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Perspective on Cloudpermit from South Huron's Planning Coordinator

Municipality of South Huron, Ontario

November 30, 2022

On Thursday, November 17, 2022, the Municipality of South Huron’s Planning Coordinator, Vanessa Culbert, joined Cloudpermit for a webinar about our Planning & Development Software Solution. Cloudpermit’s Country Director for Canada, Aubrey LeBlanc, and Product Trainer, Leslie Wright, shared their expertise through a software demo, and Etye Sarner, Product Manager, led a Q&A session with attendees. 

Please find a summary of key questions and information below and shoot us a message for more insights from the webinar.

Background on South Huron’s use of online planning with Cloudpermit:

  • Beautiful community in the lower tier of Huron County
  • Mix of urban and rural with a population of approximately 10K residents
  • Moved planning & development online in May 2022
  • 7 subdivisions have draft approval right now
  • 55 planning applications were processed in 2021 vs. 42 in 2020
  • Building Services Department also uses Cloudpermit
  • Enjoys great success being online

How and why Cloudpermit?

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The Municipality of South Huron was one of Cloudpermit’s first local governments to bring its planning applications online.

“We were in the market for an online platform to help us with our planning and building staff. I was sick of using spreadsheets to help track our applications and conditions. So, we were looking to modernize our process, and for us, Cloudpermit checked all the boxes for both of our staff.”

What is the greatest benefit of using Cloudpermit?

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When asked about the greatest benefit of using Cloudpermit, Culbert answered: “Our greatest benefit was that it’s all in one place.”

She explained that it has been helpful to remotely access applications on Cloudpermit since the planning department sometimes works outside of the office. South Huron’s Planner is assigned to South Huron but is in Huron County. He spends one day a week in South Huron’s office and has access to applications whenever, and wherever, he needs to access them.

“It’s also great that I’m not relying on our admin staff, who are busy with other things, to scan applications. If I’m not in the office, it just comes directly to me.”

Can you talk about Cloudpermit's ease of use?

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Culbert said that Cloudpermit’s Planning and Development Software Solution is user-friendly and likened it to: “Planning for Dummies”.

She explained, “I don’t have a background in planning...So it was great that I am able to understand the program, and so is our planner. We’ve also had a great response from planning agencies that have used Cloudpermit to upload applications. They’ve loved it so far.”

After you started using the software, what feature happily surprised you?

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LeBlanc shared that when using new technology, there is always something new to learn. He asked Culbert what the most surprising feature or functionality was that she has discovered during this process, and Culbert shared: “The most unexpected aspect is circulations.”

She explained that she used to send circulation requests via email both internally and externally. It would sometimes take a few days to get a response back and sometimes, it was over the deadline.

“We usually get a response back from staff within the same day on planning applications which has been great to move stuff forward that day,” Culbert commented, while joking that she’s trying not to take the quick turnaround personally since moving to Cloudpermit.

In terms of the time that it took you to study various products in the marketplace, making a choice, committing to it, and then implementing software, what was faster and slower than you expected?

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Culbert shared that life sometimes got in the way during the implementation process to slow it down, but she wishes they had gone online sooner.

“It’s been great to have all our planning applications online all at once, you learn that way,” revealed Culbert. “You learn while doing, right? So, we’re lucky. The training module is still open, and we’re always in the training module trying to figure things out, but I wish we would have gone online sooner to get it all figured out.”

She added that Cloudpermit’s support staff has been great to work with and is always quick to answer her questions if she runs into any issues.

How has your culture changed since being online with Cloudpermit?

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LeBlanc revealed that he’s heard from several clients over the years that this kind of decision can be transformative, not only from a business point of view in terms of process, speeding up workflows, and interacting with stakeholders, but it can also change the culture within the department or municipality.

Culbert voiced that they consider Cloudpermit to be a user-friendly, one-stop-shop and that’s what they tell their applicants for the planning and building services processes.

“You’re always going to have the one farmer that doesn’t have a computer, but our office is still open to help people and so far, everyone has been able to figure it out,” added South Huron’s Planning Coordinator. “I was the first to implement an application. I fully understood what I was doing, and if I did get a call from Farmer Joe, I would be able to help him move online.”

Do you have any advice you'd give to someone considering moving their planning online?

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In simple terms, Culbert said: “Do it.”

She added to be prepared to change and modernize your processes with new software, “Some people have had the same processes for twenty years, and we’re not in the same place that we were twenty years ago. Be prepared to change your processes, and it’s for the better.”

LeBlanc concluded that it’s important to invest the time in implementing software as it’s good on the other side.