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Thread: Permitting software requirements

  1. #1

    Permitting software requirements

    My brother, a friend, and I are considering making a permitting software company.

    What are the minimum requirements that all cities need? Can the software be cloud based? If so, does the city need a sync'd copy of the data somewhere?


    We know that such software already exists, but it seems like most small cities and towns don't use it, or at least don't use pubic-facing software. (Is it just too expensive?)

    Our idea is to give cloud-based software to small towns and cities for free. We hope to make money by offering software to the public that can (for fees) connect to the city's software, schedule appointments online, give email/text updates, take payments and issue some permits instantly, track statuses and history of all projects, etc.

    Thanks,
    Jeremy the software developer and real estate investor

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Aug 2016
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    Northern California
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    Check out Accela - it's already an established permitting software here in CA. And it sucks, hard. If you're going to go the route of making permitting software that competes with something like Accela, then you need to make it super user friendly with an easy interface. Just my .02.

  3. #3
    Thanks for the feedback, mercdude.

    As it turns out, my brother's complaint about Accela sucking is part of what spawned the idea. He said something like "the only towns that use [public-facing] software use crappy software" and showed me an Accela portal as an example.

    I'm wondering, is there any particularly bad pain point? We plan to make it better in lots of ways, but knowing what people are the most frustrated about might help us sell it easier.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    I'll give you my two cents for what it's worth. I'm in a rural county with no software. We use Access to track permits and planning cases. To be honest, with our low volume of work we could still just write it down in a notebook. Here are some of the headaches I saw when looking at software:

    1. Cost. They all expect to work for big cities or at least cities willing to put in a decent amount of money.
    2. Capturing historic data. With the new system I can search for cases history by searching for X or Y. Too bad the old database never captured X or Y.
    3. How does this work with MY system. Not something I really worry about, but I've heard it come up. My system is the greatest system for us and we don't want to change how we do things. Of course most permitting is pretty standard, but there are always quirks.
    4. Cost of incorporating historic data. No one wanted to give me even a rough estimate without committing to something. At this point it's just an idea. Does this idea cost in the $10-20k range or is this more of a $100k project? Never did get a straight answer to that. There might not be a straight answer to that.
    5. Merging with the other systems we use. Here it's some program called CIC (don't use it). Of course GIS is needed. My last place had some proprietary database thing that couldn't link with firehouse.
    6. Add ons. Is there a code enforcement module? Fire permit review? Civil review? All the normal things.
    7. Deferrals seem to be a problem the city next door is having with their system.

    I don't know how much that helps, but good luck making some software.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  5. #5
    Thank you a lot, dvdneal. Your reply is gold to us - it confirms some things we know and shows us some perspective we don't have. We're coming at this mostly from the experience of citizens and real estate investors who have had to get permits (and occasionally get a license or deal with code enforcement) so our perspective is somewhat limited.

    Regarding data - I've worked a lot with data in the past and it can be simple or (more often) it can be an unpredictable nightmare (which is probably why no one can give you a straight answer).

    Do you (or anyone else) know any more integrations that are must-haves?

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Mar 2013
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    Central Virginia
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    We just recently switched over from AS-400 (a very highly customizable, but not user-friendly system) to ViewPermit. The transfer over from historical data was a nightmare given that migration was just never a serious consideration as the original system was developed. I think we ended up having to pay an additional $10,000 for the migration in addition to the contract we had agreed on.

    ViewPermit is cloud-based, and that's okay for the most part. The challenge is that our network is incredibly slow, so that can make the software somewhat burdensome to use at times.

    Some of our frustrations with the system:

    -It's really cool that we can develop self-populating forms and reports, but we have to go through the sequel report builder and it is really not user friendly at all. I was working with our Environmental Manager to try to get some of his actionable forms edited (stop work orders, violation letters) and after hours of frustration, we were finally told we would have to get the company to make the changes for us.

    -There are certain fields that are set and cannot be altered or renamed. For example, in the building permits section, there's not an area to input unfinished square footage, but there is an option to for "cellar" square footage. So we're having to find work arounds to make their system work for us.

    -We have a similar issue with addressing. We don't assign addresses for every parcel of land. If there is not a building on the parcel, there is not an address. However, the system requires us to input an address in order to create a permit. Even if the permit isn't for building - it could be for land disturbance or something like that. So we are constantly creating fake addresses for those properties.

  7. #7
    Thanks, gtpeach! This is extremely valuable for us as we're making decisions in the design and planning marketing.

    This is such a goldmine for us. If anyone else has input or complaints, please keep them coming.

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