In this Sponsors in Action series, we’re highlighting UNITE sponsors who are answering the call of our local governments and communities around the world.
Sponsor: Tyler Technologies
Community: Kansas City, Missouri
Apart from recent Super Bowl and World Series titles, Kansas City, Missouri is home to world-famous barbeque and a rich diversity in lifestyle choices. The large city boasts 322 square miles and a population of just over half a million people. Within city limits, residents can choose high rise apartment buildings, lively urban duplexes, suburban residential areas, and even farmland. The low cost of living paired with the ability to get practically anywhere in the country in under four hours makes Kansas City particularly attractive for a new remote workforce. In fact, Flex Jobs recently named the city number one for remote workers. Downtown Kansas City is experiencing significant population growth, due in part to a decades-long revitalization plan. Current development efforts include extending the city’s streetcar south down Main Street to the University of Missouri-Kansas City campus to increase the use of public transit.
Legacy technology systems purchased by and for individual departments can pile up, creating redundancy of work and other costly inefficiencies. Employees navigating such systems must wade through multiple offices and gatekeepers to find needed information. The public, too, is hampered by confusing, multi-step processes to conduct city business.
Kansas City had four legacy permitting systems serving nine city departments with limited cross-departmental cooperation or data sharing. There were 117 databases in everything from Excel to Lotus Notes and other homegrown systems that couldn’t talk to each other. “It was clear to us that connecting siloed departments could enhance productivity throughout the city by eliminating redundancy in agency processes,” noted assistant city manager, Rick Usher. “In addition, we knew that new connections would enhance customer experience by providing all necessary information in one place.” The customers themselves were serving as the city’s internal communications system. Explains Usher, “We’d say, ‘I need a copy of the fire inspection before I can issue this liquor license. Go see the Fire Marshall and bring me a copy of the latest fire inspection.’”
The city implemented new civic services software that integrates departments to streamline processes for all stakeholders, internal and external. The resulting platform, Compass KC, links city departments to provide a one-stop shop for city services for residents and businesses, covering permits, plans, and payments. The benefit of data sharing and automation was immediate, as new efficiencies created newfound staff time. This allowed the city to redirect staff efforts away from repetitive, manual processes toward enforcement and compliance.
Initial departments involved in the new system’s implementation were aviation, city planning and development, finance, fire prevention, health, parks and recreation, public works, regulated industries, and water services. A top-down, bottom-up approach to the new system’s implementation ensured that all involved staff could provide input and shape the project’s success.
With these nine departments working together, the city consolidated permit application, review, inspection, and fee payments. The initial benefits included:
- Eliminating process redundancies
- Increasing trust between departments
- Eliminating the need to check other departments’ work
These efficiencies saved the city money and sped up application turnaround time for customers. Residents who once had to go to multiple city departments to obtain permit application items, for example, can now conduct business online at their convenience. In the program’s first 18 months, more than 5,300 users registered to use the self-service portal. Its biggest draw is its ease of use, and residents are eager to encourage others to take advantage of the intuitive access to online services. The system reduced walk-in customer traffic in the permit office by over 2,400 people even with the same workload. With electronic applications, staff can distribute the workload more consistently and across the department.
While Usher’s team has not done a full environmental impact analysis, he suspects additional benefits in reduction of vehicle miles and decreased burden to business owners. Having an online system already in place also put the city ahead of the curve when COVID-19 stay-at-home orders necessitated new remote solutions.
Vendor selection is more important than ever, as cities increasingly focus on creating connections and system integrations. Whether it is cybersecurity or business systems or cloud computing, all threads of a government’s digital infrastructure must tie together in a modern government technology stack. “We’ve had a lot of vendors say, ‘Hey, you need to use my payment app,’” noted Usher. “Well, that’s fine, but does it do inspections and permitting? Does it automatically update the land record?” Tyler Technologies offered Kansas City a long-term strategic partnership that supports the city’s broader digital strategy.
In addition, Tyler Technologies has made the right investments in providing for remote interactive support, securely serving the city when buildings are closed, just as if support were on-site. From full project implementation to simple troubleshooting, technology vendors should have remote access to system servers to continue a high level of service in any context uninterrupted.