Cincinnati saves 5,700 hours of staff time annually using OpenCounter

The Challenge

The City of Cincinnati was facing serious customer service obstacles. The permitting process was decentralized. Individual departments controlled specific knowledge on each permit. A single construction project could involve as many as seven different departments. Every department had its own systems, process and fee schedule. Residents and small business owners were left to navigate this their own— which led to high call volumes, emails and extensive counter visits at each step of the way. It could take weeks to figure out what permits were needed. No one was happy about this. Permitting, a central function of all governments, was creating a huge annual, unrecoverable loss of critical staff time for the City.

The Solution

Given these challenges, the Mayor set out to discover a simple, cost-efficient and transparent way for homeowners, special event planners and entrepreneurs to quickly discover permit requirements without visiting City Hall. The task was assigned to the Office of Performance and Data Analytics, who looked nationwide for examples of what other communities had done to solve this challenge. Several cities stood out for their user friendly and simple interface, including Oakland, Indianapolis and Asheville. The team suspected all three of the communities shared one thing in common, they had worked with OpenCounter. The project team invited OpenCounter to do a demo for the seven permitting-focused departments, the City Manager and the Chief Procurement Officer. At the end of that first hour, It was unanimous. They loved it, and then they sole sourced it.

The Results

In the past year, the city has serviced 27,899 residential and business permit inquiries through their new OpenCounter portals. Permit discovery emails, calls and counter visits have fallen and the City estimates they have freed up 5,765 staff hours to devote to higher value-added activities. No internal workflows were changed, no policies were altered.


12 Month Results

  • 27,899

    Permit Inquiries

  • 98%

    % Self Service

  • <7 minutes

    Completion Time

  • 5,765

    Staff Hours Saved


There have been other tangible benefits for Cincinnati as well. Deploying OpenCounter has helped the Innovation Team spread the message that technology can be helpful … and that not every technology deployment needs to be disruptive, laborious or delivered over-budget. Nicollete Staton remarked:

For the end user, OpenCounter provides an umbrella across all departments, yet keeps every process where it is internally. We can now move the needle towards providing a modern digital experience while being able to work with each department to transform their internal processes when it’s right for them.

Ready to implement OpenCounter in your city? Talk to our team.