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Paperless Permitting: 7 Reasons Why Local Governments Are Transitioning To The Cloud

Paperless Permitting Benefits

It wasn’t that long ago that most local governments were mired in paperwork. Rows of file cabinets contained millions of public records, and it was the norm to stand in line to request a copy of a deed or submit an application for a permit.

But Covid quickly necessitated a shift from paper to digital processes. Citizens stayed home and expected to be able to do everything they needed online. Government staff had to figure out how to do their jobs from home and provide the same level of services that citizens expected — online.

Fortunately, we’ve seen a lot of those changes stick. One digital process that many governments are adopting is paperless permitting and licensing. A traditionally paper-heavy process, many governments and citizens are enjoying the benefits of a cloud-based process.

1. Make The Process Easy & Accessible For Everyone

Entering information into an online form is always going to be easier than handwriting on paper. Not only is an online process faster and easier for everyone involved, but it also makes the application process accessible to those with disabilities. When looking for a paperless permitting solution, be sure to look for one that is ADA-compliant.

2. Secure Personal & Sensitive Data

With a paper application process, anyone with access to the clerk’s files could obtain personal information – like copies of checks or credit card numbers – from the permit application. Using a cloud-based system means sensitive data is more secure. Applications and associated documents are secured with a password and only available to employees who have been granted access. In addition, information stored in the cloud is safe from natural disasters like floods, hurricanes, and tornados.

3. Reduce Resources & Space

Depending on the type of permit being applied for, the application could be many pages long. In a traditional paper process, that’s a lot of time, money, and resources being spent on paper, printing, and filing. Then there’s the need for enough space, filing cabinets, and clerks to maintain the records forever. A paperless permitting solution is just that: paperless!

4. Eliminate Data Entry Errors

People can make mistakes manually filling out an application, clerks may misread something, or may make mistakes entering data into the accounting system. With a paper permitting process, there are many manual touch points and risks for data entry errors. But with a paperless, cloud-based process, the system ensures all necessary fields are completed and checked for accuracy within the application (e.g. enter property address twice).

5. Automate Processes

On the topic of making a mistake entering data into another system, some paperless permitting tools may also integrate with your ERP or other business system. By automatically routing the permit data to the appropriate department for processing, you eliminate manual, error-prone data entry step and save a significant amount of time. Your staff’s time can be reallocated to other tasks, and your citizens will appreciate a speedier permitting process!

6. Streamline Communication

With a paper permitting process, there may be a lot of back and forth emails, texts, and phone calls, which increases the risk of something getting “lost in the shuffle.” In a paperless system, all communication moves to the cloud. Messages are sent and received via the system, supporting documents are uploaded in one place, and the stress of tracking down information is eliminated because everything is in one central location.

7. Improve Transparency & Collaboration

There are a lot of people involved in the permitting process: homeowners and contractors, inspectors, the building department authority, accounting staff and more. With a traditional permitting process, it’s almost inevitable there will be some breakdown in collaboration — often because someone simply got left off an email. In a paperless process, because all communication and documentation is in one place, everyone can collaborate more effectively and efficiently. And because there is a clear trail of communication and tasks upcoming/completed, transparency is improved and everyone knows exactly what the status of the permit application is.

A paperless permitting process simply makes more sense for both citizens and governments alike. When we move to cloud-based processes that make it easy for citizens and staff to work from anywhere, the result is an overall more collaborative experience and engaged community. Not standing in line makes people happier, who knew?!

Looking to modernize your permitting and licensing process? ClearGov just acquired the CityGrows platform in order to bring this capability to our customers! Read about the details here, and be on the lookout for more information coming soon.

June 17, 2022

Matt Benati

Matt Benati is Vice President of Marketing for ClearGov®, the leading provider of Budget Cycle Management software for local governments. Matt is passionate about helping organizations modernize their annual budgeting process by automating workflow, increasing collaboration, and improving transparency between governments and citizens.