9 key software features to consider for Land Management solutions

In this third article in the series covering Land Management Software we will discuss the broad features of a Land Management Software which must be taken into account by Cities and Counties while deciding which solution is the right one.

In the previous articles in this series, we looked at how Cities and Counties can uncover the Direct and the Indirect Costs that arise in the procurement and implementation of Land Management Software System.

The “80-20 Rule”

The “80-20 Rule” can help bring clarity to the process of choosing the right set of features for the Land Management Solution for your city or county. The 80-20 rule as it applies to software tells us that 80% of the time we tend to use only 20% of a product’s features. For example, many of you are very familiar with Microsoft Word and use it almost daily. If we analyze how we use Microsoft Word, most of will find that 80% of the time we tend to use only 20% of Microsoft Word’s features. The other complex screens and features that come with Microsoft Word are hardly used, if ever.

Why is this sort of an analysis important? It is important from two perspectives. Firstly, this would prevent you from paying a higher price for a Land Management Solution which comes with features that are above and beyond what your users’ truly need. Secondly, the complexity of the solution contributes greatly towards how your staff and customers feel about the software. So, the more features that a product has, the more difficult its users perceive it to be for them to use.

Features

While the final set of features that your city or county needs from the Land Management Solution depends on the specific needs of your department, the features and technology you can look for can still be grouped into a few broad categories:

  1. Desktop based Solution vs Online Solution

    Is the solution a Desktop based solution that must be installed by IT or the Vendor on each of your users’ computers? Or is it an Online solution?

    If it is an Online Solution, will it be hosted on hardware that is inside your City or County and managed by your IT department (on-premise solutions)? Or will it be hosted in the “Cloud” and the hardware and software that it relies on be managed completely by the Vendor?

  2. Paper based Reviews vs Electronic Plan Reviews

    If your department is already considering electronic reviews or if you plan to consider the benefits of moving electronic review in the future, will the Land Management Solution you are considering allow you to perform paperless reviews? The ability to do this might become exceedingly important in a very short span of time from now while many Land Management Solutions in the market today do not offer this.

    Electronic Plan review

    Electronic Plan review

  3. Mobile Device Readiness

    With increasing number of your citizens accessing your services via their smart-phones, it makes sense for many cities and counties to consider Land Management Solutions that allow a meaningful part of the system to be accessible via mobile devices. The ability to access the system via mobile devices has the added benefit of making your field staff more productive.

  4. Workflow Management Capabilities

    Will the Land Management Solution allow your staff (Business Analysts or others) to model your Business Processes in software? Can your existing processes be modeled, as they currently exist, in the software or will you need to change your Business Processes to better align with the solution? How easy will it be to change the workflows once they have been setup in the system – will you need to depend on the vendor every time there is a change or can your staff or you make the change yourselves?

  5. Customizable Application Forms and Outcome Documents (ex. Permits, Certificates, Notices etc)

    Will the Land Management Solution support your current application forms to be used while applying for a permit, review, etc and the existing outcome documents (ex a Building Permit Document, a Certificate of Occupancy etc)? Or will you need to make modifications to your existing application forms and outcome documents in order to represent them in the new software system? Once these applications have been setup in the new system, can you or your staff maintain the application forms if they change in the future?

  6. Business Rules Management Capabilities

    Business Rules allow you to model the policies and constraints that your department deems appropriate in the software system. For example, you can specify that a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy may be issued for certain type of Project if all Inspections other than the Final inspection have been Approved. And you can specify that only if all inspections have been approved, a Certificate of Occupancy can be issued. Will the system you are considering allow you to specify such constraints and policies? Will the system allow you or your staff to be able to specify and maintain these Business Rules? Or will that require you to depend on your IT department or on the Vendor for any changes?

  7. Integrated GIS Solution

    At several stages during the Land Management workflow, your city or county will need GIS data such as  streets, land use and parcels to perform their reviews, inspections etc. In your city or county the GIS database may be centralized for easy access to staff and citizens.  Your Land Management software should be able to access the centralized GIS data, on demand from within your Land Management solution.  Even if your local government does not have a centralized GIS implementation that you can integrate with, your Land Management software should be integrated with GIS and have capabilities to upload latest GIS features. For example: The software can be integrated with a cloud based GIS service and latest shape files from your city or county can be uploaded as needed.  This integrated approach with GIS will greatly improve efficiency  as you will not be logging into to multiple systems to check address, streets, land use and parcels information for a project.

  8. Information Dashboards

    Just like how the dashboard in your car allows you to quickly get the “big-picture” about how your car is operating, Information Dashboards can be very helpful in getting the big picture about your organization’s activities. While there are various types of visualizations that are possible, be sure to look for two categories of visualizations:
    a. Current Status Visualizations
    b. Activity Year to Date or Activity in the Last 12 Months Visualizations

    Ensuring that you have dashboard capabilities catering to both categories above will allow you to get a sense of how things have been going over the last year and what needs your immediate attention.

  9. Reports

    This is one area in which many Land Management systems offer functionality that goes way past the needs of your city or county. Be sure to use the 80-20 method outlined before to perform an analysis regarding what types of reports you truly require. Since these reports are used to measure the performance of the organization and also to benchmark how it compares to other jurisdictions, the following reports are often what most cities and counties look for:
    a. Permit Volume and Permit Fees Collected
    b. Number of Inspections Completed
    c. Average time taken for Review Approval
    d. Number of Plan Review Cycles needed until Plan Approval

 

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