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Beverly Hills Finds a Better Way to Serve Its Residents

The City of Beverly Hills won an Award for Excellence in the Internal Administration category of the 2005 California Cities Helen Putnam Award for Excellence program. For more about the award program, visit www.cacities.org/helenputnam.


The City of Beverly Hills consistently strives to maximize the efficiency of internal operations and the effectiveness of its public service. Several years ago, it recognized an opportunity to streamline customer service approaches to better meet the needs of residents, businesses and visitors. The city’s efforts resulted in the development of the Online Business Center (OBC).
Multiple Systems Were an Obstacle To Efficiency
In the past, a combination of home-grown and off-the-shelf software was used to manage the city’s high volume of data and the public’s requests for information. Each department depended on a hodge-podge of outdated storage and retrieval methods, essentially precluding interdepartmental access to and sharing of data. Consequently, staff faced many customer service challenges and was hindered by the redundancies and inaccuracies caused by human error in data entry. Furthermore, the city was losing hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in uncollected revenue and incurring unnecessary internal administrative costs due to numerous returned mailings and redundant procedures.
The city realized that if data were verified for accuracy and shared across departments, the organization as a whole would benefit, staff would be able to provide better customer service and the public would be more satisfied. Consequently, staff conducted extensive evaluations across all potential user departments, leading the city to conclude that the most cost-effective and efficient solution would be to create a secure, centralized, web-based database to provide shared access to accurate data across all city systems.
The challenge was to design a product that would be easy to administer and implement, while comprehensively capturing all necessary information. The solution became a custom-built multi-tiered database software application called OBC.
Tying It All Together
Based on a three-dimensional model that addresses land, structure and occupancy (LSO), the OBC database is a comprehensive mapping tool for documenting all historical data and current information. Staff developed the LSO model by accessing county assessor data and canvassing physical locations to check for accuracy. Each location in the LSO model has a unique identifier by which all activities related to that specific location are tracked.
The solid foundation of the LSO model enables an orderly progression of increasingly complex data within the OBC, including all permit processing, project management, fee processing, asset management, historical data for building permits and inspections, scheduling of work orders, messaging, customer relationship management, reporting, document imaging and more.
As envisioned, the OBC provides a virtual “dashboard” view for everything happening in the city at a given location at any time. It has a centralized search utility with easy user interface that allows all city systems to communicate and cross-reference information concerning any location within the city. Additionally, the OBCenables staff to access current permit activities more quickly and activate interdepartmental holds, precluding a number of city activities if a resident or business is noncompliant with municipal laws or regulations. City users can also access activities and events by referencing various fields (owner, occupant or address, for example).
Improvements Across the Board
Since instituting the OBC, the city has seen a marked growth in interdepartmental communication and coordination, improved effectiveness in fiscal aspects of operations, increased accuracy and on-demand access to location-based records. City employees currently using the OBC have already seen visible gains in productivity, such as improved response times to work orders and public requests, a reduction in errors, and increased information sharing capabilities, all of which enable city management to better allocate valuable resources.
While still in its early stages, the OBC has already begun to demonstrate its potential worth. The city is projected to save more than $260,000 annually across its Transportation, Public Works, Fire, and Building and Safety departments.
At present, a total of $1.6 million has been invested in developing the OBC. The city’s long-term plan for recovering this cost is to generate future revenue streams by selling or licensing the OBC on the open market. Based on its strong performance and on the fact that there are currently no other municipal software products comparable to the OBC, the city believes the time is right for a product like the OBC to flourish.
With user-friendly technology, the OBC reduces required training and ongoing maintenance, as well as the need to constantly upgrade disparate systems. The OBC has created unparalleled data integration for everyday operations and assimilates all vital city systems into a cohesive enterprise application. As a critical customer service tool, the OBC has resulted in improved staff response time, enhanced reliability and heightened public confidence and respect.
From development to implementation, the OBC has proven to be a valuable resource for the City of Beverly Hills as a public service organization — useful to staff as well as residents and businesses.
Contact: Nicole McClinton, senior contract administrator, City of Beverly Hills; phone: (310) 285-2597; e-mail: nmcclinton@beverlyhills.org