Progress in West Allis: Using BPM and Workflow to Make Local Government More Efficient

For the residents of most municipalities, knowing that their trash will be picked up weekly and that the street lights come on when they are supposed to is enough to keep them happy. Civic pride may not be what it used to be, but there are still places where a sense of belonging and happiness is encouraged by innovative local governments. West Allis, Wisconsin is one such place. A quick scroll through the city’s website shows a mayor who holds coffee klatches with residents twice per month, a program to help needy residents of the community, city-led efforts to encourage healthy living, and a host of other innovative ways to create a high quality of living. West Allis is about much more than just a place to live and do business. It is also a place that also seeks to improve the services it provides to its residents and business owners.

West Allis has long been recognized as a forward-looking city. A suburb of Milwaukee, it counts among its biggest employers a diverse array of both manufacturing and services business, including well-known brands as Toshiba, C&H Distributors, and Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Over the past 20 years, West Allis has made a major effort to revitalize its east side industrial corridor through redevelopment and outreach to new employers— and continues to be a good place in which to do business.

Recently BP Logix engaged with West Allis regarding streamlining its business and permit processes.  To  encourage new business and facilitate the expansion of existing organizations, the city’s Information Technology team needed a more efficient and responsive solution to processing licenses, permits, work orders, building inspections, and requests for services. In essence, West Allis wanted to help things move faster, eliminate red tape and be easy to work with.

Leading these efforts is Jim Jandovitz, Director of IT for West Allis. As with most local governments, activities involving permits and BPM applications require the completion of multiple steps by both homeowners and business managers. Frequently the same application is also submitted to more than one department. In the case of West Allis, this redundancy and the need to communicate across organizations has created some challenges. They have, in some cases, prevented individual departments from being able to fully deliver necessary services in a timely manner. When we first engaged with Jandovitz and his team, they were endeavoring to find a solution.

Fortunately, we have experience with government organizations and know some of the challenges they face in an effort to improve. Memphis Light, Gas and Water and the National Institute of Mental Health are agencies whose needs were different from the City of West Allis. Understanding their structure and infrastructure enabled us to show West Allis how a well-designed workflow can dramatically change how work gets accomplished.

Much of Jandovitz’ focus initially was on the use of forms. He wanted a way to create and route forms, and to tie together backend systems to allow data from different apps to communicate and transact with one another. Jandovitz also wanted a robust and intuitive workflow to facilitate communication. His vision then went on to include the use of social media to make the permitting process friendlier for the community.

Representatives from Public Works, Building Inspection, Planning and Development and IT and the Clerk’s Office were all involved in submitting requirements and reviewing solutions. Because of the flexibility and functionality in Process Director, West Allis chose BP Logix and Process Director.

The City Clerk’s office and HR department have been the initial benefactors of the new approach. According to Jandovitz, “The proper use of technology can facilitate our goal — and validate the success of these initiatives. In Phase I we will be revising recruitment, hiring, onboarding, employee orientation, drug testing and other HR processes. We will also begin identifying processes that streamline communication involving Building Code Violations, New Business Applications and Dog Licensing (online pet registration). Phase II will then incorporate new business application processes, address building permits, and more integration into existing systems.”

Ease of use is essential for anything created internally and delivered to residents. Already the City of  West Allis is exceeding its initial goals for improvements in efficiency.

Every government agency stores huge amounts of data intended to help it run with greater efficiency and purpose. With a workflow and BPM foundation, the City of West Allis can put this data to better use. Through Process Director and an approach that incorporates social media,  a wider audience of stakeholders can participate in the creation and delivery of processes and services. Over time, Jandovitz and his team plan on incorporating Process Director into everything  the City does that is based on a process.

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