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Accela Releases Apps for Business Licensing, Alcohol Control

One of the top retailers of permitting and licensing software for government is gradually releasing turnkey versions of its longstanding, more custom-built line of civic solutions. Two new apps bring that list to seven.

Expanding its suite of software applications to help governments replace paper-based permitting systems, Accela today announced new SaaS civic applications for alcoholic beverage control (ABC) and business licensing.

This brings Accela’s list of civic applications to seven, after the gradual release of others, since March 2018, to handle permits for planning, building, environmental health, cannabis regulation and short-term rental registration.

According to Senior Product Marketing Manager Dave Maxwell, these civic applications are more fully outfitted, turnkey versions of the company’s nine civic “solutions,” which are older products that require some configuration and customization. He said the old solutions will still be available for clients with idiosyncratic requirements, but the company anticipates the new applications will work better for most state and local governments. He gave two reasons: They come with a library of pre-built assets suitable for most jurisdictions, and therefore they reduce the cost and time of installation.

“We take the knowledge that we’ve gained from working with several thousand customers, now, and our historical success in these areas, and use that to build these applications. They’re built on our customer feedback and input, and our experience gained working with our customers,” he said. “So it comes with your default set of record types, it comes with automated workflows already built in, it comes with reports already built in, you get technologies like mobile applications and the citizen online portal — all that is included in your pre-built set of applications.”

Maxwell said the business-licensing application is intended for city and county-level offices, and the ABC application for state or local agencies, many of which are still using paper systems or legacy systems without modern features like an online portal or mobile accessibility.

The Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission bought Accela’s ABC solution to make the switch from paper to digital in January 2018, and IT Director Christopher Dowell vouched for its success. He said the old system involved paperwork being processed at nine different locations, “stacking paper to the rafters” and a month or more of wait time for applicants. Accela’s ABC solution cut it down to a matter of days.

Dowell said there were a few hiccups at first, from people who were resistant to change and liked the old paper system. But he said the conversion was a necessary improvement for citizens, and Maxwell said Accela applied lessons from the experience to its new ABC application.

“It changed our entire agency, top to bottom, having this new function,” Dowell said. “We changed the structure of the entire organization, and two years in, everybody’s happy. But in the beginning, it doesn’t make a lot of people happy. Plus, our first implementation of Accela wasn’t the most elegant. I don’t think any first implementation of an enterprise system would be, but it wasn’t as pretty as it could be, wasn’t as customer-friendly from an interface perspective, but we needed to get something out there. I felt like we were at least 80 percent of what we needed when we deployed, so we achieved that paradigm shift even without a perfect platform.”

Editor's note: Attribution was adjusted to better reflect source comments.

Andrew Westrope is managing editor of the Center for Digital Education. Before that, he was a staff writer for Government Technology, and previously was a reporter and editor at community newspapers. He has a bachelor’s degree in physiology from Michigan State University and lives in Northern California.
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