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Better government through civic engagement

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Civic Insight, a cloud-based tool that measures, tracks and visualizes planning, permitting and code enforcement data, has been a part of the Accela family now for about a year. In that time, we have been working diligently to make the product even better for our users. We recently released Civic Insight 3.0, the most significant upgrade to Civic Insight since we first launched in 2012, and we want to tell you about all of the great new enhancements – many of which came about from user feedback and usage. Listening to feedback and working on moving the product forward resulted in the enhancement of two major features: 1) search and 2) analytics. Search The search bar is the most common way to find information in Civic Insight. Because it is used so frequently, we heard many great ideas of how it could be enhanced. In particular, most of our users wanted...
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When we started our pilot program with Tampa last year, our goal was simple: make it easy for contractors to work with government agencies on the permitting process. Through joint collaboration with the Tampa agency and the contractors they work with, Accela used interviews, prototypes and a fully functioning application to really try and address issues that slowed down the permitting process. The result is a streamlined Contractor Central application, available on iOS and Android, that works with contractors to make their day-to-day jobs easier. How this app idea came about As a company, our mission is to provide the tools that make being a citizen, a business owner and a government employee easier. When we looked at the issues plaguing contractor and government agency interaction, it became clear that there was no one solution for contractors to manage all of the daily tasks they have. Even if an agency has...
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After a focused development cycle, Accela is making CivicPay available to customers starting today. Accela CivicPay is a secure, online and in-person modern payment platform created for government’s unique requirements. While other processors understand consumer and private sector requirements, they simply don’t communicate or understand government’s needs. The product addresses gaps in the market that other products currently don’t – namely, out-of-the-box integration with the Civic Platform solution stack. While CivicPay is packed with features, here are the top three things we think will be a welcome addition to your agency and most importantly your citizens’ experience: 1. Manage your payment reconciliation process and enable citizens to make and view payments in real time When looking at the current marketplace, we don’t see any straightforward solutions. Solving the challenge is a central tenet of CivicPay – we’ve made it simple for you to reconcile payments through our integrated Merchant Center. This...
Tagged in: CivicPay
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With 91% of U.S. taxpayers e-filing more than 128 million federal returns in 2015, and almost 8 out of 10 businesses e-filing federal returns — an increase of 9% in the last year — citizens have come to expect online filing and payment options as the norm. Yet, many local governments haven’t made the switch to offering online options, or they have outdated online processes. Today, we are pleased to announce the launch of Accela Business Tax, the latest addition to our Finance and Administration solution for local governments. Accela Business Tax drastically improves outdated tax management processes, increases productivity across government agencies and brings the complexities of local business tax filings and payments to an easy-to-navigate online portal, giving cities and counties within certain states a customizable solution for tax filing and management. This new product provides a digital solution with an intuitive user experience, bringing a previously cumbersome process online. With Business...
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People often take for granted the key public infrastructure and assets that keep our communities functioning. From traffic lights responsible for keeping rush hour traffic moving, to storm drains that capture rainwater that might otherwise flood our neighborhoods, infrastructure matters to our country, our economy, our quality of life and our communities. Hundreds of organizations are raising awareness about the need to invest in infrastructure locally and nationally in celebration of Infrastructure Week and National Public Works Week. I think many public works departments would agree that using the right technology and tools is the first step for effectively managing public infrastructure as cost-efficiently as possible to maximize long-term investment. So in honor of this week, I want to share four ways local, innovative governments can use (and are using) technology to extend the life of their infrastructure and enhance the efficacy of their work. 1. Consolidate multiple sources of data...
Tagged in: Asset Management
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What if I told you that you could eliminate almost all the paper, and the associated costs, from the meeting process? From agenda creation to agreement finalization, you could streamline the entire meeting process from inside a single solution. Too good to be true? It’s not. We’re pleased to announce the integration of DocuSign’s eSignature tool into Agenda and Minutes, part of our Legislative Management solution. The digital portal introduces a secure, paperless signature capability that will help governments save time and money on the legislative process. Consider this: an Intellicap study found that the average savings per electronically signed document is $22.18 and the average turnaround time is reduced by 13.5 days (97%). When I say it’ll save you time and money, I’m not kidding. Get a handle on all the agreements and contracts your meeting process produces with eSignature capabilities. Even with the automation that comes with Agenda and Minutes,...
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Licensing is an intricate process, and for good reason — it is incumbent on governments to protect their communities, and they need a lot of information to make an accurate assessment of regulated businesses. What they don’t need, though, is all the paper pushing and managing data across multiple systems. Having worked in government myself, I know that regulatory restrictions make change difficult. But while cumbersome methods may work okay for awhile, even a small shift in balance (new regulation, new responsibilities, new requirements) can quickly topple any tentative stability. Things work, until suddenly they don’t. For example, take a look at three real-world scenarios below: After wrestling with four different systems to manage applications, renewals, and citations across 67 different counties, the State of Alabama’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board began searching for a consolidated licensing regulatory system – but had limited funding and infrastructure to manage the new solution....
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Thanks to the Internet, it’s a DIY world. Searches for how-to videos have skyrocketed 70% in the last year. Whether you want to learn how to build a retaining wall or setup a home theater with stadium seating and surround sound, your first thought isn’t to reach out to a salesperson — you go online instead to learn from people who have been there, done that. That’s why we’ve created the Watch it Work webinars, a new series of 25-minute live demos that showcase our civic solutions in action in a quick and to-the-point format. No pushy sales presentation. No salesperson at all. An expert will demo for you how our tools can help you address common challenges in just 25 minutes (plus 5 minutes for questions). Each demo will walk attendees through a real-world scenario and how it can be addressed through technology. Upcoming topics including work orders, citizen relationship...
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Coordinating projects in the public right of way keeps traffic moving and people safe. Agencies around the world are using technology to do just that.

