Declaration of IT Independence!
Catherine Geanuracos
September 14, 2022

Declaration of IT Independence!

Lack of control leads to expensive and unhelpful technology systems

Local government employees want to provide excellent service to the public, but many governments haven't had the funding or the expertise to successfully acquire the right technology to do so. Some have overpaid for complex, hard-to-maintain systems, while many are stuck using PDF forms online and tracking permits and licenses with spreadsheets or older technology.

Our team built ClearForms (originally CityGrows) after spending more than a year working closely with staff inside local governments to understand what they needed, and more importantly, what they didn't. We heard countless stories about people spending a lot of money on a "traditional" permitting software system, and then being frustrated with the results. Older permitting systems can take months or years to set up, and they're often hard to adjust and revise.

When front line staff and department leaders are dependent on outside consultants (or even an internal IT team) who aren't directly involved in their business processes, things often go awry. Our self-service software is a new way to solve your digital services challenges.

With ClearForms DIY Permitting and Licensing Software, you control your own technology

With ClearForms, non-technical staff set up and manage permitting and licensing software systems themselves. Planners, licensing staff, administrators, and building officials have built out their own permitting systems using ClearForms. We've got 30 year old junior planners building systems - and also 30+ year local government veterans setting up business licenses and FOIA request processes. Based on our experience so far the good parts of ClearForms outweigh the challenges.

The good parts:

  • Low subscription costs mean no RFPs, which mean you can get something up and running in days or weeks (not years). Several of our customers had their permitting online before they would have even finished an RFP process!
  • You're in control of what happens at each step of your process. You can determine exactly which questions you ask, which staff are assigned to review, and how fees are calculated. Self-sufficiency when you need to react quickly to changing conditions is invaluable.
  • You can change things when you need to. No waiting for someone to respond to a support ticket to make a change to your form or workflow steps.
  • SaaS means there's no IT burden on your team. SaaS (Software as a Service) means that all the technology happens "in the cloud" not on any local servers. That's better from a security standpoint, but also means that there's no need for local setup, configuration, or annual technology upgrades.

The trade-off:

  • Because ClearForms isn't a completely custom system, it doesn't integrate with most existing technology systems. That means if you MUST have a hard integration with your parcel data system or your accounting system, we're probably not the software for you. We do offer a webhook out of all transactions processed through the system, but bringing that data into your accounting system would be your responsibility. For most government organizations, integrations are overkill: custom integrations break frequently and often cost far more than makes sense for small and medium-sized governments.
  • You're your own IT person. That means that it's up to you and your team to decide what to bring onto ClearForms and to set each workflow up yourselves. We provide training and a lot of support during your onboarding, and we help you build out your first workflow. After that, there/s unlimited online support. Because our software is easy to use, most people learn it quickly and set up their own workflows within weeks. But if your goal is to have someone else do all the work, there are probably better options for you. (Spoiler alert: your team will still have to spend time to manage whatever consultant or IT person works on your processes, and try and get them to make changes when you need them to).

Are the trade-offs worth it? ClearForms is the best fit for small to medium-sized municipalities and counties that have a) never had an online permitting/ licensing system or b) have an older internal system that can't interface directly with the public and needs to be replaced. If you're ready to learn more about becoming a tech person more easily than you thought possible, get in touch!

Catherine Geanuracos

Catherine is the CEO and a Co-Founder of ClearForms. She's dedicated to supporting local governments and helping them improve outcomes for their residents and staff members. She is a former VP of the City of Los Angeles Innovation and Performance Commission and co-founder of LA's Code for America Brigade Hack for LA. She's based in Los Angeles.

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