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Investing in your City: Enhancing Online City Services

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Our weekly “Investing in your City” series continues, highlighting  some of the significant investments being made in Burlington and that our community will benefit from.

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The City is continuing investments to enhance our online City services and modernize our digital platforms to make it easier and more efficient for the public to use, such as streamlining permit applications, a pilot to accelerate permitting for industrial-commercial buildings, enhanced cyber-security and customer relationship management systems, introduction of our new CoBy digital assistant, and online animal adoptions. We’re also using new technologies to enable more housing.

The City’s commitment to fiscal responsibility remains unwavering and through the Digital Service initiatives, we are consistently finding new ways to be more efficient and cost savings and new revenue streams — all while maintaining exceptional service delivery standards.

Enabling More Housing Through Technology

The City of Burlington is using technology in some innovate ways to help speed up the permitting process and make progress on our housing targets, including assistive AI pilot projects, improvements to pre-building approval process, calls for innovation, and unleashing the power of data.

Click/tap here to learn more.

Permit Applications Streamlining

For 2024, staff and City leadership have identified the need to scale up on the successes of 2023 and continue to enhance our permit application and inspection processes to achieve greater efficiency, transparency, and user satisfaction with the vital goal of meeting our housing pledge.

Two primary strategies have been proposed:

  • the digitization and end-to-end integration of development planning and building permit application workflows; and
  • the automation of repetitive/low-value tasks in planning and permit applications and inspection processes.

These strategies aim to not only streamline the application and review process for external applicants but also allow internal stakeholders to focus on higher-value, more complex tasks, ultimately resulting in a more efficient and effective development services system. The anticipated benefits of these initiatives include faster approvals, improved resource allocation, reduced errors, and increased transparency for applicants.

The overall objective is to transform our current development planning and building permit application and inspection procedures into a state-of-the-art digital ecosystem. This transformational journey is expected to:

  1. Empower Applicants: Through the adoption of a digital front-end platform, inclusive of conversational and generative AI, applicants will be provided with real-time guidance, ensuring they navigate the process effortlessly and submit applications that meet all requisite criteria.
  2. Optimize Internal Workflow: By digitizing the entire workflow, the City aims to create a seamless process from application submission to approval. This would enable easy tracking, quicker reviews, and timely communication with applicants, thereby minimizing wait times and backlogs.
  3. Automate for Efficiency: Recognizing the strain caused by manual, repetitive tasks in the current process, the City plans to deploy automation tools to handle such tasks. This would allow the staff to dedicate more time to intricate aspects of applications, ensuring that complex issues are addressed with the utmost expertise.
  4. Enhance Transparency: In addition to increasing efficiency, the digitized process will ensure a high level of transparency. Applicants will be able to track the status of their applications, understand potential delays, and get clarity on requirements, leading to enhanced trust in the City’s processes.
  5. Resource Redeployment: By eliminating manual interventions in low-value tasks, the City’s staff can be redeployed to areas where their expertise can be better utilized, leading to more value-added contributions and a higher degree of job satisfaction.
  6. Informed Decision-Making: Harness the generated data to pinpoint common challenges, bottlenecks, and opportunities for system refinement. Empower decision-makers with data-backed insights for creating impactful policies and improvements.
  7. Predictive Analytics: Implement advanced analytical tools to predict future trends, allowing proactive measures against potential challenges and the optimal allocation of resources.
  8. Agile Delivery: Adopt an agile methodology for the development and deployment of the digital solutions. This approach promotes flexibility, quicker iterations, and the ability to adapt to changing requirements or feedback in real-time. It ensures that the system is not only built efficiently but also remains responsive to evolving user needs and external factors.
  9. Built-In Cybersecurity Controls: In the age of increasing cyber threats, prioritize the embedding of robust cybersecurity controls from the inception of the digital platform. Ensure that every facet of the system, from data storage to user interfaces, is fortified against potential breaches. Regularly update and test these controls to combat evolving cyber threats, safeguarding both the City’s operations and the privacy of its residents.

Through these comprehensive objectives, the City of Burlington aims to position itself as a pioneer in efficient governance, while also greatly enhancing the experience for our residents and community partners.