Winnipeg, Canada, is a great example of a city that moved from managing projects in spreadsheets to cloud-based, right-of-way planning between different departments, government agencies and utility companies.

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Selecting the right software that works for your agency is a daunting task. Request for Proposal (RFP) documents can be complicated and it’s easy to overlook a specification or goal in the process. Small to medium-sized agencies, especially with constrained budgets, often leverage RFPs created by other agencies in order to create their own. It’s common to copy RFP documents of much larger agencies that have intensive, tailored solution requirements that may not match the smaller agency’s true goals. This often results in vendors struggling to respond and quote excessive functionality that the smaller agencies do not need.

This is where the Request For Proposals Wizard comes in – giving you the freedom to create a custom RFP specific to your agency’s needs.

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Local governments strive to engage citizens in the legislative process to build trust and better communities. Local meetings are a great place for citizens to have their voices heard and understand how to get more involved in their city.

With busy schedules or poor timing, citizens are not always able to attend local town hall or legislative meetings in person, making it difficult to stay informed. Getting access to the information discussed is also a lengthy and difficult process for both citizens and government officials, involving costly, labor-intensive work to share minutes and other documents.

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“The most reliable way for local agencies and utilities to collaborate is to create a neutral platform where all stakeholders can share information on projects and work together.”

Road construction, street cuts and repaving cause disruptions to all of us. And when the same street gets dug up repeatedly – what we call the dreaded double street cut – people get frustrated.

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Accela acquired Decade Software today, and we’re delighted to welcome employees, partners and customers into the Accela family. We’ll rebrand the Decade EnvisionConnect product suite as Accela Environmental Health and Safety, and will continue to provide Environmental Health Departments with the tools, training and expertise to protect the public’s health. We will also continue to support agency programs such as Food Protection, Recreational Health, Onsite Wastewater Treatment/Septic, Drinking Water, Vector Control, Solid Waste, Hazardous Materials and Body Art.

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Picture this: you get in your car to go about your day. Maybe you’re going to run some errands or heading to work, but the street is blocked and it’s a familiar sight—road construction.

If you’re like me, you want to pull your hair out. Then, when you calm down you think to yourself: Wouldn’t it be nice to know what’s happening in the streets before leaving the house?

Enter our new Accela Right of Way Management solution: Citizen’s View. With Citizen’s View your agency can launch a responsive, configurable website that shows road construction, traffic impacts and community events on a map, calendar, timeline and more to engage and inform citizens.

