Excel Spreadsheets and Manual Paper
Watauga - a city in Tarrant County, Texas, is a suburb of Fort Worth and located west of the Dallas Fort-Worth International airport. The city is growing and adding new businesses as the United States and Texas recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. For Watauga and its City Manager, a convenient digital process for new business registrations was critical to make available to constituents as well as municipal staff.
For years Watauga relied on an ad-hoc process combining paper records and Excel spreadsheets to manually record, process, and track the city's new business registration applications and permits. As Watauga has grown and economic activity has increased, this manual method of business registrations became extremely time consuming and unsustainable.
"Excel is great in accounting but not for economic development or customer service in government", said Andrea Gardner, Watauga's City Manager. Gardner was frustrated by an inability to quickly create professionally formatted reports, make notes, or attach documents to records.
An additional issue came in the form of illegible handwritten forms submitted by new business applicants. According to Gardner, more than half of applications were ineligible, requiring staff to get in touch with the applicant to clarify, and then re-enter data, often adding days to the process.
Economic development in the city has accelerated. Watauga now sees on average 10 new business applications per month vs 2-3 per month pre-pandemic, many of which are new home-based businesses. As the workload increased for her staff, Gardner became extremely frustrated with the Excel-based process and knew the time had come for a change.