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Automating Permit Applications

Smart industry and automation concept. Internet of things. IOT, Technology concept.

Agencies and businesses desire quicker permit approvals. Automation via low-code tools and open source software streamlines processes effectively.

Constituents and businesses want faster permit approvals.

Agencies can meet these expectations by automating the creation of online applications. Historically, this has been a tough challenge for government because the components of an online form had to be integrated with numerous complicated back-end processes, driving up development costs.

Today, low-code tools and commercial open source software can accelerate the automation of online applications simply and cost-effectively.


Agencies that handle permits face several obstacles that slow down applications:

  • Application data may be distributed among multiple agencies and departments. Five government offices might have five business processes for application approvals.
  • Handwritten documents are prone to errors. Manually sorting, filing and retrieving paper applications introduces additional mistakes and distracts office staff from more important work. Fax machines and scanners are insufficient stopgaps.
  • Lack of analytics data makes it difficult to track performance and increase efficiency.

An effective automation solution addresses these challenges. One useful example has emerged from the Canadian province of British Columbia, whose Public Service Agency (PSA) processes applications for benefits promoting health, well-being, employment and education.[1]

To improve the efficiency of its legacy paper-based workflows, PSA needed to automate the publication of online forms for websites and mobile devices and fully integrate the data with various business processes.

PSA chose a solution called from AOT Technologies, a longtime provider of automation, software and services throughout the public and private sectors. The application combines a drag-and-drop, low-code user interface to streamline the publication of online application approval forms.

With this automation, PSA can:

  • Accelerate permit approvals and simplify document management and sharing
  • Verify accuracy, completeness and compliance of submitted documents
  • Deliver predictability to applicants, making it easier to say when something will be done
  • Connect to agency back-end systems to integrate data across multiple departments and disciplines

AOT Technologies has released a generative AI chatbot, Flow-E, that lets users describe the kind of form they want to build. This allows users to build forms automatically.

“It can help agencies establish proper service levels, like a turnaround time of two or three weeks,” says AOT co-founder Praveen Ramachandran.

Moreover, the technology helps agencies adapt much faster to shifting requirements. “Let’s say the government makes new legislative changes,” says co-founder George Philip. “All the permits associated with that legislation will need to change right away.” Digitized, automated approvals can reduce agency workload while keeping public-facing application processes aligned with the latest regulations.


A solution like highlights the potential of combining low-code tools with open source software. The primary benefits include:

More speed and agility. A well-designed solution uses a drag-and-drop interface and easy-to-learn processes to build applications with specific, limited functions. Online application forms are ideal no-code use cases because they let novice users place data fields in specific places in an intuitive hierarchy: name, address, phone number, etc. Agency staff use their knowledge to build the best forms for their users, and developers focus on making everything flow effectively.

Cost-effectiveness and support. Community-built software with free licensing options promises low upfront expenses. But low costs often mean limitations in support and customization. This is where service relationships prove essential. Vendors can build commercial solutions on top of free, open source software, pulling in the talent and experience needed for support and follow-up. Vendors can also help ensure compliance and enhance security, Philip says. Agencies get the flexibility of open source with the expertise of proven vendors.


Plan the system that fits your needs. Choose the right system architecture for your requirements. Vendor partners can help determine whether it should be on-premises or in the cloud. You must establish or update data governance, ensuring privacy and security. Consult with implementation partners to understand the licensing complexities of open source software and its commercial variants.

Develop robust processes. Collaborate with your vendor partners when mapping out the business logic for automated processes. After this is completed, you can integrate automations with other processes, back-end systems and legacy technologies. “With the right processes, automations become easier to build, maintain and update,” Philip says.

Build skills. Identify people interested in developing automations and give them proper training so they will have the experience for future implementations. One way to speed up this process is to create a program to work out automation issues and build experience.

Vendors who help you with implementation will need your insights. Agencies have experts who know the nuances of permit approvals and business rules. “Your vendors definitely need dedicated time with these subject matter experts to make the implementation smooth and successful,” Ramachandran says.