Digital Communities

Portland, Ore., Reports Concerns about Permitting Software Have Been Addressed

Members of the city's technology oversight committee rated the Portland Online Permitting System project yellow on a green-yellow-red scale (green being best, red worst) for its expected completion date, budget and project stability. An independent project consultant gave the same ratings.

by Gordon R. Friedman, the Oregonian / November 2, 2018

(TNS) — Officials monitoring city of Portland, Ore.'s, technology projects reported their "strong concern" about the company handling Portland's long-plagued digital building permits project Wednesday. But they also said those concerns have since been allayed.

Members of the city's technology oversight committee rated the Portland Online Permitting System project yellow on a green-yellow-red scale (green being best, red worst) for its expected completion date, budget and project stability. An independent project consultant gave the same ratings.

"While the status is yellow, we do see it as an upward trajectory," committee member Dyanna Garcia, a manager at Nike, told the City Council.

The committee wrote in its quarterly report that it has "strong concern about the vendor's timeliness and ability to respond to issues that have arisen."

Jeff Baer, director of the city Bureau of Technology Services, said those concerns arise from "defects" found in test systems supplied by the vendor. Those defects have since been fixed, Baer said, but were noted in the technology committee report because they were caught during the July through September monitoring period.

Baer told the City Council on Wednesday that the permits project, known as POPS, "is not without challenges." But he said it is "going pretty well" and there are "no significant issues."

Wednesday's quarterly report also for the first time made clear the project budget is $12 million. Its expected completion date, Sept. 30 of this year, has been revised to "T.B.D."

POPS is a rebrand of an earlier online permits system project called Information Technology Advancement Project, or ITAP. That project was supposed to bring the city permitting bureau into the digital age, allowing developers and permits workers to submit and access records online. But it was never finished, and later replaced with POPS.

The ITAP project turned into a boondoggle as it blew past scheduled deadlines despite more than $8 million in city spending on the project. Portland cut ties with the company building it in 2016 after a consultant recommended work on the project be halted.

Among the consultant's recommendations: A rebranding effort, which would give the tech project a "fresh start."

Baer, the technology bureau head, said he is cautiously optimistic about the POPS project, and doesn't expect it to blow past its budget. He said a test run of the system has processed two commercial building permits and earned rave reviews from users.

©2018 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.