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Posted by on in Solutions
Each year, billions of citizens visit our National Parks and Federal and State lands. Yet, most agencies still haven’t found a way to leverage technology to improve the effectiveness of limited staff in collecting entrance or usage fees and helping to manage their natural resources, or in making services available online and on mobile. Imagine reserving your campground from your phone or computer, purchasing parks entrance passes without having to wait in a long line or renewing your boat registration from the comfort of your couch. It means that citizens can spend more time enjoying these natural resources and less time with process and paperwork. Accela is now in a great position to help manage these types of valuable resources with our acquisition of Kinsail. Their cloud-based solutions to enhance revenue collection and business processes will be rebranded as Accela Recreation and Resource Management, and include secure entrance passes, permits, licenses...
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Posted by on in Solutions
Accela acquired Envista today, and we’re thrilled to have their employees and customers join the Accela family. Envista’s cloud-based solutions provide visibility and real-time insight into street projects and activities of all kinds that occur within the public right of way. This enables proactive management of utility projects, public works, permitting, incidents, traffic and events to optimize street performance, reduce costs and minimize environmental impact. And, citizens have real-time visibility to the projects that have the potential to impact their communities and lives. We will rebrand the Envista solution as Accela Right of Way Management and continue to make this Software as a Service solution available on an annual subscription basis. Customers such as the City and County of San Francisco and City of Baltimore use the solution to effectively coordinate with utility providers whose infrastructure lies in the right of way such as PG&E and Veolia Energy—and to effectively coordinate...
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Posted by on in Solutions
Accela announced today that we have acquired IQM2, a leading provider of cloud-based solutions to manage public meetings, minutes and video content, and board appointments and governance. We view this as an outstanding opportunity to help our agency customers streamline and accelerate the entire experience of preparing, deciding and sharing the results and content of public meetings online. It’s also a way to offer transparency to encourage citizens to engage and have a voice in government decisions. The IQM2 solution, which will be branded Accela Legislative Management, is purposely designed for the agency staff that manages the public sector meeting process, including pre- and post-meeting efforts to originate, approve, track, audit, search, and disseminate content and results. Additionally, the solution facilitates electronic voting for agenda resolutions and tracks board seat requirements, terms, applications and applicant interviews for board seat vacancies. Hernando County, Florida, uses it to build a broadcast presence and...
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CivicData.com is Accela’s open data portal. The site represents a new approach, one that emphasizes the core mission at Accela—to build bridges designed to connect citizens and government agencies—and we believe that it will change the game on how governments publish open data. A New Direction for Open Data As the open data movement matures, an increasing number of federal, state and local governments are formalizing their commitment to releasing data for external users by adopting open data policies and implementing open data portals. As open data portals become more common, and as more and more data is released through these sites, two open data portals from across the vast expanse of the U.S. stand out for their embrace of a different approach—an approach that signals a new direction that the open data movement will take in the next few years. OpenDataPhilly.org is the official open data portal for the City...
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The office has been buzzing with excitement this week with the launch of CivicData.com. We’ve been hard at work to bring this to fruition. More importantly, everyone at Accela is excited about what this means for our customers. In recent months, the City of El Paso created a Garbage App with CityGovApp that increases driver productivity while enhancing citizen engagement—all from a smartphone. Civic hackers used Salt Lake City’s data to create a “Taco Cart” app, which helps citizens (and presumably inspectors) locate these mobile food establishments. We’re amazed by the sheer volume of civic-minded developers who are looking to build and deploy apps for government. Oftentimes, they don’t understand what kind of data you have. Just opening up your data can result in unexpected new ways to engage with citizens and businesses. Several agencies have already published datasets on CivicData.com. What will your data look like? In case you’re wondering...
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Posted by on in Solutions
By now, I hope you’ve heard about the open data movement, and have seen how forward-thinking agencies are driving innovation by leveraging open data in hackathons and events like CityCamp Palo Alto. There are some shining examples of how open data is being used to add value and deliver services to communities. This opportunity is huge and has undeniable potential to impact governing, civic engagement and government business. But the open data movement is in its infancy, and we have a long way to go before the real value of open data begins to be realized. Honest reflection tells us that today, a small fraction of agencies are actively providing open data, it’s complex and costly for them, and there are very few implemented standards—datasets are described in very different ways. From a developer standpoint, these datasets are deployed uniquely for each jurisdiction. That makes it very difficult for the ecosystem...
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During the opening keynote at the Accela Engage conference two weeks ago, I gave a sneak peek look at the upcoming Accela Open Data Platform. It was gratifying to see how that quick peek turned into the talk of the conference. During the weeklong conference, I had numerous agencies approach me asking when they can get their hands on our new Open Data Platform. Each person who approached me had the same thing to say: “What you have created is exactly what my agency needs and solves our current open data problems perfectly.” And just yesterday, our very own Maury Blackman discussed open data on NBC's Press:Here with Scott McGrew in a segment titled “Bringing Government Data Online.” So, what exactly is it that Accela is up to and what is our strategy when it comes to Open Data? I answered these questions during a session on Open Data at Accela...
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Permitting and Inspection
Many government agencies have already discovered the benefits of moving their permitting and inspection and code enforcement processes online. Whether your agency serves a large metropolitan area or a small town, the benefits are the same: doing more with less—in less time. So, what can you do that you couldn’t do before? Government agencies can save time by accepting and managing permits online and capturing inspection results in real time. Developers, contractors and citizens can submit permit applications and review progress and make updates without making a trip to City Hall. Inspectors can interact with complete case information, access their daily inspection schedules, create new cases in the field, and submit inspection results remotely. Code officers can seamlessly create and manage cases in the field using their mobile devices—whether they are performing proactive sweeps or following up on issues reported by police, fire professionals, citizens or other community partners. They can...
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