governments deserve the same design and technology standards as modern consumer software, ViewPoint Cloud provides next-generation permitting for modern governments. Our all-in-one platform offers a seamless, user-friendly experience for public applicants, fully integrated with powerful workflow automation for department staff.
Founded in 1995, ViewPoint serves 165+ municipalities & 7 million+ citizens nationwide. We strive to make cutting-edge software accessible to all communities, and have a 98% customer retention rate over our 23+ years of service.