Industrial-Commercial Buildings Permit Pilot

Last year, the City of Burlington undertook a pilot program to accelerate the permitting process for industrial-commercial buildings. Burlington is the second city in Canada to use this technology to improve its permitting process and make it easier to build in Burlington. Burlington is also the first city in Canada to use the technology specifically for development on employment lands.

The objective of the pilot was to provide essential data on the value this tool may provide for Burlington in accomplishing our goals related to housing. The platform can also be used to check design compliance on all forms of development. While this option was not currently part of the pilot, applicants can pick a specific site, upload their design to the platform and immediately see a 3D visualization that allows users to assess whether their design meets the rules.

Using innovative AI-powered technology, the platform used in the pilot digitizes the rules in Burlington’s zoning bylaws, relating to industrial-commercial buildings. Once applicants have submitted a proposed design, the platform automatically evaluates the design’s compliance against the relevant rules. The solution checks to ensure requirements are met for things such as setbacks, heights, floor area ratios, landscape areas and parking ratios.

The AI-powered technology’s ability to review designs quickly and efficiently provides value to the City, customers, and staff, including:

  • Saved time, by reducing the number of manual exchanges between applicants and City staff
  • Allowing applicants to have immediate feedback on proposals and allowing for modifications prior to submission
  • Faster approvals and turnaround time on issuing building permits
  • Shortened design time
  • Higher quality of design submissions
  • Financial savings on the cost of multiple design revisions
  • Enhanced transparency about the City of Burlington’s development review process

While the initial pilot ended in 2023 and staff evaluate its results, the next steps may include further pilots or a larger-scale rollout. Learn more about the initial pilot for industrial-commercial building permits here.

Digital Services

Working together with Burlington Digital Services, the City is working on its customer experience (CX) resources plan and work to complete new departmental rollouts of the CRM system. This includes managing data integrations, licensing, training, system administration and enhancements related to this technology platform. The team also collaborates on other major digital transformation initiatives, such as the Enterprise Asset Management (EAMS) project, web architecture review and web modernization.

At the April 8 Committee of the Whole meeting, Council received an update from staff on customer-centric digital architecture and customer relationship management (CRM) — view the report here: BDS-02-24 Update on Customer Centric Digital Architecture and CRM.

Introduction of CoBy Digital Assistant

Earlier this year, the City of Burlington launched a new option to find the City information the public may be looking for on — CoBy, the City’s first AI-powered digital assistant. Our city is one of the first municipalities in Canada to launch a generative AI digital assistant, created with Microsoft Copilot.

This customer service enhancement provides 24/7 access to a wealth of city information and services. With a simple click, residents, businesses, and visitors can pose questions and receive real-time, AI-generated responses, based on the extensive knowledge gathered from

CoBy is not just a digital assistant, it is an ever-evolving digital entity, designed to learn, adapt, and improve from every interaction, ensuring an enriched user experience.

The introduction of CoBy is another step in the City’s journey to create a more digital-friendly and responsive city. Our customer service team is the link between residents, businesses, and the services the City provides. The new digital assistant provides an enhanced 24/7 customer support experience as another option for those who live and do business in our City and one that complements our amazing customer service teams.

Online Adoptions

Digital services continue to be the most desirable method of communication for customers looking to adopt pets.

The Animal Services team recently shifted to online adoptions using and online applications. Many people from Toronto, Kitchener and other areas have come to Burlington to adopt animals.

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A Better Burlington began in 2006 after my neighbours said they felt left out of city decisions, learning about them only after they’d been made. As journalist for 22 years, I thought “I can do something about that” and a website and newsletter were born. They’ve taken various forms and names over the years, but the intent remains: To let you know what’s happening at City Hall before decisions are made, so you can influence outcomes for A Better Burlington. The best decisions are made when elected representatives tap the wisdom of our community members, and welcome many different perspectives.This site allows residents to comment and debate with each other; our Commenting Guidelines established in 2016 aim to keep debate respectful. Got an idea or comment you want to share privately? Please, get in touch:

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