Your community development makeover: 3 key technology tools
The process of creating community has always fascinated me. I love maps and I love the idea that, with planning, we can create communities that are beautiful to live in, economically sustainable and have the features and amenities that residents enjoy and demand.
To achieve this ideal, many community development responsibilities beg for the support of technology. The shortlist of issues includes:
1. Roadblocks to a meaningful public process
As you work toward master plans that will serve your community for decades, it requires a great deal of your staff’s time and patience. My land use planning classes revealed the challenge of staffing for a meaningful and engaging citizen process. At a time of reduced staffing and pressure to find new sources of jobs, this can stress existing staff.
2. Processes that eat staff time and annoy constituents
Paper-based processes for issuing permits and licenses and reviewing site plans have come under scrutiny. Elected officials see a direct connection between economic development and the ease and speed with which businesses get the necessary approvals to move forward.
3. Barriers to complete information access
From planning and proposed projects to completed infrastructure and buildings, an incredible variety of important content is created, reviewed and stored – somewhere. Documents are compiled by multiple departments and are needed for decades into the future. However, in a paper-based world, there are few efficient ways to search, access and review relevant content like building plans, videos, photos and audio.
If this sounds familiar, you might be looking for a way to address these challenges. The key is to think about solutions that combine to cover all your community development tasks, from planning through completion.
The right solution uses the following technology pieces:
1. Enterprise content management (ECM)
ECM replaces paper forms with electronic forms, automating processes and allowing simultaneous access to all types of content. It can even manage your planning reviews to create an efficient, electronic submission and review process. With electronic documents stored in a single, central repository, workers can access information in the field or at their desks and start working on constituent requests much faster than in a paper-based world.
2. Integrated PLL
By integrating important permitting, licensing and land use (PLL) solutions like Cityworks, Tempest and Meritage with your ECM content repository, you can move the data that begins in these systems as projects are proposed to your electronic plan review process – along with permits and other documents stored in the content repository that ECM provides. And, with ECM’s mobile capabilities, this content is available in the field or can even be shared back to project submitters through a 24/7 portal. This shortens permitting and review timeframes to the delight of your developers and constituents.
3. Integrated GIS
Geographic information system (GIS) platforms like Esri are the third critical piece in your community development toolkit. Maps can show options, retrieve documents and even be used to respond to crises or plan for resiliency. “Integrated” means that your Esri applications work side-by-side with your PLL solution and your ECM solution, forming a complete resource of information, analytic tools and process improvement that is geospatially savvy.
Clearly, technology can improve community development and make it more efficient. But, what about the staffing issues?
The final trick for your community development makeover is to implement these technologies and reclaim the staff time that is being lost to inefficient processes, the search for information and the challenges of collaborating in a paper-based world. You can use this reclaimed time to generate meaningful processes, visioning and consensus-building – tasks that only dedicated community planners and leaders can do. Implementing and connecting these tools is the makeover that your community needs, and deserves.
For more information on how to better serve your constituents while making life easier on your staff, click here.