The solution local governments choose for their building, planning, and code enforcement departments impacts the relationships they have with their public.  

On-premises and paper-based systems leave much to be desired when it comes to efficiency, speed, transparency, time, and resources. This impacts not only government staff, but any party involved in the numerous tasks that building, planning, and code enforcement departments handle.  

So, why is a SaaS solution better than a paper-based system or one that depends on the software that needs to be manually installed on an office computer or laptop? First, an explanation of SaaS is needed.  

SaaS is a software-as-a-service.

It is software that is delivered over the Internet as a service and exists in the ‘cloud’ (on the Internet). This means that users access the software via the web and do not need to install or maintain any software on their own computer or mobile device.  

A popular SaaS company is Netflix. Users pay a monthly subscription so they can easily watch movies, television shows, and documentaries. They simply log into their account over the Internet and new material appears without any intervention or manual updates.

So why are SaaS solutions better when it comes to relationships?

A SaaS solution is more effective than paper-based or on-premises systems at encouraging and fostering positive relationships between governments and the public for these 5 reasons:

  1. Transparency Improves
  2. Communication is Stronger
  3. Faster Turnaround Times
  4. Easy-to-Use Interface
  5. No Travel, Time Restrictions, or Printing Costs

1. Transparency Improves

Citizens are happier when they understand where their building permits, planning applications, or complaints stand. For many local governments, too much of their day is spent answering questions on how long they need to wait for ‘x’ to happen.  

SaaS solutions give the public more insight into their information and the processes that surround them.

As an example, many building departments can relate to being bombarded with inquiries from applicants wondering if their building permit has been received, if they submitted everything that was needed, or trying to figure out when they can expect their building permit to be issued.  

With a SaaS solution, applicants can submit complete building permit applications online on any mobile device. They can also learn the status of their application online without needing to email or call their building department.

Improved transparency into the process behind their application or complaint promotes a happier and more understanding mindset from the public toward their local governments.  

2. Communication is Stronger

Communication is simpler when all communication exists in one place. It’s difficult to keep track of questions and conversations when they’re spread across multiple channels, especially when those channels do not record what has been shared (front counter visits and phone calls).

When governments rely on paper or software on their own computers, the public needs to keep track of all communication themselves. This can be especially challenging for more complicated projects, and it can cause unnecessary miscommunication, frustration, or delays when information gets lost or misunderstood.

Some SaaS solutions take it to the next level with a built-in communication portal that resembles texting. Citizens can ask questions, upload photos, send direct or group messages, and easily keep track of everything with time-stamped messages at their fingertips.

All parties benefit when communication is simplified and the relationship between governments and the public only improves when their communication does.

3. Faster Turnaround Times

Paper-based and on-premises systems can significantly slow down efficiency. Paper processes often lead to duplicate work and countless hours spent finding the right file, drawing, or application.

SaaS solutions drastically improve efficiency and accelerate how long it takes for the public to receive the next step in their building permit or planning application, inspection, or complaint. For example, an online building permit process speeds up permit issuance by at least 50%, and some solutions, such as Cloudpermit, speed up permit issuance by 80%.  

Inspections are also completed faster because building inspectors and code enforcement officers can conduct mobile field inspections instead of needing to go back to the office to input their field notes into another system.

Citizens are happier when they receive what they need in a timely and efficient manner, and this helps strengthen the relationships between governments and their public.  

4. Easy-to-Use Interface

It can be confusing for first-time applicants to submit a building permit application or planning application, or citizens to submit their first complaint about a neighbor leaving trash on their lawn.

Paper-based systems often cause confusion for citizens. It’s common for local governments to receive incomplete applications from applicants to the detriment of all parties involved. An incomplete application slows down processes, can frustrate applicants who thought they did everything right, and can influence an applicant’s experience with their local government to be negative.

SaaS solutions can force applicants to fill in all necessary fields to ensure their application is complete.

On-premises systems often have their own issues. Oftentimes, they involve fillable PDFs that applicants can use to submit their application or complaint, but these are not always easy to use either.

Since SaaS solutions exist on the Internet, no manual updates or installations are required which makes it easy for the public to access using any mobile device. No one needs to worry about making sure the software is working properly or has the necessary updates since the software provider takes care of that for the government.  

It also means that governments can often configure how they want the software to function since they know their citizens the best and can even enable online payment.  

User-friendly SaaS solutions make the tasks the public needs to complete an easier experience than paper-based or on-premises systems. Note: some SaaS solutions are far more user-friendly than others so it’s important to do research.  

5. No Travel, Time Restrictions, or Printing Costs

SaaS solutions allow citizens to interact with their building, planning, and code enforcement department online – anytime, anywhere.  Unlike paper-based or on-premises systems, SaaS solutions mean citizens do not need to print material, travel to the government office during office hours, or communicate with their government during office hours.  

Citizens can submit their building permits from home, send a message to their planning department after typical office hours, and pay fines to their code enforcement department without any travel.

SaaS solutions empower citizens to work with their local government in a collaborative, cost-effective, and time-effective way to build strong and positive relationships.