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Salesforce Announces Permitting Apps, Vaccine Management

The San Francisco-based cloud software company is expanding its platform to include vaccine management, and also making its first foray into the competitive permitting and licensing market.

measles vaccine
The scramble to respond to a global pandemic has required state and local governments to set up technical solutions to logistical problems, fast. Looking ahead at the next major challenge coming down the pike, Salesforce, a giant in the cloud software industry, released a new feature today for its software dedicated to helping agencies coordinate vaccine programs. Separately, it also announced a set of applications for online permitting and licensing, moving into competitive territory with companies such as Accela, CentralSquare and OpenGov.

Vaccine Management

The company’s global head of public sector, Dave Rey, described as a set of applications, launched in May, to help organizations get their employees back to work safely with sanitation practices, staggered scheduling and test-and-trace coordination. He said the company has worked with at least 35 U.S. states along with the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and Canada on COVID-19-related projects, and he called the new application, for Vaccines, a logical extension of that effort. Essentially, it’s a software tool to help customers with inventory management, public outreach, appointment scheduling, online pre-screenings, outcome monitoring and surveys to identify adverse reactions once vaccines become available.

“This is a highly complex problem. The distribution alone, and the way they have to handle that — if there’s specific refrigeration requirements, for example, how long can the vials be out?” he said. “There are so many details that they’re going to need technology to help them manage this.”

Rey granted there won’t be a one-size-fits-all solution for vaccine management, but he said Salesforce consulted medical professionals and health organizations about what the common requirements will be. The software it announced today is meant to help customers design their own programs ahead of time.

“One thing we’ve learned from this pandemic is speed matters, flexibility matters and scale matters. It’s mattered in contact tracing, it’s mattered in getting people back to work safely,” he said. “These decisions have to be made in record time, whereas, you know, typically governments take a much longer time to make these decisions. And I think it’s going to play a similar role in vaccine management.”

Licensing and Permitting

On Oct. 19, Salesforce will officially get into the licensing and permitting game with purpose-built applications to handle business, land permitting, health and safety, recreation, professional and any other conceivable type of government-issued license. Senior VP of Products Kishan Chetan said the goal is to reduce the amount of time it will take, particularly for their biggest customers, to create and manage online permitting systems, which are more important than ever and won’t become less so over time.

Chetan said Salesforce’s local government customers saw a more than 800 percent spike in online traffic since the onset of COVID-19, and only 21 U.S. states allow citizens to apply for government licenses online.

“Licensing and permitting is a huge value to state and local agencies, because it’s actually a source of revenue … A quarter of U.S. workers need an occupational license, and if you don’t have the right licenses, if you make it really hard for them, regions lose about $6.2 billion of revenue (nationwide annually),” he said. “Licenses and permits are between 6-40 percent of the budget of a specific state and locality, so this is not a service that I’m providing to citizens because I’m taking taxes. This represents money that these guys are making … it’s a source of revenue. They want to modernize it, they want to make sure they’re quick at processing it, they’re efficient, and they’re keeping citizens safe and secure.”

Licensing and permitting is a competitive slice of the gov tech market, dominated by well-known entities such as Accela, CentralSquare Technologies, OpenGov and Tyler Technologies. Chetan said Salesforce’s offerings are partially a consequence of its acquisition of Vlocity in February, which made the forms in its application more dynamic and configurable.

“One, we’ve taken a platform-centric approach, i.e., whatever they build should be easy to extend and easy to configure,” he said. “Second, it should be easy to add new license types. Several of our competitors’ solutions work really well for one type of license, but the moment the government wants to add another type of license, the system breaks apart because it’s very hard-wired.”

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.