County Reduces time to Certificate of Occupancy with Concurrent Electronic Plan Review Across Departments
Bernalillo County, New Mexico, has a longstanding commitment to improving transparency and citizen engagement. In 1998, the County introduced Kiva to provide an enterprise computer system tool for land, permitting and request for service (RFS) information to its citizens. In 2004, KivaNet was introduced online.
Rene Sedillo, Planning and Development Technology Manager with Bernalillo County, was on the team that originally selected and implemented Kiva. He and a business analyst were responsible for managing the system, including setting up all workflows, processes and record types. While the solution met Bernalillo County’s needs for many years, Sedillo was interested in offering additional capabilities.
“We were looking for a more up-to-date technology solution to help us provide more efficient services to our citizens, while enhancing productivity for employees in the office and in the field,” said Sedillo. When he found an opportunity to enhance the level of quality service the County already provided with electronic plan review, GIS enhancements and remote work access for county inspectors, he decided to make the switch to the Accela Civic Platform.
How Accela empowers Bernillo County
Bernalillo County implemented Accela Land Management in October 2013. They now have the ability to offer a number of services online to benefit both residents and County employees, in turn enhancing communication with citizens, reducing County costs and streamlining key government processes.
Builders, developers and citizens have 24/7 access to plan review comments, inspection history, land data and interactive GIS maps, and can easily generate reports of newly created record permits and activities based on record and time parameters selected by the user.
By providing more self-service options, tasks that had previously taken days to complete can now take just hours, or even minutes, leaving Bernalillo County staff more time to focus on other job functions and leaving contractors, business owners, homeowners and other members of the community more time to attend to the demands of their busy schedules.
“The Accela Civic Platform gives us additional functionality to support document review and GIS capabilities in addition to mobile apps, and is aligned with our commitment to provide transparency and robust online services for our constituents,” said Sedillo. “Plus, we can easily add and deploy additional solutions in the future.”
Dedicated project team and progress payments help streamline implementation
Bernalillo County took a value-based approach to project implementation instead of more traditional milestone deliverables. Sedillo made a deliberate decision not to make any major changes to the County’s existing business processes prior to launch. His first priority was first to convert all historical data to the new solution. Once this had been completed, Sedillo then focused his efforts on additional capabilities and aspects like customization, scripting reports and custom interfaces.
This level of prioritization dovetailed nicely with Bernalillo’s decision to opt for progress payments instead of payments tied to specific deliverables. All key stakeholders were involved in standard sign-offs on the initial configuration and Statement of Work. Then, instead of requiring approvals each time a milestone was met, the Finance department provided approvals on a monthly basis. This reduced the burden on the Finance team by making its involvement more predictable versus requiring sign-off on an ad-hoc basis each time a milestone was completed.
In addition, to help ensure successful adoption after go-live, the County created a training room with dedicated PCs and required members of the core project team to work with the new solution for a minimum of four hours per week. As a result, the staff members were engaged and committed to a successful launch. Furthermore, Sedillo was active in supporting the upgrade across all Community Development Departments including: Planning and Development Services-Building, Zoning and Planning Sections, Public Works-Development Review, Natural Resources and Traffic Sections, Fire, Health and Social Services, Animal Care Services, and Parks and Recreation-Planning Section.
“The complete success of this project was dependent on the support, not only from the Bernalillo County staff, but from the dedicated Accela project team,” said Sedillo.
The Bottom Line
Thanks to a dedicated project team with clear objectives, as well as a progress payments model that maintained project momentum with all parties, Bernalillo County upgraded from Kiva to the Accela Civic Platform on budget and four months ahead of schedule.
The County has been able to speed Certificate of Occupancy with real-time electronic document review across departments instead of manually reviewing paper plans. County inspectors, who in the past would come back to the office to enter results, can now enter results and take photos on their mobile device, which then update the system in real time. They can also optimize their workload for the day and routes with GIS integration. The time saved improves productivity and ultimately helps bring in more revenue for the County.