Case Study

Taking it Online to Save Time: How Burnsville, MN Rolled Out Citizen Services in Just Six Months

“But, this is how we’ve always done it…” is not acceptable to Inspection Assistant Kim Douglas. 

“The reasoning makes my head explode,” says Kim, who is a California native, construction guru of 25 years, and grandmother of “3 wonderful reasons to now call Minnesota home.”

The City of Burnsville, MN, is an evolving community and influencer of technological advancement in the Midwest region. Much of this is thanks to City staff which is collaborative, community-oriented, and dedicated to keeping up with the City’s modernization initiatives.

Yet behind the scenes, outdated technology led to stalled processes and overworked staff members. To keep up without burning out, Kim decided to bring permitting leads together and make a change. The result was the quick (6-month) implementation of OpenGov Citizen Services to simplify and automate the permitting process and the rollout of an easy-to-use public portal for applications.

 

The City of Burnsville is an innovative and welcoming community located in eastern Minnesota.

Customer Results

6 Month Implementation Timeline

All Permit Types Available Online

100% Paperless Permitting Available

5 Departments using OpenGov Citizen Services

Time for an Upgrade 

To drive internal efficiency and improve user experience, the City of Burnsville, MN Inspection Assistant Kim Douglas worked with key staff to adopt OpenGov Citizen Services in 2021, bringing every single permit and license type online. From building to recreational fire permits to business licenses, the City significantly upgraded the ease of doing business with key departments.  

The City of Burnsville also uses OpenGov Citizen Services as a workflow engine and reporting tool to share information with other departments and the public. Burnsville was the first municipality in Minnesota to directly link to the State’s Licensing Contractors Database and offer all building permits online, allowing them to improve tracking and online experience. 

“There are other cities in the State of Minnesota that are using [OpenGov Citizen Services] but not to the extent we are. We are using it across the board,” said Kim. 

Before implementing OpenGov, Kim and her team entered every permit type manually. This process took hours of scanning, filing, and typing, which ultimately led to too many late nights at the office. 

“My coworker and I take pride in a 24-hour turnaround, and we weren’t willing to let that go just because we were too busy,” said Kim.

Kim knew it was time to uplevel to a system that matched her work ethic — one that would support her, rather than slow her down. So, finally, when her legacy system of 10 years approached the end of life in 2021, Kim sought a more modern permitting technology. 

 

Collaboration & Customization From the Start

Kim was just the person to lead the implementation of a new software system. As both the project lead and now administrative lead for OpenGov Citizen Services, Kim’s hands-on attitude and experience shaped efficiencies right from the start of implementation. 

“We needed a system that could be implemented quickly and easily. All of the other systems we reviewed had at minimum a two-year timeline. We were able to go live with Citizen Services in six months.” 

Kim Douglas, Inspections Assistant, City of Burnsville, MN

Building a more efficient workflow requires collaboration. Kim had a dedicated team who assisted in the smooth rollout of OpenGov Citizen Services: Claudia Ettesvold (Rental Licensing, Code Enforcement), Kevin Trushenski (Planning & Development), Jayson Knutson (Fire Department), and Joann Krueger (Permits, Inspections).

Kim sold her colleagues on the idea of customized, collaborative workflows based on existing processes. Next, she spoke with administrators of different departments within the City to understand what was working and what could be improved. She then took these notes to the OpenGov implementation team and got to work. 

“One of the things that I liked was how open they were to how we wanted to do things,” says Kim of the OpenGov Professional Services team. “Their feedback and guidance were delivered with thoughtful consideration to some unique situations… Implementing OpenGov allowed us to be innovative in how we approached existing processes and why they were established, and if those reasons were still viable or relevant.”  

 

Key Results for the City of Burnsville, MN

Moving the permitting process online produced massive efficiencies for the city. Processing times significantly decreased, freeing Kim’s schedule to work more strategically and focus on training her team at mastering the new platform. The City went from processing several checks a day to processing only a few a week. 

“Even email and phone volume have decreased, as applicants, reviewers, inspectors use the Note feature [in OpenGov Citizen Services] to communicate with applicants,” said Kim. Citizen Services also aided the City in preventing user error by incorporating required fields and attachments to submit permits. Before OpenGov, Kim stated that permits were often returned incomplete, leading to start and stop workflows and slower overall turnaround times. 

Substantial efficiencies with OpenGov led certain departments within the City to move exclusively online with OpenGov. The Fire Department, for example, led the charge to paperless permitting.

 “Switching to Open Gov’s online permitting has really improved the permitting experience for our customers as well as our staff. Our customers now have real-time information on where their submitted permit application is in our system and allows them to receive nearly instant notifications if more information is needed or when their permit has been issued.”

Doug Nelson, Assistant Fire Chief, City of Burnsville, MN

A More Efficient Experience, Both Internally and Externally 

Customer service is the most important part of Kim’s job as an inspection assistant, so crucial that she claims it “overshadows” everything else. A significant reason Kim and her team decided to implement OpenGov, other than its variety of customization options, could be a vehicle to improve communications between City staff and Burnsville community members. 

With OpenGov’s public portal, Burnsville community members now have more visibility into the permitting process and can track their permits in real-time, saving them the hassle of calling or stopping into City Hall.  

“The public is holding their government more accountable, and OpenGov provides the analytics and transparency to help them understand the processes and value,” said Kim. 

The City uses a QR Code to direct community members to the OpenGov portal to fill out permits, request inspections, etc.

However, Kim isn’t stopping there. The next step in improving the customer experience is to send out surveys to community members through the public portal. These surveys will help the City identify pain points and inject even more efficiencies into the process. They are set to roll out come summer 2022. 

A Better View with OpenGov Reporting & Transparency 

Kim can now quickly build reports for every aspect of permitting and licensing, from reviews to payments and inspections. This makes it easy to share results with both internal stakeholders and the community. “My shareholders are always impressed with how easy it is to get a comprehensive snapshot of our department’s efforts and output,” said Kim. 

“The public is holding their government more accountable, and OpenGov provides the analytics and transparency to help them understand the processes and value.”

Kim Douglas, Assistant Planner, City of Burnsville, MN

 

 

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