Message from the Director: Update on New Permitting Portal

As many of our customers know, our April 30 launch of the Seattle Services Portal, SDCI’s new permitting, complaint, and inspection system, was more challenging that we had expected. We needed to change to the new system because the previous one was extremely out of date and failing. We recognize that the shift to the off-the-shelf system, Accela, is a big change from the highly customized permit system that customers were using. It took us 8 years to develop those customized applications and features for the old system. We’re already looking at ways to bring back some of the most popular functions, but that will take some time.

Since we’ve launched, SDCI has successfully corrected or improved almost 200 issues. Many of these make the system easier to use and address  our customers’ concerns. Highlights of these improvements include:

  • We updated the Public Notices feature (The Land Use Information Bulletin) to include better notice descriptions and a summary report of the current public notices. Customers can now search by project number and create a customized report by publish date.
  • We updated the customer sign-in tool at the Applicant Services Center, which had been slowing down the entire system. The update improved the system performance and response time.
  • We corrected technical issues that caused inspections to be scheduled incorrectly, and fixed issues to make it easier to do inspections in the field.
  • We corrected a problem that was preventing documents from being visible in the Seattle Services Portal.
  • We fixed an automated procedure to show current licensed contractor information from Washington Labor & Industries.
  • We added the ability to pay with trust (escrow) accounts in the Seattle Services Portal.
  • We improved the Seattle Services Portal processing speed so that customers can submit applications more quickly.
  • We updated Phased Construction permits so that they automatically progress to the next step when the applicant pays fees or submits corrected plans.
  • We updated the system to help correct problems with project data converted from our old system.
  • We streamlined the staff dashboard so that they can more easily see their daily assignments, and so they can better monitor critical tasks, such as reviews and permits ready to issue.
  • We created the Issues and Resolutions blog so customers can see some of the items we’re tracking.

 

We will release our next updates on August 21, which will include:

  • A “Next Available Date” tool tip on the appointment calendar pop-up to make it easier to schedule intake appointments.
  • An updated fee payment process for preliminary applications so fees can be paid by someone other than the applicant.

 

We are also maximizing our staff resources to provide even better customer service:

  • We are creating a dedicated customer service team to help customers resolve specific project issues and to answer questions about applications.  Once set up, all SDCI work units will be able to forward customers to this team to get assistance as necessary.
  • We’re holding customer training classes/user feedback sessions to help customers navigate areas where changes we can make are limited.
  • We continue to provide one-on-one assistance to customers whose projects were converted from the old system to the new system with errors or problems. Common issues we can help with include:
    • Adding, removing, or merging contacts on your application. If you are the project applicant but you can’t interact with your application, you may have multiple versions of your contact information in the system. We can merge your contacts to correct that problem.
    • Correcting project process stage errors.
    • Helping you understand your project status.
  • We have dedicated some staff to process the backlog of applications to help the overall permitting process move more quickly.
  • We regularly update the Seattle Services Portal Help Center with articles and helpful tips.
  • We created a How to Respond to Corrections video with step-by-step instructions.

 

We continue to work toward additional improvements. Our partners, Seattle Information Technology, are making improvements daily. We will release updates to the Seattle Services Portal twice a month. While most updates are not visible to the public, they do improve the customer experience and staff’s ability staff to efficiently process applications.

I continue to appreciate your patience as we make the transition to our new system.

Nathan Torgelson
Director