This article was written regarding work conducted under legacy company names: Continental Mapping, GISinc, or TSG Solutions. These three companies merged in January 2021 to form a new geospatial leader Axim Geospatial.
When an entire community depends on your organization, the last thing you should have to deal with is an outdated system. The Development Department and the Planning and Zoning Department at Roanoke County found themselves in this exact situation. While they were already utilizing an asset management system, their permitting system no longer suited their users’ needs.
To provide their users with the best experience possible, they knew they needed a different application that would streamline their processes and allow the public to apply for permits online.
So how did they create a solution that improved the experience for users while making daily work easier for their team? Read on to find out!
Starting Off with a Customized Migration Strategy
When Roanoke County started their transition to Cityworks, they knew that a simple one-size-fits-all approach would not meet their unique needs. So they teamed up with Axim Geospatial to create the best solution possible for their team and the people they supported.
Together, we started off with a Discovery Workshop, which allowed our team to identify the County’s biggest challenges and determine the best approach to resolve them. This also allowed our team to put together highly accurate requirements, so Roanoke County was not left blindsided by unexpected costs.
The core focus of the project was implementing the Cityworks platform for the Stormwater division, so they could experience the solution firsthand before implementing it across all departments. This also minimized the stress on the County during the migration process.
After identifying their business goals and the obstacles standing in their path, Roanoke County implemented a simple process that allowed them to achieve their goals without having to change everything at once.
Roanoke County’s 5-Step Process for Leveraging the Cityworks Platform Without the Stress
To reduce the pressure on their team, this process was executed in a series of 5 phases, some of which ran concurrently while others ran sequentially.
- Base PLL Configuration
Reinventing the wheel isn’t just costly. It is also stressful for your employees and your customers. So we focused on core configuration (rather than expansion) of the existing Cityworks application to include the additional workflows identified during the pre-project needs assessment.
This expansion added capabilities to the system to support additional departments such as planning and zoning and building, all while integrating with the existing stormwater configuration.
- Data Migration
The County had been using its previous permitting application for many years, so it held quite a bit of historical information. Migrating this data into Cityworks was a must, and we knew it had to be handled the right way.
The existing system had a proprietary data structure, which forced the County to flatten and extract the information into a series of database tables that Axim could access. Because the data model was so complex, data had to be cleaned up before it could be migrated over efficiently.
To minimize stress during this rocky transition, we developed a crosswalk document that mapped the source historical data schema to the new target schema residing in Cityworks. Together, Roanoke and our team followed a series of FME scripts to move the data into Cityworks iteratively—until the County was fully satisfied with the quality of the migrated data.
It wasn’t easy, but it was the best way to ensure nothing fell through the cracks.
- OnBase Document Management Integration
Roanoke County’s existing document management system didn’t offer the level of integration needed to support their desired workflow. As part of this project, the County discontinued the use of this system in lieu of the OnBase document management system.
OnBase helped improve the efficiency of their project management processes while reducing unnecessary work for their team. The low-code, cost-effective application allows organizations to build content-enabled solutions quickly, reduce risk, and improve security compliance—making it an ideal choice for local agencies like The Community Development Department at Roanoke County.
The new OnBase document management application was integrated into the Cityworks platform. It allowed the County to consolidate all the necessary permit attachments into a single system of record, easily accessible even outside of the Cityworks platform. So non-Cityworks users can also play a role in the permitting process, such as plan review and markup by groups outside of the Community Development department.
- Using OnBase for Digital Collaboration
One of the hardest parts of the permitting process is the review and approval phase. During this phase, many different departments have to be involved in reviewing the application information and determining if it complies with current county ordinances/regulations.
Needless to say, keeping the various departments on the same page is a challenge.
The Plan Review add-on to the OnBase document management platform allowed these different departments to collaborate within the same system while storing their edits and comments in a versioned system for easy access. It allowed access to previous versions and document history, so key decision-makers can see what was submitted and commented on.
This consolidation of information into a single system allowed the County to move away from using hard copy paper and email to review documents, saving them a lot of headaches in the long run. It also sped up the application approval process.
These all-new digital processes were integrated into the Cityworks workflow so that Cityworks users did not have to track the same progress in the Plan Review application as well. OnBase became a one-stop-shop for approval.
As documents were reviewed and approved, automated processes updated the workflow in Cityworks to show the results of those reviews. This saved the county a ton of time and led to a more accurate accounting of the review process.
- Public Access Portal for Cityworks PLL
The last phase of the project was to implement the Public Access Portal for Cityworks PLL. This portal allowed citizens to apply for permits, pay fees, upload documents, and manage inspections with Selectron's SelectTXT text messaging service.
With this new portal, citizens can not only complete the initial application entirely online (with digital signatures), but they can also track the status of their permit throughout the permitting process. This greatly improves the user experience on their end, leading to happier citizens and fewer complaints.
The Public Portal was also integrated with the OnBase document management system. As documents are uploaded, they were linked to the permit being created, as well as sent to the document repository within OnBase. Scanned plans can be searched and retrieved through text using https://scannedplans.roanokecountyva.gov/scannedplans.aspx, or the end-user can use a location-based retrieval process using PlanView (https://planview.roanokecountyva.gov).
This has reduced the number of people that flow through the office on a day-to-day basis—an especially beneficial perk during the pandemic in 2020—and made it much more convenient for the citizens of the County to conduct business.
The Final Results
Roanoke County’s 5-step Cityworks expansion project has streamlined their business processes more than their previous system ever could. Cityworks added flexibility and ability to integrate with third-party applications have made day-to-day tasks easier for the County’s team and the community they serve.
The County now has a streamlined system that can grow as its organization’s needs evolve while helping them better serve its community. Learning a new system can be frustrating, so our team provided demos and discussions to show the rest of Development Services and Planning/Zoning how this technology could reduce headaches and make day-to-day tasks easier.
How much more of an impact could your organization make with streamlined processes, automated workflows, and fewer redundancies?
Reach out to our team to find out! Together, we will implement a solution personalized to your organization’s unique needs, so you can work smarter and achieve your mission.
Types of Software Used:
- PLL Expansion
- Cityworks Server PLL
- Cityworks/OnBase integration
- LDO to Cityworks Data Migration - ArcGIS Interoperability Extension (FME Desktop)
- Cityworks Public Access
- ArcGIS Enterprise & Web App Builder
- Selectron (SelecTXT) Integration