SimpliGov Digital Form and Workflow Created and Activated in Five Days during COVID-19 Crisis
New Castle County’s Department of Land Use is responsible for providing services, enforcing regulations, and vetting contractor license applications for residential and commercial building and construction. As Delaware’s most populous county, the department works with thousands of contractors and subcontractors to ensure that companies and individuals have valid credentials, adequate insurance, and good financial standing before renewing their licenses to work in New Castle County each year.
Toward the end of 2020, the Department of Land Use was bracing for its usual end-of-year crush to process license renewal applications before the start of the new year. But this year, the county had a unique problem: its offices were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which prevented staff from working with agents in person to review extensive paperwork.
Moreover, the county’s license renewal process depended on a legacy system teeming with inefficiencies. Whether applicants submitted renewal paperwork to a lockbox, through USPS snail mail, or via email, they had to wait for staff members, who were limited to a rotating schedule in the pandemic, to review their submissions and manually enter the application data before giving them the green light to either mail in a check for payment or pay by credit card on the county’s website.
Behind the scenes, department employees struggled to track the thousands of paper-based applications received by mail, shifting between inboxes, or sitting on desks. When applicants called to inquire about their license renewal status, the six employees engaged in the approval process spent significant chunks of time sifting through a paper trail to figure out next steps or running revenue reports to learn what fees were paid online.
“We would spend half our time figuring out who was reviewing the application, verifying that everything was correct, and determining whether or not we had enough information from the contractor to render a decision,” said David Holston, Licensing Manager, New Castle County. “If we decided to return it to the applicant for any reason, that triggered the process all over again. We had little visibility into where applications stood at any given moment.”
New Castle County turned to SimpliGov’s integrated digital form, workflow automation, and eSignature solution to convert a cumbersome manual process into a seamless, paperless workflow. The SimpliGov platform was the perfect solution to streamline the entire process with a mere week’s notice. The software vendor’s services team worked with the Department of Land Use to devise a simple online application that mirrored the data requirements from the existing form. Unlike its PDF predecessor with fillable fields, the new digital form explained the required data and documentation clearly and concisely. With SimpliGov’s intuitive layout and convenient portal for supporting documents, contractors could easily complete the application and upload required documents proving adequate insurance coverage and current business licensure with the State of Delaware. Once applicants clicked the button to submit their application, they instantly received an email acknowledging their submission.
“We no longer put the onus on our contractors to read a horde of information, determine what license requirements apply to them, and assemble the packet themselves,” said Holston.
From there, the SimpliGov workflow triggered the next step: application processing. It automatically distributed incoming applications evenly among the six staff members to balance the workload. Staffers could then either return the application to the contractor with an auto-generated email detailing what was outstanding or verify that their submission was complete and compliant and move them on to the payment phase.
When an employee approved the application, the SimpliGov system instantaneously sent acceptance letters to contractors containing a link where they could pay the fee online from the comfort of their office or home. Payment confirmations were routed back to the licensing staff, who would then email contractors another link, from which new county licenses could be printed. SimpliGov also consolidated the online form into a single PDF, which made submission, retrieval, and access a breeze.
From a reporting and auditing perspective, each submission was tracked in a central database, which enabled any staff member to see who was assigned to an application, what was outstanding, and whether it was approved or pending payment. With a centralized database, streamlined digital workflow, and simplified submission process in place for the contractors, the county received far fewer inquiries, freeing employees up to focus on value-added licensing work.
“The SimpliGov platform has drastically reduced the time spent walking around the office locating applications,” said Holston. “We’re able to focus on more complex and higher-priority tasks collectively as a staff, while our contractors appreciate the simplicity of the new process.”
With the help of SimpliGov’s support team, New Castle County implemented the cloud-based, no-code SaaS platform in a mere five days, allowing the Department of Land Use to maintain operations at a critical time of year during unprecedented circumstances. With little time to rehearse, the department was able to process 761 applications in January 2021 alone without missing a beat.
On average, New Castle County is processing more than 200 applications per month—50% faster than it did previously—while receiving 70% fewer inquiries. The new solution also saved the county thousands of dollars in overtime compensation to complete the same number of requests in half the time.
“Simply put, SimpliGov provided the fastest, easiest, and most efficient way to transform our business to the benefit our employees, contractors, and the county as a whole,” said Holston. “By delivering modern digital government services, we’re able to make it easier for contractors to do business in New Castle County.”