Challenge: Time-consuming manual work for a very small department

Solution: Implemented CivicOptimize® Permitting, Code Enforcement, and Licensing Solution

Result: An improved relationship between the local government and the public

Keys to Project

permitting, code enforcement, licensing, engagement, communication outreach, data management

Marshall, Missouri Adopts New Permitting, Code Enforcement, and Licensing Solution 

And Becomes an Example of Efficiency in Small-Town America 

 The City of Marshall is an agricultural community located in the heart of Missouri. Approximately 13,000 residents call the city home, and though it may be considered a smaller city and a more rural area, there's still plenty of activity when it comes to development and construction taking place.  

We have a very small department here," said Mike Morgan, Code Official for the City of Marshall. "There's just two of us, so in that setting, it was very time-consuming when you're forced to do a lot of back and forth between the pencil and paper and the computer information." 

That's where the City of Marshall was at the end of its era of manual process, ready to begin its digital journey. 

We've replaced all the manual stuff, cut down on travel time, and I can work from home. I can work from virtually anywhere. And now, we can actually do virtual inspections. The technology that's there has really made our job much, much easier." 

—Mike Morgan, Code Official for the City of Marshall

Marshall, Missouri

A Digital Transition 

The City of Marshall looked into different types of software for a few years. "From our research, we knew that kind of software was available," Morgan said. "One of the things that held us back a little bit was the fact that we are such a small staff, and we have a small budget." 

"Things have changed a lot, which was the whole reasoning behind us pursuing this type of software. It saves a lot of time and streamlines our system as far as productivity goes." 

Morgan notes that it's a lot like when they went from paper and pencil to the digital world back in 2006 with GIS.  

"With this software, we now have the availability or access to county parcel records. In our department, we deal a lot with properties, so having that access to records at our fingertips, we're able to look at the county's parcel records and can access things much, much faster, and with that, we can give the public much better service. We wanted to make the public have much easier access to us." 

They knew the only way to accomplish that was to incorporate some smart, digital tools to remove roadblocks for residents. 

"Which is what this solution does. It gives us a better relationship with the public, and it does a lot more for the sake of transparency when it comes to record-keeping. Another benefit is that it makes the availability of what we do in this department more accessible to some of our other departments. We want to get to that point where we can help any other department—fire department, police department, administrative department—they can all have access to what we do here, and it's much quicker and easier." 

 

Choosing the Right Solution 

Before the City of Marshall chose the CivicPlus® Permitting, Code Enforcement, and Licensing solution, they did their due diligence, researching both price and functionality, to find the right fit.  

"We were looking, and we got some high and low numbers in terms of price." 

Morgan indicates they went with a happy medium option that presented a balance in terms of functionality and affordability. He communicated with the city's executive branch, reviewed finances, took the topic to the City Council, and explained what they were looking at.  

"We were lucky enough to have someone on our council that was very familiar with this type of software and noted that this would be a good tool for us. They agreed that technology in today's world is really necessary to accomplish things much more efficiently, much faster, and much easier." 

Once the department accrued the necessary funds, Morgan reports that everyone was onboard.  

"We kept everybody informed as to what we were doing and how the software was working. It's worked out really well as far as that goes. To improve the city, processes for our residents, and the future productivity of their local government, is no small task." 

Throughout the decision-making and implementation process, one main goal always remained at the top of Morgan's focus. 

"We wanted to provide better communication with the public, give residents a better service from our department, and increase productivity and efficiency within our department." 

 

Gaining Public Trust and Engagement 

According to Morgan, one of the most important parts of the software package for the city is the public portal.  

"When you're dealing with the public, and they're able to communicate with us via that portal and do what they want to do without having to leave their house or office to drive down here and go through a manual permitting application, that's big for us. It saves us time, and it saves residents time." 

The public's perspective matched that of Morgan in that the availability of a portal of communication was a top priority.   

"Some people don't have the flexibility to come to us all the time and don't necessarily like calling us up about issues. The fact that they can get online and, through the portal, communicate with us about what it is they need for us to do, is important." 

Whether it was to schedule an inspection, apply for a permit, or request information, Morgan notes that the biggest key is clear communication with the public and the significant increases in his team's productivity. 

 

Reporting Functionality 

Before implementing CivicPlus' Permitting, Code Enforcement, and Licensing solution, Morgan reports that his department's reporting was lacking. There was too much back and forth and resources that weren't readily available in the field. That all changed after CivicPlus. 

