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CivicPlus Moves Into Low-Code Software for Digital Services

With the CivicOptimize suite and its centerpiece, Productivity, the Kansas-based integrated software provider is offering governments its first “low-code” software tool to speed up the adoption of digital services.

Forecasting a growing need for flexible, digital services, in light of so much telework and uncertainty about in-person interactions, CivicPlus has launched a new software suite to help state and local governments stand up those services on the fly.

The Kansas-based integrated communications software company announced its latest product, CivicOptimize, earlier this month. According to a news release, the centerpiece of CivicOptimize is a piece of low-code software called Productivity, with which government IT staff who have only a basic familiarity with hand-coding can build custom workflows, mobile applications and software integrations for digital services.

Jonathan Wiersma, the company’s vice president of marketing and strategy, told Government Technology that Productivity is the company’s first use of low-code development and the only tool in the CivicOptimize suite so far, with more to come. He said for governments looking to either create new online portals or augment what they have, Productivity is a faster and more flexible option than the company’s more bespoke software, with more potential use cases.

CivicPlus’ website lists a dozen: license applications and renewals, custom reservation or check-out processes, public service sign-ups, inspections and audits, collection of submissions, payments, bids, purchasing management, incident reporting, pet adoptions, inventory management and community outreach activity tracking.

“It’s not necessarily just to stand up services online but maybe, if there’s two services online that I have to consume in a single interaction — like getting a permit and an inspection — then you can stand up a citizen-facing application quickly that bridges that process end to end,” Wiersma said.

As Wiersma tells it, low-code software development is the key. An explanation of low-code development on CivicPlus’ website promises faster time-to-market without the need to hire a programmer — in effect, giving non-technical staff a visual interface to create applications using drag-and-drop, basic data and logic.

“Low-code is a must-have now, because it’s a changing world where I need to stand up a system quickly, or change a system quickly. All the articles we saw around trying to hire a COBOL developer, and then redevelop something in COBOL — that’s not quick,” Wiersma said. “But also, potentially, the environment is changing rapidly. What if we reopen and then we close again, and reopen and close again, and I have to keep tweaking the systems for the different environments that I’m in? That’s a tough lift, if I have to keep changing back and forth, and I’m trying to code all those changes.”

In a public statement, CivicPlus CEO Brian Rempe reiterated that Productivity is a tool for cities who haven’t fully made the transition to digital services, but need to do so in order to reopen during a pandemic.

“We understand that municipalities need to reopen for business and do it fast with a digital, ready-to-use solution that they can deploy online today,” he said. “So, that’s what we’re offering.”

Wiersma said many of CivicPlus’ future announcements will feature low-code tools that will be API-first, able to integrate with anything they need to, ready to be configured out-of-the-box by the client or with help from CivicPlus. He said the next phase of updates will focus on making it easier to integrate with off-the-shelf tools, and offering customers a library of pre-built apps to choose from.

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.