How your agency can drive economic growth by eliminating licensing "Red Tape"

26 January 2012 | Glenn Berg, Provincial Government Industry Manager, Microsoft Canada

​Issuing licenses and permits is a core part of government business. It helps governments  regulate businesses and control how resources are used. They can also be a large source of income for government agencies, providing a revenue stream to offset their operations - and in some cases - even build a surplus to fund future initiatives. However, the licensing process shouldn't encumber organizations. The goal is to have a system in place that promotes business growth and development, while keeping a rigorous set of checks and balances in place.

Data collection is one of the most important processes involved in the issuance of licenses and permits. The process generates a wealth of information for government agencies, including information that can help shape future policies, as well as structure licensing/permitting regulations to guide their future use, quality, and how they are granted.

From the data-collection perspective, there are essentially two types of licenses and permits that governments issue: The first type of license requires the input of a single set of data to determine whether or not a license will be granted. A simple example of this is the issuance of fishing licenses. A one-time data input is entered into a government database and the license is renewed or granted.

The second type of license is far more complex. These are licenses that require a series of data inputs and complex business flows that need to be completed before this type of license is granted.  A prime example of this is a mining license, in which surveys, reports and a series of controlled "checks" must be done before a license is granted. This type of license contains many different workflows and also requires collaboration between many individuals and departments.

Linking licensing and permitting systems

Quite often, companies wishing to take out numerous "complex" permits and licenses end up going through the same data collection process multiple times. This is redundant and time-consuming for the organization, not to mention frustrating. Here government agencies have a big opportunity to reduce "red tape" by linking their permitting and licensing systems, so that the customer only has to fill in their information once. It's an approach that will not only make the applicant's life easier, but also set the standard for more customer-focused services that help encourage business growth and  economic investment.

Taking the paperwork out of the process

For most governments, issuing permits and licenses is still a paper-heavy process that involves printing out forms, manually filling them in, and then mailing them off. Once received, agencies then have to manually input the data. This process has remained unchanged for a long time and, needless to say, significantly constrains how constituents get to interact with their governments. In the case of complex licenses that require multiple checks and balances, this process can be even more demanding when backend systems aren't linked. Where this is the case, organizations have to fill-out and mail the same forms over and over again, creating paperwork headaches for the customer and redundant data entry on the government side. Why not streamline this arduous process and allow for the applications to be completed online? This can help your agency not only eliminate paperwork, but also enable businesses to track their applications online to see what stage they are at in the system.

Looking at the bigger picture

By looking at all of your permits and licenses as a collective whole, rather than looking at each system individually, you can get a much better perspective on the aggregate wealth of your data, and can then facilitate changes and streamline these processes at a much more rapid rate. In addition to streamlining operations internally, you can also create an environment that allows businesses to do their monthly or annual functions at a lower cost and in a quicker manner than what they're currently experiencing. Bottom line: you're improving your own operations while delivering more value to your constituents.

Getting started

If you're thinking about taking the next step, I encourage you to read our case study on the London Borough of Brent. You can also read about our Connected Government Framework, a series of technologies that many government agencies have leveraged to integrate systems such as those for licensing and permitting. 

The net result of having a connected government framework is a robust, easy to change licensing and permit system that facilitates business growth and development, and allows for more effective government data and revenue collection to occur. Keep reading to uncover more case studies of what our customers have accomplished.

Have a comment or opinion on this post? Let me know @Microsoft_Gov. Have a question for the author? Please e-mail us at ongovernment@microsoft.com.

Glenn Berg
Provincial Government Industry Manager, Microsoft Canada

About the Author

Glenn Berg | Provincial Government Industry Manager, Microsoft Canada

Glenn’s focus is helping government organizations identify new ways of leveraging technology to facilitate change and boost productivity. Glenn was formerly a government policy analyst and has also authored several books on technology.