Technology is driving up customer expectations. Modern technology has almost eliminated the need to go to the bank, the post office, the DMV—even retail stores. These days you can order just about any product or service today and get it delivered tomorrow. And “Customer Service” means allowing customers to interact with your company 24-7. That was the concept behind some major changes in how the San Diego County Land Use and Environmental Group interacts with the public.

In San Diego County, the land use group includes the people who approve building plans and inspect construction projects—and, they had a problem. First, they had a growing backlog of construction projects that needed approvals, inspections and final sign-offs. Many of these were rooftop solar projects that are very popular in sunny San Diego. And they had more than 40 different legacy computer systems that didn’t talk to each other and were becoming a problem even without the solar boom.

So they went to work with a company called Accela to install a computer system designed to streamline local government functions. It creates a one-stop on-line portal for the public to interact with various county departments. Now instead of having to drive down to the county building, park, and spend time waiting in line, contractors can submit plans and permit applications on line, in about 10 minutes. They can schedule inspections and amend the plans if there are changes—all from the comfort of their office.

But the program grew from there. Now other parts of the Land Use and Environment Group are using it too. For example, the Vector Control team is using it to help track and mitigate abandoned ponds and pools that breed mosquitos. The Department of Weights and Measures also uses the system to track activity ensuring commercial scales and pumps are delivering accurate information.

In allowing for on-line transactions, the system has streamlined processes, eliminated bottlenecks and provides for a much more customer-focused approach.  The new system saves time and money for the county and the public. Contractors and others can submit applications, schedule inspections and track progress on line, from home or office. And since solar installations are moving forward more quickly—the new system is even good for the environment!

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Originally posted at CSAC.