Case Study

Franklin, MA is Changing the Paradigm of Government Service

About Franklin, MA

About an hour south of Boston, the community of Franklin, MA prides itself on being a “customer-centric” government. With many new families moving into the area in recent years, the town knew it needed to modernize its services to keep up with growing demand.

 

Challenge

The Town hoped to modernize citizen services with online capabilities, while also leveraging technology to increase internal productivity among local government staff.

 

Solution

OpenGov Citizen Services

 

Why OpenGov Citizen Services?

In 2016, Jamie Hellen joined Franklin as Deputy Town Administrator, in part, to help oversee a long-term vision for improving digital services. Hellen and his team quickly identified ePermitting as “low hanging fruit,” prioritizing this touchpoint because of its ability to impact the greatest number of residents.

“At some point you need an inspection for electrical work, you need to license your dog, and for the business community permitting might be a regular part of your routine. So when you’re looking at what technological updates will impact the most people, permitting is high on the list.”

Population
33000

Agency Type
Town

Annual Budget
$130 Million

Role
Community Development
IT

Region
Northeast

Solution
Citizen Services

Customer Results

Rapid 3-week implementation timeline

Paperless process reduces waste from 5,000 handwritten, paper forms

Accepted more than a dozen online applications in the first week

Dog license application now takes 3-4 minutes to complete and submit

Franklin saw ePermitting as a way to improve both the customer experience for residents and internal operations, allowing staff to focus their energy more productively. Hellen and Franklin’s IT director, Tim Rapoza, worked with OpenGov staff to implement a pilot ePermitting system, allowing residents to apply for dog licenses and vitals certificates through an online portal.

Moving Towards a Modern Government

Franklin’s vision for customer-service means rising to meet the expectations of residents in a digital age. While staff at the counters are friendly and knowledgeable, Town Hall is only open from 8am-4pm. To Hellen, providing better government services looks a lot more like what you’d expect from Google or Amazon. “The world’s operating in a global, 24/7 environment, and people are conducting business at all hours of the day,” says Hellen. “My hope is in the very short-term we can transition our little place in the world, Franklin, MA, into a 24/7 storefront. We want people to expect that out of government, and we want to deliver on it.

 

“When someone says, ‘oh shoot I need to license my dog and today’s the deadline,’ we want that service to be a Google search away. We want to be a one stop shop for people’s questions and services.”
Jamie Hellen, Deputy Town Administrator, Town of Franklin, MA

 

Using OpenGov Citizen Services, The Town of Franklin, MA customized their public storefront to
give residents a modern, convenient way to apply for licenses online.

 

The Town Clerk’s office had also identified operational inefficiencies that could be streamlined with an online permitting system.

“In the old process, the Town Clerk would send out a dog licensing form with the annual census. Every year almost 5,000 people would bring in or mail back their handwritten form, which was then manually entered into an outdated Access database. The forms didn’t include phone numbers or email addresses, so it was a painful process in comparison to what we expect today.”

With a new idea of efficiency in mind, Hellen and other department heads agreed that updating their permitting system was an important step in providing citizens with greater access to government services. In less than three weeks, the Town Clerk’s office successfully launched OpenGov Citizen Services, receiving dozens of applications in the first week alone.

Rave Reviews After Online Permitting Portal Launch

After just the first week, Franklin had received dozens of permit applications through OpenGov Citizen Services, with encouraging feedback from residents and staff.

 

“The comments we’ve gotten from people thus far have been very positive—that the system is easy to use or it took them less than 3 or 4 minutes to license their dog. And meanwhile it saved them an hour long trip to and from town hall at a minimum.”
Jamie Hellen, Deputy Town Administrator, Town of Franklin, MA

 

Dog license applications are now conveniently available online, with transparent pricing
to help residents take proper action to ensure pet safety within the community.

 

“That’s the kind of efficiency and brand we want,” says Hellen. “The ability to save people time and hassle is where the rubber meets the road in changing the paradigm of what government does.”

Incorporating feedback from employees, residents, and elected officials on this pilot project, Franklin hopes to expand online permitting operations with OpenGov Citizen Services to liquor licensing, building inspections, and several other town departments in the future.

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