Forging a New Frontier—Cityworks PLL Delivers Results at Delaware, Ohio

Some exciting things are going on at Azteca.  Along with a steadily growing user base, the recent completion of a superb Cityworks 2010 User Conference, and seemingly endless client success stories, there is a new community development system that is forging a new frontier for Cityworks management software.  Delaware, Ohio, is one of the first clients to utilize Cityworks PLL (Permits, Licensing, and Land) and is already experiencing fantastic results and dramatic improvements over their previous processes.

Delaware was founded in 1808 along the Olentangy River, about 20 miles north of Columbus in central Ohio.  The city has a population of approximately 34,000 and is home to Ohio Weslayan University.  The City’s Planning and Community Development Department selected Cityworks PLL to manage all building permits and inspections, code enforcement cases, community development applications, and approvals as well as engineering construction processes.

Cityworks PLL is an automated permitting program streamlining permitting and land development processes.  Built on ArcGIS, Cityworks PLL has the same easy-to-use interface as Cityworks CMMS and is a fully integrated extension of your GIS.  The product allows agencies to track permits, applications, and code enforcement cases from beginning to end.

Delaware moved from a mostly paper-based permitting system supported by Microsoft Access and Excel to Cityworks PLL.  As an early adopter of Cityworks PLL, Delaware has provided Azteca excellent feedback and helped us tremendously with the product.  The City implemented Cityworks to manage several business processes across several departments and  provide a single place where all their information could reside and be shared.  Below is a count of the total applications, permit types, and cases implemented for each department.

Building Department:
6 commercial permits
17 residential permits
1 contractor registration/licensing
4 miscellaneous
Department of Planning and Community Development:
17 developments (Final Development Plan, Certificate of Approvals, etc.)
4 pre-development (Annexation Review, Concept Plan, etc.)
8 subdivision (Final Subdivision Plan, Public Way Vacation, etc.)
12 zoning permits (Conditional Use Permits, Sign Permits, Variances, etc.)

Code Enforcement:
3 code enforcement case types consisting of dozens of code violations

Department of Engineering Services:
1 land development construction process
2 Right-of-Way permits/violations

City Manager’s Office (Economic Director):
7 economic development (Administration of Grants, Facade Improvements, etc.)

Cityworks PLL is much more than just permit management for building departments.  The generic “case” container that each of the above processes utilize provides the flexibility for several City departments to group together and take advantage of Cityworks PLL to manage their business.  Cityworks PLL streamlines the community development and regulation processes across local government departments.

One reason Cityworks is so efficient at managing so many different processes is that in Cityworks PLL “everything is the same, but different.”  The same in that everything is managed by a simple “container” and the basic functionality of that “container” is the same across the board, but different because that “container” can be configured in hundreds of different ways to manage hundreds of different processes.

The 17 items listed below are the basic functional forms of the application.  Each of these can be assigned to a template defined to manage the data of a specific process:

Thus, if a building permit needs the Inspection Request form and the Final Subdivision Plan doesn’t, their templates are set up accordingly.  Likewise, Code Enforcement cases need the Violations form, Pre-Development Concept Plans don’t.  Each specific template is ONLY assigned those forms that are relative to that process.  City departments can set up as many templates as they need in order to manage all their processes.  In addition, Cityworks MMS shares the same database and GUI with Cityworks PLL.  Therefore, security roles can be set up within the application to grant permissions or restrict access across the system.
In Delaware, a total of 88 unique templates were configured.  Each template is assigned default data that supports the specific permit or case type.   Default data consists of:
Workflows
Case Data Groups
Fees
Flags
Conditions
People Roles

The 88 templates are supported by 85 workflows which contain 242 individual tasks.  Workflows are groups of tasks that track all reviews, inspections, notices, hearings, issuances, and more.  Each task supports a step in the business process for the permit or case.  All of the necessary fees for each permit are configured and accurately calculated using 171 unique fee codes.  Only those fees that apply to the specific permit or case type are assigned to their respective templates.

