User-Friendly and Cost-Effective Online Software is Reconstructing the Building IndustrySeptember 22, 2022
Sometimes, buildings are not up to code and need to undergo an inspection to learn how they can be improved. The development approval process behind construction could also use a closer look.
In recent years, many building and planning departments across Ontario have inspected their own practices and discovered flaws.
- Incomplete applications
- Endless back-and-forth communication with applicants
- A slow development approval process
- Duplicate work at the office
- Hard-to-track details
Though local governments have known what challenges they face, the answer was not always clear or accessible to them. Software used to only be affordable to large cities with bigger budgets and more resources than small and mid-sized governments. Smaller communities had to make paper-based and on-premises systems work because there were no other options.
This is no longer the case. Over the past several years, new user-friendly and cost-effective software solutions have made their way into Canada.
Local governments of all sizes can now access online software in ways that were not possible a few years ago. This has leveled the playing field and has been a catalyst for improvements across the province.
Some of the positive changes online software has made for more local governments are:
- A faster development approval process
- Encouragement of shared services and standardized processes
- Productive work in the field, office, and at home
- Stronger organization, reporting, and archives
- Restructuring who is invited to the table
Faster Development Approval Process
The development approval process speeds up considerably when applications are complete and easy to track online. Applications often get lost in the shuffle when residents drop off their, often incomplete, applications at the front counter.
Department staff need to work with applicants to complete their applications at the front counter, via email, or over the phone. Applicants then need to travel back to the office to complete the application. This back-and-forth communication and travel are unnecessary and make applications in limbo difficult to file and organize.
The same can be said for planning departments with planning applications. They are often incomplete and require extra time for staff and applicants to connect to the right answers
Online community development software forces applicants to fill in mandatory data entry fields so departments only receive complete applications. By moving the development approval process online, building permit issuance is sped up by 80 percent. Staff also do not need to spend time on incomplete applications.
It is easier for applicants (especially first-time applicants) to submit applications when they understand how to fill out their applications. The easier software is to use, the more it benefits its users.
Encouragement of Shared Services and Standardized Processes
There are new opportunities for shared services and standardized processes as more local governments adopt online community development software.
Shared services allow local governments to work together and share expertise. There is not always time to teach others how to use a system in place, like during natural disasters. So, an intuitive system that does not require surrounding communities to be present in the affected area is valuable.
Standardization naturally follows when local governments are using the same software to share services. This not only makes it easier for staff, but also for the building community. Oftentimes, builders work in surrounding areas, and need to learn multiple systems. Builders can use one online software for all their projects without needing to travel to multiple offices. This timesaving is beneficial.
Productive Work in the Field, Office, and at Home
Online software allows governments to be productive anywhere, and at any time. Staff can access their system on any mobile device, so they can work whenever and wherever it makes sense to them. This includes outside of business hours, in the field, or at home.
On-site mobile building inspections are one of the most significant advantages of leaving paper behind. Inspectors can start and finish their building inspections in the field. They do not need to travel back to the office for proper filing. This eliminates time and money spent on duplicate work.
Planning applications can also be circulated online which saves time, money, and paper on organizing, shipping, and printing.
It is an improvement for residents to submit (and pay for) building permits and planning applications from home. Applicants can apply online at any time, instead of needing to travel to drop off their application during typical business hours.
Overall, online software is convenient and accessible for all those involved in community development.
Stronger Organization, Reporting, and Archives
Details are not hard to track online. Traditionally, building and planning departments need to paper files or manage multiple systems when they have an on-premises system. This can quickly become confusing with misplaced files and conversations happening across multiple platforms.
Online software keeps everything online for easy organization and archiving. It’s simple to search for past building permits and planning applications – in or out of the office. Reporting is simpler too.
Traditionally, local governments need to spend hours on reports. They need to report to MPAC and Statistics Canada with time they may not have to give.
Cloudpermit allows departments to automate reporting to both MPAC and Statistics Canada with a few clicks.
All conversations are kept in the same place as well. Users can send direct and group time-stamped messages, instead of talking over email, at the front counter, or via email. This greatly simplifies communication and keeps information organized.
Restructuring Who is Invited to the Table
Online community development software invites everyone who is involved in the process to the table. Some software has unlimited user licenses, like Cloudpermit, so as many people as needed can participate in the process.
It is easier to collaborate with more participants (like designers, contractors, septic installers, energy efficient advisors, consultants, homeowners, etc.) when they use the same software. This bridges the gap between different parts of the development approval process to bring everyone onto the same page.
It can go a step further with end-to-end software solutions. Transparency is improved when building and planning departments use the same software as the rest of their users.
Community development is simplified as more local governments can afford to invite more participants to the table with user-friendly software.
Now is the Time to Benefit from Change
Community development has become more efficient, cost-effective, and accessible for all-sized local governments. As more local governments choose cost-effective and user-friendly solutions, the province continues to benefit on a larger scale.
Several advantages are clear, but many are still coming to light with no signs of slowing down. What other positive implications will online community development have for Ontario? Time will tell, and we cannot wait.
To learn more about Cloudpermit’s cost-effective and user-friendly software for building permitting and planning & development, visit cloudpermit.com.
This article was originally published in the OBOA Journal Issue 135.