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City of Philadelphia

Case Study

In June of 2012, the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I) was making plans for an ‘eclipse.’ 

 

Keen to replacing their aging legacy system with a new “state of the art” software solution capable of managing the City’s burgeoning building, planning and permitting needs, Philadelphia selected POSSE LMS (Land Management System) as the enterprise foundation for the eCLIPSE Project: electronic Commercial Licensing, Inspection and Permit Services Enterprise. 

 

Across Philadelphia L&I’s three divisions (Administration, Development, Operations), the transformative eCLIPSE system would meet the agency’s remit to advance development and public safety via the innovative delivery of L&I’s core services: 

 

  • Inspect properties for compliance to fire, property maintenance and businesses, trades and profession codes;
  • Review plans, inspect and issue permits according to building, zoning, plumbing and electrical codes;
  • Inspect and clean and seal vacant properties, conduct demolition programs for imminently dangerous buildings;
  • Issue licenses for various trades and business activities and locations. 

“Project eCLIPSE will transform the way residents, business owners and developers do business with the City of Philadelphia. It will eliminate redundancies and the need for in-person paperwork and payments while emphasizing accessibility and convenience for citizens. Over time, Project eCLIPSE will improve public safety, government efficiency and delinquent tax collections, reduce vacant and blighted properties across the city and help attract new businesses and development by easing the application, permit and payment processes.”

 

Former Mayor Michael A. Nutter
City of Philadelphia

The Challenge

To achieve their vision of a cost effective ‘buy not build’ solution capable of facilitating operational processes and industry best practices, Philadelphia L&I, working closely with the City’s Office of Innovation and Technology, had set clear expectations for their preferred software solution: 

 

1. The system should be easy to maintain and inexpensive to upgrade.

 

2. The system should expand to satisfy future needs for additional functionality and/or processing capacity.

 

Preference would be given to:

 

3. A  commercial off-the-shelf solution, with a minimum amount of customization required to implement and integrate. 

 

4. A cloud hosted solution, either SaaS, IaaS, PaaS, on-premise private or hybrid, with the vendor maintaining the platform within defined service levels. 

 

With the launch of eCLIPSE, Philadelphia anticipated a comprehensive enterprise solution to enable and, wherever possible, automate online applications, payments, processing, status checks and document exchange across a comprehensive range of operational workflows:

 

  • Trade Licensing

 

  • Business Licensing

 

  • Permitting

 

  • Electronic Plan Review

 

  • Complaint Management

 

  • Code Enforcement

 

  • Appeals and Board Reviews

 

  • Mobile Inspections

 

  • Interactive Voice Response (IVR) 

 

  • Fully Integrated GIS Capabilities

 

  • Zoning Archives

 

In addition to these core requirements, the eCLIPSE system would simultaneously need to meet or exceed Philadelphia L&I’s overarching goals:

Support the Mayor’s Goals to establish Philadelphia as, 1) A place of choice, and 2) City Government working efficiently and effectively, with integrity and responsiveness, by providing all Licenses and Permits online.
Support the Mayor’s Goal of becoming one of the greenest cities in America by communicating in a paperless method and electronically whenever possible.
Provide continuing and improved support for the Mayor’s Vacant Property and Delinquent Licenses initiatives.
Improve citizen satisfaction by providing 24/7 access to department information, including License and Permit applications and renewals.
Improve Inspector productivity with the use of mobile devices and an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system.
Provide ad hoc reporting capabilities and reporting tools for managers to monitor their employees’ work and productivity.
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“Project eCLIPSE is a key part of our strategy to make Philadelphia the national leader in building safety, while encouraging development and continuing to improve the customer experience. This new system provides the tools we need to perform our duties with the highest level of accountability and responsiveness.”

 

Carlton Williams
Commissioner of L&I
City of Philadelphia

The Solution

In March of 2020, the fourth and final phase of eCLIPSE was launched into production bringing every core L&I service online, including permitting, plan review, license application, renewal and payment options.

 

With this powerful new online permitting and inspections platform enabling Philadelphians to register licenses and submit permit applications, eCLIPSE promotes full transparency ensuring applications are received and reviewed with greater efficiency while keeping applicants informed of the progress on their submission. In an effort to streamline the Streets Department’s plan review process, a new ePlans module empowers users to apply for and obtain business or trade licenses associated with the License and Inspections Department in conjunction with several city agencies. Through eCLIPSE’s Electronic Plans, the Streets Department Right of Way unit enables registered applicants to submit materials, modify plans, and track the status of applications through the approval process.

 

By offering L&I services online, the City of Philadelphia has significantly reduced citizen wait times, creating a virtually paperless system with easy payment options. Additionally,  L&I inspectors now utilize mobile devices during inspections so they can enter results in real time. In ROI terms, eCLIPSE yielded immediate returns, generating $12 million in recovered revenue by helping inspectors scour Revenue Department records to identify tax delinquents. In years past, with a paper system across several offices, those cross-checks fell through the cracks. 

 

With POSSE LMS as the foundation and eCLIPSE the destination, Philadelphia L&I is now fully equipped to deliver the agency’s vision of a citizen friendly online environment working seamlessly alongside core processing systems within the framework of an expandable and easy to maintain enterprise solution:

Customers can now manage their data for all interactions with the Department via their online account(s).
Building plans can be accepted electronically. Customers are able to schedule inspections, obtain inspection results, cancel/reschedule inspections and pay for inspections using their phone through the Interactive Voice Response [IVR] system as well as online.
Business and Trade Licenses have automatic invoicing of renewals with the option of generating an inspection or approval. Business Licenses will be consolidated from 50+ licenses to four. Delinquent bills can be automatically generated after 30 days, then 60 days, advising of imminent License inactivation at 90 days.
All public data on permitting, inspections, violations and licensing can be made available online with an extract capability to produce a spreadsheet or report. Current zoning and use information can be made available for every property in the City.
Online wizards are available to assist citizens in understanding the department’s permit process and license requirements.
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“Streamlining this process allows for a more seamless experience for users when dealing with permits and plans that require review by multiple departments. This is a long time coming for our Department’s Right of Way Unit. By bringing the plan review process completely online, we have improved efficiency and are granting increased access to the services we provide.”

 

Carlton Williams
Commissioner of L&I
City of Philadelphia

The Results

$ 0 M
Recovered Tax Revenues
0 %+
Trade Licenses Renewed Online (in 1st Year)
0 %
Business Licenses Renewed Online (in 1st Year)

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