Additionally, divided among the templates are 69 Case Data Groups containing 434 custom data fields.  Case Data Groups are groups of user-defined custom fields assigned to each template.  Cityworks users can define their own fields and use them to capture information that each permit or case requires, such as number of bedrooms, desired start date, foundation type, square footage, etc.  Custom data fields assume a field type to control the format.  Field types include: numeric, text, date, dropdown list, value, yes/no, and comment box.  Each template can have as many custom data groups as needed to support the permit or case.  In addition, dozens of flags, conditions, instruments, predefined notes, inspection corrections, violations, people roles, and more were added to the system to support the City’s business processes.  Cityworks PLL is incredibly flexible and very customizable for each organization.

After a very thorough implementation, the City went live with Cityworks PLL on April 30, 2010.  Dave Efland, Director of Planning and Community Development, states, “The implementation process was challenging, mostly due to the fact that it forced us for the first time to write down, flow chart, and confront our own processes.  This was actually a really important component and the reflection led to a change in process as a result, but, beyond that, the experience and assistance of Azteca made this possible.  Without Azteca and Woolpert helping us through the implementation and teaching us to teach ourselves, we would not be utilizing this cutting-edge technology.”

Indeed, implementing Cityworks provides an opportunity and setting for organizations to completely review and analyze their current processes and, if necessary, make changes and improvements.  This is a very important step in the implementation.  Too often, there is a tendency to “stuff” the former process into Cityworks.  It’s important to take the time to assess the needs of each department, look at the current processes, and efficiently translate that into the Cityworks application.  As one of the many individuals involved in this project, it was a great opportunity to assist individuals and departments in assessing their current way of doing business, working out concerns, and finding a solution within Cityworks to manage it.

As Delaware’s staff learned more about the software’s capabilities, changes were made to the configuration that more closely supported their practices.  The reconfiguration of Delaware’s workflows, fee codes, and data groups brought to light Cityworks PLL’s incredible flexibility and the wide variety of ways the system can be configured.  Going through the process of selecting the “right” approach yielded a specific and very well organized configuration to manage the City’s business processes.  And, in the process, Azteca gained valuable knowledge about Delaware’s needs, many of which resulted in functional enhancements to Cityworks PLL.

Comparing the former mostly paper-based permitting system supported by MS Access and Excel to Cityworks, Dave says, “It is literally like moving from the Dark Ages to the enlightenment to try to describe the difference between pre-Cityworks and post-Cityworks.  Our daily pay-in report sent to finance once took an hour or more each day and was still somewhat disorganized now takes literally only a few minutes and is correct every time.  Monthly reports that took the better part of a day to complete using many data sources now literally take just minutes from a single source.  Finding case history and even other relevant actions on a property is now possible from the desktop and was virtually impossible before and required hours of searching paper files.  This efficiency gain has removed a huge barrier to cross-training.  It has unlocked the full potential of staff to focus on the professional job details and not the mechanics of the job.  Staff from ages 30 to 60 have all taken to the application.  Once cases are entered, they can then be used to tell the story of what we do and the value we provide to the citizens of our community in an entirely new, visual, and graphic way.”

He continues, “We can as a complete team see all the steps of permitting in one place and it’s available for every team member to see; they simply log in to Cityworks and search for what they need.  This enhances communication and facilitates a much more team-oriented approach to our work and problem solving while increasing accountability.”

It has been a privilege to work the staff at the City of Delaware.  As with all implementations of Cityworks CMMS or PLL, the dedicated employees within the organization are the reason Cityworks succeeds.  Being an early adopter of the system, they have provided invaluable feedback that has helped us significantly improve the product.

Finally, as Dave sums up the implementation:  “The product will only get better and better as upgrades and enhancements are built into the system in future releases by a company that was interested not only in the technology but, probably more importantly, in getting to know us as people, our organization, and our business processes.  Too often software and software companies want you to fit into their system.  This ignores the reasons that local governments exist to regulate and provide services to our citizens.  Azteca and Woolpert started from the very beginning wanting to translate our way of doing business into Cityworks.”

We look forward to their continued feedback as we continue to improve Cityworks PLL.

By Matt Harman, Project Manager, Azteca Systems, Inc., and David M. Efland, AICP, Director of Planning and Community Development, City of Delaware, Ohio

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