McKinney, Texas, on the move – innovation for development services
The city of McKinney is one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States with population growth from 1999 to 2019 of 327 percent. The current recorded population is 195,342 with a 2023 estimate of 224,571. The Development Services Division is comprised of five departments: Building Inspections, Engineering, Code Enforcement, Planning and Development Services and works daily with other departments in the city, including the model code related services provided by the fire department.
As any city encounters an aggressive growth cycle, the impact on providing the highest-quality code services for the public sector, in a timely, quality-based manner, is a major challenge. To meet this challenge a city should recognize the importance of process improvements in an innovative manner. To ensure that all aspects of code administration and community development were evaluated, the city of McKinney Development Service Division established the Innovation Academy.
The uniqueness to the city of McKinney with this program is that it not only enveloped the existing innovation programs but it helped bring these programs and new programs to a higher level of code administration and land development success.
Several innovative programs have been launched since 2016, with just a few, as follows.
- The Building Department International Accreditation by the International Accreditation Service in June 2016 (BDA-157).
- New digital format permit processing software program in October 2017 (Energov/CSS) using Bluebeam for digital plan review.
- The establishment of an Innovation Academy Training Program for Development Services in December 2018. The Innovation Academy is now a citywide training academy built upon trust, strengthening relationships, analyzing processes, bridging gaps through cross-departmental communication, and reinventing new ways to enhance customer and staff value.
Process improvement meetings for teams inside of development services have been occurring on a continual basis since 2016. Beginning in December 2018 with the Innovation Academy training, the Strategic Services Team initiated a comprehensive process improvement program for all departments associated with the start of a development to the final CO. The objective of the continued sessions was to gather a big inter-departmental perspective on what the overall development process flow currently is (high level), where we need to refine our focus to improve, and a strategy to get there. We captured the big steps that a customer must go through from their very first thought of developing (commercial or residential) to when they are complete.
Several of the city of McKinney process improvement examples from 2018 to current day.
- Field inspectors use laptops to access any back-office data not accessible with an iPad.
- Field inspectors use the most current laser level technology for various inspections.
- Staff utilizes the breadth of our geographic information system (GIS) technology to plot out subdivision areas, projects, upcoming garage sales and parking lot studies.
- Trained staff fly drone technology to gather new data.
- Permit technicians discontinuing the manual scanning process of inspection reports by accepting the documentation from builders through our customer portal.
- Improvements in the 2017 EnerGov software program (fully electronic permit to final inspection program) by recognizing and co-implementing the state code and licensing regulations.
- The Single-Family Permit Process Reconfiguration — A residential plan review process that was taking 15 days is now averaging three days.
- The Commercial Permit Process Reconfiguration — A commercial plan review process that was taking 30 days is now averaging 10 days.
- Increased communication and streamlined cross-departmental coordination equals a higher degree of safety regulations being satisfied from a building inspections and fire standpoint.
Although this program does not generate revenue, the program can help create significant savings with staff time (soft dollars) and materials (hard dollars) that are only realized through improvement efforts. Between fiscal year 2018 and mid-June 2020 (including the efforts of the continuous improvement team’s innovations), the Innovation Academy program has saved:
- 8,725 staff hours/$207,534 soft dollars
- $15,926 hard dollars
- $143,562 of recovered inventory
- Realized qualitative improvements such as boosted employee morale, reduced margin for error, increased productivity and provided service level enhancements for our customers.
Even with the organizational and world transformation of COVID-19, the Innovation Academy continues to make significant positive changes, or innovations. Virtual collaboration sessions are the new norm and the champions of the Innovation Academy program are having and even broader reach being able to help others in other buildings, from their homes, in the office, and in the field. When the need to shelter-in-place arrived in April 2020, our existing digital permit/plan review/inspection software allowed the development community to continue the permit to final inspection process, with great success.
One last innovative event — the building inspection department initiated a limited virtual inspection program on April 2, 2020, that allowed selected virtual inspection types to be inspected. Below is the video describing this innovative process.