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Accela's New Offerings Handle Licensing, 311, Visualization

The licensing and permitting company from California has new applications to help governments process occupational licenses and service requests, as well as new data visualization and mobile tools.

Person on app
Judging by new partnerships and product announcements every month this fall, gov tech software companies see a big future in digital services. COVID-19 created demand among state and local governments for help standing up new websites and information dashboards, setting up telework and creating online alternatives to services they used to do in person, such as licensing and permitting. Hoping to keep its footing in an increasingly competitive market, the cloud software company Accela has announced a pair of new applications and other product updates for the end of the year specifically focused on digital government and adaptability.

According to a news release, the new applications aim to help government agencies set up online alternatives for citizens to apply for occupational licenses or file 311-type service requests, such as to repair a pothole or streetlight. Accela Vice President of Product Management Amber D’Ottavio said they’re not the company’s first products for occupational licenses or request management, but they’re meant to work faster: Instead of having government employees use the software to build forms and workflows that would guide a citizen through the application process, the forms come preconfigured, albeit with some customizability, so they’re ready to go online much faster.

“It’ll shrink the implementation times significantly,” she said. “We’ve usually seen, with civic applications it reduces (implementation time) anywhere from 30 to 60 percent, because they’re not having to start from scratch.”

Other updates, due for release this month, include a data visualization tool called Accela Insights for creating information dashboards; some front-end and back-end improvements to the company’s other products involving data syncing and website building; and offline functionality and other enhancements for Accela Mobile, an app that’s essentially an extension of back-office software but specifically tailored for activities that government employees would do in the field, such as code enforcement.

Looking ahead at 2021, D’Ottavio predicted one of the top challenges for government will be constant change — in everything from funding to public policy to citizen standards and expectations. She said data will have a role to play in helping governments assess and prioritize different services and handle budget cuts, but beyond that, they’ll need the tools and business processes themselves to be as flexible as possible. Making a pitch for Accela’s approach to government software, D’Ottavio said one way to do that is with turnkey solutions that can go live in a hurry and be tweaked as needed.

“A lot of government agencies kind of get in their own way. They want it to be perfect, when they roll out something new, and it makes sense, because sometimes that’s tied to a person’s reputation or other things,” she said. “But I think right now it’s just about responding to the need ... Get it up and running, involve the public, get the feedback, adjust over time, and then once you get things up and running, you do have more data at your fingertips that can help you not just iterate but focus.”

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.