Change is good, but it also can be challenging.
This past week, the Fairfield Community Development Department “went live” on the first stage of a brand new e-government software system that will enhance customer service by improving the submittal and tracking of planning and building applications. When fully integrated, the TrakIt software system is going to allow an architect, engineer or homeowner to electronically submit for a planning or building permit and also monitor the application process from their own computer.
Learning a new computer system is always an interesting experience, and the city staff interviewed about the new system spoke highly of its potential to greatly improve customer service while acknowledging the extensive, time-consuming training required.
“The TrakIt system will result in a better customer experience during the application process,” said David Doyle, the city’s chief building official. “The system allows us greater movement toward electronic application submittal, records storage and retrieval, the overall tracking of projects, and improved coordination between different departments, agencies and staff. We are only entering the first phase of project implementation and it has required a lot of staff time but the software looks impressive.”
Approximately 18 months ago, the Community Development Department determined that the existing permitting and project tracking systems were not meeting the city’s needs – or the needs of contractors, businesses and the general public. After extensive research, interviews, consultation with other agencies and product testing, the city selected CRW Systems Inc. of San Diego to work with a multidepartmental team to develop a semicustomized permit and project tracking system for the city.
CRW focuses on improving how local governments operate. Other Solano cities have also chosen to implement CRW software.
Developing this system required the city to work closely with CRW to define how the department processes permits and planning applications. In other words, the city had to carefully look at how business is currently done and the best ways to coordinate future applications and approvals. In the past, the Community Development Department used several separate and distinct permit and project tracking software systems. There was no direct communication between building permit software and planning project tracking.
The CRW product, TrakIt, changes this approach.
TrakIt is an Internet-based software package that integrates projects with the city’s geographic information system. All planning projects and building permits are linked geographically to a parcel and/or address, and can be linked to GIS-based parcel maps. A planner or a building technician can now easily see all of the applications and projects associated with an address or a parcel.
The TrakIt software also allows the Community Development Department to easily coordinate the review of projects and building permits. The TrakIt software assigns reviewers automatically, establishes a calendar for review and coordinates comments and conditions of approval. Outside agencies will be able to communicate with the city on projects via an online agency portal.
TrakIt also simplifies record keeping.
When a project is received, the application and supporting drawings, plans and other documents can be immediately scanned into and attached to the geographic record and project record. Accessing these drawings and documents is thus simple and based on the address, parcel number or GIS map parcel. Full-scale plans will still be taken in for more complex projects.
As powerful as TrakIt is, the city anticipates even more benefits in the future. Over the next several months, the city will begin integrating a Web-based portal that will enable residents, contractors, architects and other parties to submit applications online. Of course, the Community Development Department will still have staff available at City Hall to help the public with applications and projects, but the online portal will enable the customer to have a simple application process for certain routine projects.
Over the next few weeks, Community Development Department staff will continue to work with TrakIt to learn the system. There are inevitable glitches and a learning curve, so they ask for patience as they get up to speed on the system. Nonetheless, the city is excited about the new software, which allows for better service to customers. As CRW Systems notes, “The right technology can help local governments simplify, reduce costs, and gain new agency capabilities.”
This is already evident with the new TrakIt system.
Economic Notes is an update from Fairfield City Hall written by Brian Miller and Karl Dumas of the Fairfield Planning and Development Department. They can be contacted at 428-7461 or email at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.