LPI Solution Flexibility: The Pandemic Retrospective

By Haritha Mungara, LPI Program Manager  – Spruce Technology

“The arrival of COVID-19 forced public agencies to rapidly shift the focus of their licensing, permitting and inspections (LPI) activities, while needing to ensure the wellbeing of their constituencies.”

Enforcement agencies empower workers and consumers, enabling the creation of new buildings and businesses, ensuring safe living conditions for residents, safe streets for travelers, and safe homes for children. The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 forced these agencies to rapidly shift the focus of their licensing, permitting and inspections (LPI) activities. These agencies needed to continue to ensure the wellbeing of their constituencies, and needed to adjust their processes, standards, and methods in the wake of a global health emergency.

 Spruce recently worked with a major United States city’s Department of Buildings (DOB) to help them swiftly adapt to rapidly changing conditions without sacrificing their mission. As the pandemic intensified and a State of Emergency was declared, the agency instantly responded to the Governor’s Executive Order permitting just “Essential Construction” to continue, and even then, only under a litany of safety protocols. There existed a critical need to determine which projects qualified as essential and which ones did not, a brand new protocol for the agency.

 Many of the agency’s processes had still required visits to borough offices for execution; mobile inspections for code enforcement and safety were not included in guidance for new pandemic regulations.

 The pandemic also increased the need for interagency collaboration; early on, the Departments of Education, Health and Buildings needed to coordinate their efforts to ensure the safety of schools. Thankfully, with the agency’s modern LPI solution in place, they were able to meet these challenges, and continue to foster both safety in construction and healthy operations. To meet these new needs, the DOB did things like…

 Implement an Essential Construction (EC) public portal for 100% digital processing of EC applications and communications with the public regarding State and city regulations.

  • Implement interagency workflows to coordinate activities for school safety, and to automatically provide notifications to faculty, staff, families, and other stakeholders.
  • Rapidly transform thousands of paper-based transactions to paperless transactions, eliminating the need for people to come to the headquarters or other borough offices in person.

 For agencies like the DOB, the pandemic conditions served to bring into sharp focus some of the most critical aspects of modern LPI solutions, as well as expectations for LPI operations overall.

 Regardless of masks or vaccines, the public has a growing expectation that agencies will be able to serve their needs online. And more, companies like Amazon and Google have raised the bar for what the public expects from an online user experience. LPI solutions must provide powerful searches, guided transactions, easy navigation, strong performance, and lots of options for public users.

  • World-wide emergencies are not the only drivers for enforcement agencies to rapidly transform processes and implement new programs. Very often agencies are faced with laws that are passed with little time for adaptation prior to new regulations coming into effect.  LPI solutions must provide sufficient flexibility to support hyper-evolution.  Further, an ideal LPI solution should be implemented with a modular architecture so that the cross-functional effects of significant changes can be isolated, reducing impact on agency operations.
  • Rapid changes exact a particularly heavy toll on field inspectors, auditors and other mobile agency personnel. These users not only need to understand how to evaluate new regulations but are often called upon to so do so with little training or real-life context. LPI solutions must be able to quickly provide updated checklists, new data collection fields and controls, and professional guidance on how to apply new regulations to circumstance.

 These are just a few examples of how modern LPI systems should enable agency operations under any conditions and evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of the communities they support.

 In a little over three months, Spruce helped the DOB release over fifteen applications into production to support new construction, safety compliance, inspections and enforcement, licensing, and permitting activities of the agency within the new context of pandemic-driven needs. Our work enabled the DOB to maintain continuity of operations during the crisis with greater transparency and efficiency, and without compromising the health of its personnel, industry workers, or the public.

 Learn more about how Spruce’s modular LPI solutions, proven implementation methods, and innovative public facing portals are helping enforcement agencies meet and exceed stakeholder expectations by contacting me today for a discussion.  I look forward to speaking with you.

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