Utah Means Business

Registering a new business in Utah now takes hours rather than months.

by / January 6, 2004
Launching a new business is challenging for anybody. But in Utah, registering that new business with the state was time-consuming and frustrating. To complete registration, new companies were required to physically file documents with up to seven different government entities. The process often took weeks or months.

Not anymore.

In August 2003, Utah launched the OneStop Business Registration System, which consolidates federal, state and local business filing requirements on a single Web site. Businesses can now register electronically and initiate business-licensing procedures with local government in about an hour.

"The new system is getting businesses up and running faster than ever before," said Al Sherwood, Utah's deputy CIO. "That translates to more efficient state government and more efficient businesses."

According to Amy Sawyer, general manager for Utah Interactive Inc., which manages the Utah.gov portal, Utah's OneStop Business Registration System is the first e-government service of its kind to integrate federal, state and local government business processes into a single, seamless process.

The system allows businesses to simultaneously register and initiate permit processes with the IRS and five state agencies: the State Tax Commission, the Labor Commission, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Workforce Services and the Department of Environmental Quality.

Residents opening a business in any of Utah's three largest cities -- Salt Lake City, Sandy City or Provo -- can initiate the local jurisdiction business licensing process at the same time.

Art of the Deal
The state spent more than a year working with the IRS, the five licensing agencies and the three cities to create the OneStop system. While the system didn't require any legislative changes, it did require a great deal of compromise.

"There was a memorandum of understanding between parties to begin the process," said Sawyer. "Several business process changes had to be negotiated and standards had to be set for the agencies to create an enterprise system together. They had to compromise a great deal to get this done."

Getting various entities to collaborate was difficult, agreed Val Oveson, Utah's CIO. "Having agencies work on cross-boundary projects is one of the most important things we can be doing," he said. "And they did it. They came together and saw the vision of what could be done and accomplished."

One aspect that helped OneStop move forward quickly was that the idea had been bouncing around for many years, although it began as a brick-and-mortar concept.

"The fact that it wasn't a foreign idea and that it made intuitive sense meant once it got promoted through the governor to the CIO's office, it was already prepared to move forward," Sherwood said. "Having both top-down leadership and bottom-up support allowed this project to galvanize more quickly."

OneStop also faced technology challenges associated with an application that's both horizontally and vertically integrated. The state is using Web Services technology and will eventually provide XML output to all agencies. For now, the output is customized for the various agencies depending on what their management systems require.

"Agencies need to evolve to where they can handle XML," said Sawyer.

Out of the Chute
Between 20 percent and 30 percent of all new business registrations are completed through the OneStop Business Registration System, according to the Utah Department of Commerce.

"We had a high adoption rate right out of the chute," said Sawyer. "That has translated to immediate productivity gains. Even more powerful is all agencies have instant notification of new business registrations. In the past, those unaware or unadvised would register a business and not apply for a tax ID, or vice versa. This system alerts all interested agencies of the new business."

The OneStop System eliminates a lot of the run around that can tie up resources for both government and small business owners, said Sawyer. "Over time there will be tremendous cost savings for agencies that touch small businesses."

The state hopes to see at least half of new business registrations completed via OneStop by next year. All that's required to use the system is Internet access. And if business owners don't have all the information to complete their registration, they can save what they've completed and come back later to finish.

The OneStop Business Registration System's launch coincided with the introduction of a new state business portal. "We learned that business users need access to different online services than citizens, and it made sense to design a separate portal specifically for the private sector," said Oveson.

The new business portal features more than 30 interactive services, including a Uniform Commercial Code search and filing, annual business registration renewal and a business entity search. The business portal also provides a commerce-specific search engine, news content and navigation that focuses on key processes during the lifecycle of a business.

Something to Build On
In the long run, Oveson and Sherwood believe success of the OneStop system will springboard the state into additional e-commerce applications.

Utah raised the bar on citizen service, Oveson said. It has also raised citizen' expectations. "Someone interacting with the state really doesn't care whether it's the Revenue Department or the Commerce Department they have to deal with; they just want to take care of the transaction." OneStop allows citizens to seamlessly transact with multiple departments without knowing what department they're dealing with, he said. "That raises the bar significantly for the state in terms of meeting that type of expectation from the public."

Sherwood believes OneStop has given the state a valuable opportunity to not only build something of value, but learn something in the process.

"It's not so much about the technology created, it's more about the sociology created," he said. "It's getting the process right, getting the leadership right, getting the culture right. OneStop is a good way for us to learn how to do that, and then replicate it in future projects."
Justine Brown Contributing Writer