Accela’s product release schedule includes two major releases each year, one in the spring and the second in the fall, and “service packs” that happen usually every month. Today, Accela is launching the Spring 2023 Release, which includes updates to just about every aspect of Accela’s product line.
This release, like many of the recent major releases, continues a strong focus on tech modernization, improved administration, and usability enhancements. For the administration and usability updates, we look to customer feedback and input, and build those into our product prioritization and roadmaps.
The release also expands on features available in our SaaS environments that are not comparable in self-hosted environments. Not only is SaaS good for our customers, and the rate of SaaS migrations continues to increase, but it is also good for software vendors due to the control we have over those environments. We can manage more updates and enhancements when we know the configurations and infrastructure it will be running in.
Civic Platform V23.1.x: Updates for SaaS and Self-hosted Customers
Space Management Enhancements
Managing the number of open spaces is a key area of usability for agency employees that spend their days in the Accela back office. In the Fall 2022 release, Accela introduced a limit to spaces to display and pin. After we released the feature, users commented the amounts were not adequate, and so with the spring release, we’ve modified this setting to give agencies the ability to modify the product defaults for the maximum number of spaces, maximum number of pinned spaces, and the threshold number to automatically close the oldest spaces. This change illustrates how customer feedback drives not only the features that go in a release but helps us fine tune them for increased productivity and usability.
Transaction Record Header Enhancements
Another usability feature requested by customers pertains to directional address suffixes. Examples of this includes “123 Main Street NW” or “123 Main Street SE.”
Previously, the record header would not include the directional suffix in the record header, only the address number, prefix, and street name, and users would need to drill into the record to see the full address. This has been changed with V23.1.x, and now the transaction record header displays the suffix alongside the existing address details as described above.
Licensed Professional API Enhancements
Accela offers a set of documented and supported REST APIs called “Construct”, which agencies can use to integrate their Accela system with other applications, data sources, payment systems, etc.
There is a set of APIs within Construct specifically used for licensed professionals, key for business licensing and occupational licensing solutions, ensuring education credits, certifications, and trade licenses are valid are current and accurate. In V23.1.x we have made several enhancements to the REST APIs for professionals, including the ability to get or update the custom forms data and the people template data.
Accela Civic Platform V23.1.x: Updates for SaaS Customers
Global Search Enhancements (SaaS-only)
With V23.1.x, the record list in global search will display the directional address suffix information alongside the existing address detail such as street #, prefix and street name. Staff will no longer have to drill down into the record details to view the entire address, saving time and increasing productivity.
PayPal Commerce Integration (SaaS-only)
When processing licenses and permits or imposing fines, agencies need an effective way to accept payments from residents with a positive consumer-like experience. This can be difficult to implement, and many small cities and counties do not have the resources and skillsets to select and implement their own payment processing mechanism.
With V23.1.x, Accela is offering a no-code payment integration with PayPal Commerce to process electronic payments, providing the quickest time to market. With PayPal Commerce, agencies can accept payment via Accela Citizen Access or Civic Platform using their PayPal account or credit/debit cards for maximum convenience. This solution also includes a pre-negotiated rate of 2.4% + .10 per transaction, which is favorable to other payment providers and only for Accela customers.
Making Crystal Reports Public or Private (SaaS-only)
Many of our customers use Crystal Reports to capture the data within their Accela systems and provided feedback they would like to restrict access to these reports. With V23.1.x, Accela is enhancing the permissions and access control on Crystal Reports so that administrators can mark their Crystal Reports as either public or private, and private reports are only accessible to users with adequate permissions.
Accela Citizen Access (ACA)
Mobile User Experience
The release of V23.1 has triggered the end-of-life (EOL) of a product called Accela Mobile Citizen Access. This product was designed to create a more “friendly” mobile experience for residents using ACA. With recent releases, ACA and its newly designed pages are now mobile friendly, making Accela Mobile Citizen unnecessary.
ACA Registration Enhancements
Within ACA, residents can choose “contact type” in a drop-down field. Sometimes, agencies may decide to provide their residents with only one contact type if it is not necessary for processing. To simplify the data entry for residents, the new version of ACA removes the contact-type section for the resident if only one is allowed and takes them directly into contact details, removing any potential for confusion or questions when inputting this data.
