Seattle switches to new planning, development system

The city's new system could serve as the blueprint for the way other departments in the government handle planning and project management.

Seattle's Department of Planning and Development (DPD) can finally retire its old permit information system as it phases in a new state-of-the-art platform that could eventually serve as the blueprint for the way other government departments handle planning and project management.

The new Hansen system, so named because it uses software developed by Hansen Information Technologies, will allow users to access data directly via the Web for planning purposes. That was not possible with the old system.

The new system will also let DPD projects in multiple departments be linked together, and it will allow the agency that hands out permits to extend the system's functionality into other areas of city business.

Hansen allows business and city residents to apply for permits online or over the phone. Before, applicants had to go to various offices to apply in person.

The old, inflexible DPD system was flagged as a technology time bomb as far back as 1997, said Sam Kurle, DPD's technology manager.

"It had pretty much been running out of the box since it was installed and had no capability for Web enablement or any other improvement, and it couldn't be modified to take account of process changes," he said.

Development of the new system began in 2002. It was taken over by Kirkland, Wash.-based Codesic Consulting in 2003.

"It now gives us the ability to provide technology for whatever the various business needs require, and we're now able to move into the mobile computing era so we can get information to our people in the field," Kurle said.

It could also be the template that other departments in the government use for their processes, he said, since this new system has allowed the DPD to build its own Microsoft .NET document management environment, one of the first in government.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at hullite@mindspring.com.

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