Florida businesses apply for licenses online

Florida residents can apply online for licenses for more than 200 types of businesses the state regulates, including real estate, restaurants, accounting and pari-mutuel wagering.

Responding to customer complaints and a need to cut costs, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation established a Web site to process business licenses at MyFloridaLicense.com. Outdated technology and the use of 70 separate systems and 15 platforms limited the efficiency of the system.

'Customer service stank,' said Florida DBPR spokeswoman Missy Rudd. Out of 3 million phone calls, the licensing office missed 1 million, she said.

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's administration poured $16 million in the past two years into developing an online one-stop licensing center. The state expects to save from $60 million to $90 million over the next 10 years, Rudd said.

Customers can fill out applications and renewals for business and professional licenses and permits, take exams, and pay fees online. The state merged a myriad of licensing forms to just eight.

Mobile inspections

Government employees also can use the system on the road. State inspectors use handheld computers to file the results of facilities' inspections, for example, for restaurants, into a central database. While at remote locations, inspectors can access previous examinations to check if owners have corrected safety and standards problems.

Such capabilities reduce the time to complete the licensing process, said Scott Stewart, CIO of the regulation department.

Use of MyFloridaLicense.com is increasing, Stewart said. The site attracts 38,000 visitors a week and has activated 130,000 accounts since the first business license for real estate agents became available online last year. About 36 percent of renewals are processed online. The percentage jumps to 60 percent during the last few days of each renewal period, Rudd said.

Inspectors have gone from eight to 12 inspections daily, using handheld computers running Microsoft Pocket PC on location, Stewart said.

The licensing system uses LicenseEase software from Versa Systems Ltd. of Toronto. The software runs application processing, background checks, examinations and fee collection functions.

It can also be customized to fit the different licensing requirements of businesses as diverse as funeral homes and talent agencies, Stewart said.

The licensing system and portal services are integrated with customer relationship management software from Siebel Systems Inc. of San Mateo, Calif. A licensee can click a button and instantly connect with an agency representative who can view the customer's location in the system, answer questions and give guidance through the electronic process. Software from SeeBeyond Technology Corp. of Monrovia, Calif., integrates the enterprise application, acting as a hub for all the functions.

Users also can call a self-service telephone system to perform many licensing transactions. The state overhauled its call center to route customer requests into three service tiers. About 80 percent of the calls concern common questions. The other tiers address services related to a few businesses and those that have no shared service.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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