Buying the wrong permitting management system feels a bit like it did to buy a smartphone in the early days. There might have been a few applications within them, but generally if you wanted a decent camera, a music player, video call capability, or the ability to easily sync with other technology, you would need to buy more than just the phone.
Not to mention, the total cost of buying all these things separately would be much greater than simply buying the all-in-one smartphones we have today.
While permitting software has evolved, there are still too many options that only focus on a small handful of applications, or fail to address big issues that don’t always become apparent until later in the buying process.
Platform solutions address this by enabling multiple integrated applications into a single system, much like today’s smartphones have done.
This creates more advantages than just the sum of the individual parts, but before we explain how that works, let’s review the issues you’ll want to avoid in a permit management system.
The top 3 issues governments face with most permitting software
1. Lack of vertical flexibility
Most existing solutions simply aren’t flexible enough to handle the full range of permitting types, while still offering a price that’s proportional to an agency’s needs.
That’s because despite being such a simple term, “permitting” encompasses a huge variety of permit types, from getting a new dog to constructing a high-rise apartment. Most permit management software is optimized to handle one or the other, and it’s hard to rationalize a big-budget system if 90 percent of your permits are for basic requests.
A simple permit is easy enough to process, so a simple piece of software does the job just fine. But basic permit management systems aren’t sophisticated enough to handle massive projects like construction, where you need to deal with electrical, zoning, and environmental considerations, which can require collaboration with multiple government bodies and committees.
Unfortunately, many government organizations handle this by trying to solve complex problems with simple permitting products. Alternatively, they’re compelled to solve simple problems with expensive robust solutions, which feels like overkill.
Worse still, a small organization with limited resources won’t be able to hire the IT staff to maintain a larger, more complex system, which creates a division of “haves” and “have-nots.”
What ends up happening then, is that in order to solve different permitting needs (without breaking the budget), they’re forced to buy multiple pieces of smaller software, creating a complicated, cobbled system.
This often leads to inefficiencies and data silos, which create countless hidden costs.
2. Rigid workflows
Aside from the ability to handle simple versus complex permitting processes, a permitting management system needs to fit naturally into your existing workflows, software, and communications.
Unfortunately, fixed, linear workflows are still a standard offering from most permit software companies. Many have a one-size-fits-all approach, so all permits must follow the same steps and cannot deviate from the prescribed path.
For instance, if a permit requires additional information or documentation that is not part of the predefined workflow, then the permit processing slows down while the necessary information is obtained.
In essence, it requires you to change the way you work, rather than having the software work for you.
This type of setup is too prescriptive, and often fails to account for people like the small-time contractor who lacks the capabilities to make their data fit with the new system.
Similarly, with an inflexible permit system, both the city and citizens often have to deal with a cobbled system of multiple websites, logins, and interfaces, rather than a single platform.
3. High costs
Prices balloon quickly with a lot of permit software. If the cost of a permitting system is high relative to the organization’s cash flows, it might not seem worth it.
Plus, permitting doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s often tied to inspections, which in turn are tied to code enforcement. If you’re a smaller organization and buy software that only does one thing, you’re not getting much help relative to the amount of your budget you allocated for it.
For instance, all dogs need licenses, but if all the shelters needed their own individual permitting system, the costs would be unrealistic.
Inexpensive systems with minimal use cases rarely have other key features like mobile support, or a centralized website for citizens and government employees to use. Oftentimes, they also have fixed workflows, as mentioned in the previous point.
The advantages of a comprehensive platform for permit management
A practical permit management system (such as one for municipal permits) needs to be able to handle simple and complex permitting processes, and provide adaptive workflows that work with your existing processes. In the past, you couldn’t do this without significant resources to dedicate to it.
This problem is what we wanted to solve as we worked with governments across the US. So we created the 3Di Engage platform. Aside from being flexible and affordable, 3Di Engage offers some other key advantages:
- All-in-one solution — rather than being stuck with a cobbled collection of applications and fixed workflows, 3Di Engage combines everything into a single system where all your case data and workflows connect seamlessly. With mobile capabilities, there’s no more unnecessary returns to the office, so you can start
- Integrates with all relevant government bodies — when someone applies for a license, 3Di Engage automatically checks with the state systems to validate things like addresses, identities, or credit score, and routes payments to the appropriate payment systems. It also checks to make sure citizens don’t already have the same permit through other agencies.
- Adaptive workflows — with 3Di Engage, there’s no fixed process for permitting, because the process depends on the type of permit. We adapt 3Di Engage to match your workflows, taking whatever you’re currently doing (or using) and creating an intuitive, efficient, digital version of the process. Even if your processes are complex, non-linear, or the steps change often depending on circumstances, 3Di Engage can still provide automation for them.
- Customer portal — the intuitive web portal and mobile portal for citizens on 3Di Engage allows them to apply for permits and licenses, check their status, and make payments.
- Payment processing — within the portals mentioned above, people can easily pay online. You can set up and manage simple or complex permit fee schedules, from simple flat rates, to recurring fees, to complex variable rates.
When you subscribe to 3Di Engage, we’re not building a custom solution from scratch. We take one of our prebuilt solution accelerators (sort of like a software template) and customize it to suit the way you already work. This drastically reduces the development costs for a comprehensive permit management system, so you get enterprise-grade software to match your budget.
Since 3Di Engage lives online as a cloud platform, you don’t need to worry about soaring IT costs, because we handle everything on our end.
And permit management is just the tip of the iceberg. From case management and inspections to citizen engagement and reporting, 3Di Engage is easily expandable to match your evolving needs.
If you’re ready to see how it works, request a demo today.