ACA Admin Usability Updates
Another useability enhancement with V23.1.x is with Form Designer. Previously, Form Designer would show all fields within the designer requiring the administrator to identify the relevant fields to be shown in ACA. With the new version, Form Designer only exposes the fields the agency wants displayed in ACA, making it cleaner and more efficient for the forms administrator.
ESRI Federated Authentication
Map capabilities are very important for users of Accela Mobile, and the product has a deep integration with ESRI’s ArcGIS for managing map images and geospatial data to maximize productivity for users.
ESRI has implemented a new Federated Enterprise server model for user authentication. With V23.1.x, customers using Accela Mobile who have adopted, or plan to adopt this model can enable field workers to use their ESRI federated login with the in-app login prompt.
Customizable Features in Accela Mobile
Customers have requested observational and appended checklists. This feature is often associated with Environmental Health inspectors, allowing them to perform “observational inspections” with checklist items that are not predefined, but result from observations coming from the inspection process.
Accela had provided this capability in the Civic Platform and Accela Mobile Office (AMO), and with V23.1.x, we are achieving parity in Accela Mobile.
Food inspections often require an inspection grade to be determined and included in the inspection report. These grades are useful, especially for residents to make informed decisions as food consumers.
An inspection grade function has now been added to Accela Mobile to allow inspectors to easily or automatically assign a grade directly to an inspection. When configured, inspection status and grade can be generated based on inspection score and/or number of major violations. This auto assignment can be overridden by the inspector if desired.
Time Duration of Inspections
Agencies need an easy way for inspectors to enter the time they have spent on each inspection quickly and easily, outside of the normal system-generated time accounting. This adds clarity to agency management about team and individual productivity and can also be associated with fee assessments. This capability was implemented in Accela’s Inspector product and is now implemented in Accela Mobile.
The ability to support multiple languages is critical for agency field workers, and Accela Mobile has received its first phase of multi-language support with support for Arabic, and other languages will follow.
Windows 11 Solution Updates
Accela Mobile was extended to Windows 11 in May 2022, with the OS’s new capabilities to support Android applications. The installation, however, was cumbersome as it required sideloading of an APK file. Accela has now made Accela Mobile available for download in the Amazon Appstore, which makes the installation process much easier and faster.
Civic Applications are pre-built configurations used by customers to shorten implementation time, leverage best practices in configuration and design, and ensure customers always know how the solution will look and behave when taken live.
Premium Citizen Experience
Premium Citizen Experience (PCE) is Accela’s graphical interface for department-level or enterprise agency websites. It provides a highly intuitive and attractive interface for residents to find agency information, learn about requirements for specific licenses and permits, pre-qualify for permits and licenses, and it integrates with ACA for in-depth form fill activity. It is a virtual “digital front door” for residents requesting services.
For V23.1.x, we now have extended our pre-built and domain-specific resident interfaces and “user journeys” across a broader set of solution areas. These packaged assets are now available for the Building, Planning, Public Works (part of Building), Code Enforcement (part of Building), and Service Request Management (SRM) Civic Applications.
The configurations include content, such as descriptions, pictures, and links for each of the record types within these modules. The benefit is agencies can set up and deploy their Civic Applications much faster, but also create a very attractive and intuitive resident interface.
We are now getting ready to release all the products of the 2023 Spring Release into our staging environment. Staging is a new environment that allows agencies to test their systems prior to going into a production environment. It is very important that all agencies access their staging environments and test before the release is exposed to end users.
The schedule for the release is the following:
- Release to staging environments of V23.1.0 – April 6, 2023
- Release of the V23.1.1 service pack to staging environments – May 4, 2023
- Release of V23.1.1 to non-production and production environments – May 11, 2023
- Release of V23.1.1 to on-prem customers – May 15, 2023
- Release of V23.1.1 of Accela Mobile – May 24, 2023
- Civic Application updates – May/June timeframes
For More Information
If you would like additional detail in the features in this release, you can talk to your Accela Account Executive, or you can access the following resources:
- The New Releases page in Success Community
- The technical documentation for V23.1.x
- Register for the Customer Webinar covering all the new capabilities
- The Accela website’s New Releases section