"It's much better with the new software because I get emails through the software that says, you have an inspection at this property, and before, that wasn't the case. Previously it was either a phone call or I'd have to come back by the office and get some information to bring back out to the field. That all has been eliminated. The communication is pretty much seamless. I have my iPad with me, and I have a printer in my truck so I can print reports right on the job site." 

Morgan states before the new software was implemented, that outcome wasn't possible and had never been the case.  

"I would have to call Sheerie, our office manager, to print out a report and do something of that nature. Now, before I leave a job site, I will make sure somebody has an inspection report in their hand or email and can do so because of this reporting." 

Every month Morgan's department runs a report it provides to the city council, which advises them of what's taking place in the department and gives them an overview of the last month. Morgan reports that even the communication of the reports is simple because council members have access to the software and can access the information ahead of meetings.  

"It's facilitated an improved relationship between the local government and the public. It's brought about a whole new relationship and a better one between those two entities." 

 

Efficiencies Across the Board 

When the budget was one of the primary factors going into purchasing a new solution, it was important that the city saw efficiencies and savings from implementing the software. That's certainly been the case, according to Morgan. 

"We've replaced all the manual stuff, cut down on travel time, and I can work from home. I can work from virtually anywhere. And now, we can actually do virtual inspections. The technology that's there has really made our job much, much easier." 

Morgan notes that he can now spend much more time in the field where he can still maintain communication with the office manager through the software.  

"I go to the job sites, I do inspections, I print reports, I email reports, and it's all right there. That's not something we've ever been able to do before. So, in that regard, this software is a very, very important tool and has really done a lot for us." 

Sheerie Norman, office manager, also notes the efficiencies she's noticed from specific software features. 

"The schedule inspection feature is one of the most useful features," said Norman. "It's easy to do, and I can schedule Mike on his calendar and let him know where he needs to be. The same goes with assigning a complaint. I can go ahead and assign it to Mike, and he can see it on his calendar and go ahead and take care of it." 

She states that if Morgan interacts with a contractor or another resident, he can issue notices, checklists, inspection reports, and complaints while he's still on the property.  

"This tends to help resolve things much quicker, but again I think the biggest aspect is the communication between us and the public. This is always what we strive for, to make sure that we've got a good, open communication channel transparency with the public and so that they can have better access," said Morgan. 

He reports they're experiencing a higher level of productivity and that the system is working well to attract more engagement and create more online interactions.   

"We've been able to do a lot of things with this product that we're pretty pleased with." 

Morgan says that, like with any implementation of a new process and software, there were some growing pains, but they like the direction they're headed. 

"The software does what they said it would do." 

 

Training and Support 

Morgan started the training process with sessions every Tuesday and reports his CivicPlus trainers were knowledgeable.  

"Everything they were telling us and teaching us made it seem like they had a really good handle on their product and what it could do. During the training process, for us, who are pretty new to this type of software and have some computer skills, you get something like this as complex as it is; you do have to pay attention. They were really good about walking us through that and putting things in terms that we could grasp and understand. 

Morgan says it took them a little time to catch on to it, but once they got to the end of their training and reviewed the modules one at a time, they could take what they learned and put it into practice. 

"From a teaching aspect, the CivicPlus team was well educated. I can't remember any questions that I asked that they couldn't answer, so I thought they did a pretty good job." 

 

Enhancing the Efficiency of Small-Town America 

The CivicPlus Permitting, Code Enforcement, and Licensing solution does just what it is supposed to, according to Morgan, who points out what a simple yet essential baseline that should be of any solution.  

"It is important because we know a lot of products out in the world today don't necessarily perform the way we initially thought." 

Morgan reports other suitors are calling, but they're satisfied right where they're at. 

"We get a lot of calls from software companies that know we were out there and that at one time were looking for these solutions, and so I make sure that I mention to them that we're satisfied with our provider." 

Morgan notes that it's an ongoing, constant process to continue to learn more and find new ways to use the software and push its capabilities to the limit, but he likes the potential of where the solution can take them. 

"If everything continues to go well, we hope and expect to have a really, really good relationship for a long, long time. We're thinking this product is really going to enhance the efficiency of what we do down here in small-town America. So, we're happy with that." 

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