ePermitting vs. Cloud Permitting: What’s the Difference?
A lot has changed since ePermitting, or electronic permitting, started going mainstream in the 1980s—everything, it seems, except for ePermitting software itself. Now, thirty years later, many communities are still struggling to ‘digitize’ their processes with ePermitting software in order to ditch the clunky legacy of paper forms. What they may not know is that in 2020, they should actually be asking for cloud permitting software.
What’s the difference between ePermitting and Cloud permitting?
Why is the latter the better option for modern governments?
Let’s dive in.
At the most basic level, ePermitting simply means electronic permitting—relying on a computer to digitally complete at least a portion of the typical receive-intake-review-approve sequence that governments go through to approve residents’ permitting and license applications.
When it comes down to actually defining what ePermitting software should do, we often see a divergence in both the terms that officials use, and subsequently, the capabilities they expect ePermitting software to provide. For some, ePermitting means putting required forms on their local government website for residents to access as PDFs at home.
An example paper application form to apply for a building permit.
For others, ePermitting allows residents to submit electronic versions of their permitting applications via email or through a portal. But for the majority of governments, ePermitting software should bridge the resident application and government processing ability into a single solution; meaning after a resident submits either a paper-based or electronic application, government employees can use ePermitting software to track the approvals process electronically instead of relying on paper.
Not only do these variations confuse the overall understanding of how communities can and should be using ePermitting to modernize their approvals processes, but also what they should look for in ePermitting modernization technology. This not only complicates the search for a good ePermitting solution, but also the anticipated outcomes governments expect to see post-investment.
Cloud permitting software relies on, you guessed it, the ‘cloud,’ which essentially negates the need for a network-connected desktop computer. Instead, this software depends on internet-based networks, and data is stored offsite in secure, digital storage hubs. If you max out your computer storage with traditional ePermitting software, your options are to buy new hardware: Either a new computer with greater capacity or a new server to support your data needs. With cloud permitting software, you simply purchase more online storage, which is why modern cloud-based software has the reputation for being more scalable and a cheaper investment long-term.
Cloud permitting is the next generation of ePermitting software that actually solves for both process inefficiency and duplication of efforts in the often complicated approvals process for municipal permits and licenses. Cloud permitting software provides all of the same basic benefits of a unified, front-and-back-end ePermitting solution, but in a much more user-friendly and intuitive way.
If the primary driver of adopting ePermitting is to move away from paper, the primary driver of implementing (or upgrading) to cloud permitting is to integrate all permitting-related technology into a single platform that is accessible to the entire team, with varying user permission levels to restrict or enable access as needed.
Cloud Automation Tools
The even bigger improvement for governments is the introduction of workflow automation tools into cloud permitting software like OpenGov’s Citizen Services platform. Workflow automation does what it sounds like—it automates any start-to-finish process with multiple steps, with helpful features like reminders and alerts that trigger upon completion of the previous step to ensure whoever is in charge of the next step, knows exactly what to do, when.
What these backend workflow automation tools look like for government staff is that post-submission, employees can easily review and track permit and license applications through each incremental step of the approvals process. Within the platform, governments can assign each staff member as a user to facilitate online collaboration. They can see when new applications are submitted, create efficient inspection routes each day, tag their colleagues when they’ve finished a building plan review, and also digitally alert citizen applicants when additional information is occasionally required—all online.
And just like TurboTax has figured out how to make filing taxes easier for the public based on an individuals’ specific circumstances, Cloud permitting also allows governments to set up guided application wizards to help citizens correctly identify the right form they need, on the very first try. Depending on the conditions of their project (say, for example, a deck extension that is 10×20 ft), the total cost of their building permit will be correctly tallied in their application, and they can pay online with a credit card from the convenience of their own home.
In 2020, when government leaders effectively provide the convenience of at-home permitting and licensing services and make their department heads, clerks, and inspectors happy with helpful tools, only then can they say they’ve achieved true permitting modernization—not with ePermitting, but with cloud permitting software.
Ready for Cloud Permitting?
Local governments looking to bring citizen services online in 2020 should be investing in Cloud permitting solutions. Our complete guide details the start-to-finish process of researching, testing, and implementing no-code solutions that match your community’s specific approvals process.