3 min readBy Published On: December 1st, 2014Categories: News0 Comments on Welcome to the 21st century, City of Boston

Will getting permits and licenses become more user friendly and as easy as making a few clicks on your computer?  If Mayor Walsh has his way, it will be a snap! 

On Monday, Mayor Walsh announced that the City of Boston’s Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT) has selected Accela, in partnership with OpenCounter, to upgrade the City’s permitting and licensing system. According to a media release, Accela, the leading provider of civic engagement solutions for government, and OpenCounter, a firm that builds tools to help cities support local economic development, will work with DoIT to design and deploy a modern system that meets Boston’s high standards for innovation and usability. The City of Boston issues 60 different types of permits, totaling approximately 86,000 permits annually.

More from the press release:

“We’ve already made deep improvements to the way the public does business with the City by taking steps to streamline and improve licensing and permitting operations, but there’s always more to be done,” said Mayor Walsh. “This partnership with Accela and OpenCounter will take us further, creating a coordinated and seamless experience across departments for residents and business owners seeking permitting and licensing through the City.”

“We understand that people in Boston really rely on these systems to take care of business and keep their everyday life rolling along,” said Maury Blackman, Accela CEO and President. “We’re proud that Boston DoIT chose to work with Accela and OpenCounter to create the experience its citizens deserve.”

“Cities like Boston are concerned about retention, so as businesses develop and grow, they stay in town and help build the community,” said Joel Mahoney, Co-Founder, OpenCounter. “We’re thrilled to partner with Accela and Boston to simplify the relationship between business owner and government.”

The companies will work with DoIT to build and deploy a modern, SaaS-based permitting experience, leveraging the reliable Accela Civic Platform and the user-friendly design principles of OpenCounter.  The new solution will work across departments to assist in coordinating workflow, integrating a variety of backend systems, and providing an improved public experience that still maintains the rules created to protect public health and safety.

The Accela Civic Platform provides a secure foundation for creating the two-way flow of data that helps agencies and citizens engage. Most importantly, it will empower a better citizen experience for permit and license applicants, who range from DIY homeowners to experienced contractors.

Accela and OpenCounter will deliver the first phase of the new system in a six-month timeframe, with enhancements to occur over a two-year period. Both companies have proven track records as effective solution providers in Boston and in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Accela software and services are in use by the Boston Public Health Commission and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Division of Professional Licensure, Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, and Alcohol Beverage Control Commission.

The announcement to overhaul the licensing and permitting system is one in a series of efforts that the Walsh Administration has made to streamline and improve licensing and permitting operations across City government. In recent months, Mayor Walsh[NK1] :

  • Hosted the City’s first-ever Hubhacks Permitting Challenge, to reinvent the City’s online permitting experience.
  • Announced the creation of a streamlined Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) process for small businesses and 1-2 family owner-occupied residential applications.
  • Doubled the hearing capacity for ZBA applications through extended hearing hours, and increased capacity with televised ZBA meetings.
  • Installed digital kiosks at several agencies across the City to connect constituents with Boston’s business development specialists.

So bright things on the horizon!  Stay tuned for more!