4-page Case Study
Posted: 6/18/2010
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City of Miami Miami Upgrades Land Management Systems, Streamlines Permits and Services for Citizens

Like most municipalities, the City of Miami is under mounting pressure to do more with less. One such challenge is in the city’s land management operations, which encompass functions such as permitting, zoning, urban planning and design, inspections, certifications, code enforcement and regulation, code compliance, and related services. Land management had an aging mainframe system and many business processes that were manual and inefficient. Working with Microsoft, the City of Miami deployed a new system based on the Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5, Microsoft ASP.NET MVC 2, SQL Server 2008, and the .NET Language-Integrated Query (LINQ) technology to support the modernization of the city’s land management operations. Now, citizens can apply for permits online 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and inspectors can more easily conduct and record inspections in the field.

Situation
The City of Miami’s Building, Planning, and Zoning Departments manage approvals through all phases of construction, from the acquisition of raw land to construction and occupancy of a building and all regulations and enforcement associated with the building’s continued use.

For more than two decades, the City of Miami relied on a system that managed all of these approvals, but over time, many of the skill sets associated with managing the system—and much of the vendor support—were lost due to attrition. That, combined with a need to be more efficient and deliver a better user interface, left the city with an immediate need to replace the system.

"One of the main drivers behind it was our user base, which was made up of constituents, elected officials, and departments,” says Conrad Salazar, Project Manager of the Land Management Project for the City of Miami. “Users wanted a richer user interface and they always compared us to the Internet. Our system had a lot of ‘green screens,’ so things like consolidation, attachments, and mapping capabilities were not available with that type of architecture and application.”

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* Now our citizens will be able to go online instead of standing in line. *

Conrad Salazar
Project Manager, Land Management Project, City of Miami

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From some of the feedback received, the city realized that a new system would need to address constituents’ desire to apply and pay for permits online. But the number one request for change in the system involved workflow.

“We were starting to see a very large increase what we call ‘permit runners,’” Salazar explains. “These were people that would basically specialize in how to run plans through the system. Our process was so convoluted and complicated that it created a niche market for certain people to be able to run permits.”

For example, if a person needed to pull a certain type of permit, they would have to walk from floor to floor to accomplish the task. “If you apply at the building department on the fourth floor, they would send you to the sixth floor to Finance,” Salazar says. “Finance would send you to Planning, Planning would send you to Zoning.”

There was no single process; instead, every department owned a piece of the process. “Everyone had their own rules, their own regulations, and their own timelines in which to respond to constituents,” Salazar says. “The biggest request was for a single entry point, one user interface that would basically carry people throughout the workflow in the city.”

The city also needed a system that could tell users how many steps were left, how far along they were in the process, and what specific things they could encounter along the way. The objective was to build an application that went beyond simply taking data to creating a workflow, but to walk constituents through the workflow of the city’s business process.

“The pain was manifesting in several ways,” Salazar says. “Constituents claimed that it was too hard for them to be able to do something on their own or to walk through the process and that you needed to have a contractor in place for almost any simple job that you wanted to do with the city.”

The city also started noticing the time it took to process applications. “Because of the ‘stove-piping’ we had in place, there was never really a priority or a queue or a work order management for the processes,” Salazar says. “So when we started calling around and asking other cities about their time frames for a fence permit or a pool permit, we started hearing some pretty low numbers compared to the numbers we had in place.”

In large part, the need for greater efficiency was the impetus for an upgrade. The City of Miami had a mandate from the City Manager that people should be able to interact with the application and the application should walk them through the process.

In seeking a solution to support those requirements, the city initially searched for an off-the-shelf solution, but after 12 months of looking, the city hadn’t found an off-the-shelf option that could support their unique business processes. “We ended up electing to build a system from scratch,” Salazar says. The new Land Management Project is the largest software development initiative in more than two decades in the City of Miami.

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* The biggest request was for a single entry point, one user interface that would basically carry people throughout the workflow in the city. *

Conrad Salazar
Project Manager, Land Management Project, City of Miami

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Solution
The City of Miami turned to Microsoft in part because of the city’s existing relationships with the company, according to Yitzhak Khabinsky, Development Lead for the Land Management Project at the City of Miami. “There were a number of projects where Microsoft technologies were in use. It was basically a natural continuation.”

To support the transition from the legacy mainframe system, Microsoft designed a solution based on the Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5, Microsoft ASP.NET MVC 2, Microsoft SQL Server 2008 data management software, and the .NET Language-Integrated Query (LINQ) technology. “All of it is in place as a foundation of our technology stack for the system,” Khabinsky says.

