In the wake of the COVID pandemic, jumpstarting economic activity is at the top of the agenda for governments at all levels. Yet, many of the state and local agencies that regulate business activity face an enormous backlog of cases involving mission-critical processes, from business incorporation and UCC filing to business licensing. The resulting delays are, in turn, impeding economic recovery and causing serious disruptions in residents’ lives, from entrepreneurs to the workers they hire.
These delays are much more than an inconvenience. For every week that just one small business waits for proper licensing, the opportunity cost averages $27,000 (C$31,160), a recent study in the city of Vancouver found. With licensing taking up to eight months, the total cost to the city economy is estimated to be more than US$500,000 per business.
Of course, the burden of these delays comes at a time when both businesses and governments can least afford it. In April 2020, nearly 90% of small businesses in the US reported being negatively impacted by the pandemic. Almost a year later, that number still stood at 72%—not nearly enough to overcome a year of lost revenue. Meanwhile, federal help for small businesses has been slow in coming.
Given these existential pressures, many businesses are simply going it alone. “The complexity and length of the process creates a disincentive for businesses to follow the rules; some businesses proceed with small renovations without permits, and those who get permits are then put at a disadvantage for abiding by the rules,” the aforementioned Vancouver study found.
While delays are leading to short-term pain, they can also lead to long-term negative consequences for states and cities where delays are particularly long, forcing capital and talent to seek opportunities elsewhere. Localities are “competing aggressively to attract businesses that will invest in their communities and offer jobs to their citizens,” write Deloitte analysts. Declaring that a region is “open for business” is not enough. “Investment dollars are limited and winning them depends on having an environment where it is also ‘easy to do business,’” concludes Deloitte.
While some of the pandemic-related delays have been unavoidable, the problem has been made worse because many government agencies remain “saddled with disparate applications, siloed information, and unwieldy processes,” Deloitte continues. The good news is, the extreme challenges of COVID have dramatically accelerated the digitization of business processes by three to four years, according to McKinsey. And the greatest progress has occurred in industries that have traditionally been digital laggards.
Fortunately, the old barriers to digitization are falling fast, thanks to the advent of no-code. Traditionally, digital transformation initiatives typically took 12-to-24 months and entailed massive upfront costs, as well as operational disruption and significant project risk. With no-code, this is no longer the case. Development with the platform is “a minimum of three times faster and three times less expensive,” says James McGlennon, CIO of Liberty Mutual.
Nor do government agencies need to compete with the private sector in hiring a slew of scarce, expensive technologists. Thanks to Unqork’s all-visual building environment, even less experienced developers can create solutions that enable businesspeople to quickly and easily manage critical filings remotely. Modern APIs also make it easy for developers—Unqork calls them Creators—to integrate disparate legacy computing systems to customer-facing services.
And predictable, organized workflows and smart tools enable regulators and supervisors to maximize their efforts and prioritize resources.
In the wake of COVID, argues Deloitte, one of the best ways to “capture efficiencies and meet the needs of businesses is by embracing digital services.” Armed with a no-code application development platform, agencies can achieve these goals with greater speed, and at lower cost risk, than ever before.