Weston began by going digital and then moving to the cloud, just in time to deal with major market disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, among other unforeseen challenges. These modernization efforts have not gone unnoticed. Neighboring cities and jurisdictions have looked to Weston as a cutting-edge city that allows companies to use SaaS marketing tools to their full potential, and the city ranked first in a recent Digital Cities survey that profiles departments that use technology to improve city services and advance city priorities.
In thinking about moving to the cloud, Weston began their journey by identifying the benefits that a SaaS solution could provide. In the end, they concluded that there were many reasons for the move, but three of them really stood out.
First, according to Ryan Fernandez, the city’s director of technology services, “Being local, even in a virtual server world, there was still a dependency on the IT department to do some of the work in our own data centers. ” This required time and resources from the IT staff, and not having to take care of their data centers would take much of the burden and responsibility off the city.
Weston no longer needed a physical presence. They could rely on Accela to be the point of contact with the public, and they didn’t have to rely on their internal network. Fernandez continued: “Secondly, from an access and cybersecurity standpoint, it allowed us to remove some of the responsibility associated with managing incoming internal connections, especially from the public, where we could remove some of the responsibility.”
Finally, Fernandez addressed keeping up with the latest and greatest versions of Accela’s solutions. He stated, “Third, and perhaps most importantly, it’s about updates and patches. In my opinion, there is no better group to handle these nuances than the software vendors themselves.” This ensured that the agency could take full advantage of the features and functionality available to them without having to maintain and support the system.
Other benefits became apparent as the agency approached the cloud. Speaking of security, Tony Hernandez, a software developer at Weston, said, “With the move to Microsoft Azure, there were fewer issues with payment acceptance.”
Weston also believes that adding more data to their current reports will also be helpful. Using Microsoft Power BI, the agency now has a great summary analysis tool to easily identify production levels and even see where the resolution is throughout its lifecycle.
Microsoft’s dashboards provide a high-level view of approvals that have been opened and reviewed. Understanding plan reviews and revision cycles helped the building official filter out any anomalies. This allowed staff to see and track the journey of any given permit. In addition, if someone called with a request, agency staff could quickly identify any delays with full transparency of processes.
Speaking with Fernandez about using Microsoft reports, he said: “Moving responsibility to one of the more mature clouds has helped us.
And as a Microsoft store, we use Power BI and other Microsoft tools to connect to our information and analyze it.”
Now that productivity is more visible, solutions that require fewer resources to support and maintain, and improved processes, have allowed the city to handle anything.