The budget for the project was U.S.$6.1 million. But because the new solution is based on the .NET Framework, the City of Miami was able to capitalize on existing investments.

“Unlike some software, where you have to purchase an entirely proprietary or different software set, we were actually capitalizing on our existing infrastructure and software stack,” Salazar explains.

Benefits
The major benefit of the application will be the convenience and functionally afforded to Miami’s citizens.

“Now our citizens will be able to go online instead of standing in line,” says Salazar.

Enhanced Services for Citizens
Citizens will be able to schedule inspections, receive inspection results, and track their building permit from beginning to end from the comfort of their own home, mobile phone, or office—wherever it is most convenient for them. Additionally, instead of having to adhere to city business hours, customers will have access to information when it is most convenient for them, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Accelerated Approval Cycles
With the new system, the City of Miami can process permits more quickly and efficiently. “This application we’re building is the number one revenue generator in the city,” Salazar says. “It takes in anywhere from $175,000 to $200,000 a day, so it has to be robust, stable, and extremely reliable to serve a critical business service. If somebody can’t access that application, we’re losing revenue.”

Improved Resource Utilization
Salazar believes that the utilization rate of the new permit system will increase as users recognize its value. He also expects a significant increase in revenue. “The up-front cost for an application is 5 to 10 percent, where the real money sits on the completion
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* Unlike some software, where you have to purchase an entirely proprietary or different software set, we were actually capitalizing on our existing infrastructure and software stack. *

Conrad Salazar
Project Manager, Land Management Project, City of Miami

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of the project,” Salazar says. “We have thousands of permits that have been opened but never completed. So the key question is, with a more streamlined workflow, will those permits get closed quicker, will some of the ones that weren’t going to get closed actually become completed, and will that get us the money we need?”

It also may bring more contracting business to Miami because a streamlined process and faster approvals means quicker job completion and payment. That can drive more business and more revenue to the city.

More Efficient Work Force
For the future, the City of Miami plans to take its new processes on the road. With the Microsoft Silverlight browser plug-in and Windows Phone 7, Salazar believes the city can empower its mobile work force to be more productive in the field. “We’re looking to have the application in a mobile environment, not only for the citizens themselves but also for the inspectors,” he says.

Although inspectors have portable computers in their cars, inspectors found them to be too big and bulky to use. Inspectors complete 10–12 inspections and return to their offices to enter all the results. With the new system, inspectors can simply conduct the inspections, post the results online, and be notified of their next appointment by mobile phone.

“We would love to have a process where we tell the inspectors, ‘Don’t come to the office, go directly to your first inspection,’” Salazar says. “We have the application—it’s on the mobile phone. We have GPS positioning, so we know exactly when inspectors get to work and when they get to the first inspection, so they don’t have to worry about coming to the office and clocking in.” The benefit for the city is that the inspector can do two or three more inspections a day. They don’t have to waste time coming into the office to clock in and pick up assignments.

“Better services and more revenue,” Salazar says. “At the end of the day, that’s a win-win for constituents, taxpayers, and the government.”

Microsoft Government
Microsoft applications, solutions, and services help to empower public servants and government employees to share critical information and serve their constituents more efficiently.

For more information about Microsoft Government please go to:
www.microsoft.com/industry/government
www.microsoft.com/industry/government/federal
www.microsoft.com/slg

For More Information
For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers in the United States and Canada who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:
www.microsoft.com

For more information about City of Miami products and services, call (305) 250-5300 or visit the website at:
www.ci.miami.fl.us

Solution Overview



Organization Size: 4000 employees

Organization Profile

The City of Miami is the county seat of Miami-Dade County Florida. A bustling center for international business, as of 2008 Miami was home to a population of almost 5.5 million residents.


Business Situation

Miami’s land management operations included an aging mainframe system and many manual and inefficient processes. As a result, the services provided to citizens and constituents were slow, costly, and often inconvenient.


Solution

Miami is deploying a solution based on the Microsoft .NET Framework that will automate and integrate processes to streamline operations, reduce costs, and improve both transparency as well as convenience.


Benefits

  • Enhanced services for citizens while reducing operational costs
  • Accelerated approval cycles
  • Improved resource utilization
  • More efficient work force


Software and Services
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008
  • Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5
  • Microsoft ASP.NET MVC 2
  • Microsoft .NET Language Integrated Query

Vertical Industries
Local Government Agencies

Country/Region
United States

Business Need
Business Productivity

IT Issue
Document and Records Management

Languages
English

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