City & County of Denver: How to redesign a document-intensive business process – Part 1

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When Colorado approved the retail sale of marijuana in 2013, the City & County of Denver was hit with a massive influx of applications from hopeful retailers. The licensing department was soon swamped with a backlog of unprocessed applications. In a two-part blog post we show how they dealt with the backlog and redesigned their business process to handle a higher volume of applications in the era of legalized marijuana sales.

First things first: dealing with the backlog

Not long after applications for retail marijuana were first accepted, the backlog of unprocessed applications quickly grew to over two million documents. Most of these were related to retail and marijuana growing applications, but not all. The deluge of retail marijuana applications had slowed down the licensing department’s processing times for all types of applications, causing several issues:

― customer service thresholds were not being met

― staff were unable to give real-time status updates for applications

― the department wasn’t realizing revenue fast enough, with many application fees sitting unprocessed

To make their way through the backlog, they started by placing each application into a standard folder and applying a date and a barcode. Next, they scanned each application file into their file tracking software. With that done, they could begin auditing each application for completeness.

In six weeks, they were able to sort through all of the applications and get caught up. As they did so, they implemented three important best practices.

  1. Making the right information available quickly

By ensuring all current documents were filed in their proper folder or pocket, in the correct location on the shelf, it was easier to differentiate between active licenses and inactive content. The creation of an accurate inventory listing of all folders and pockets was essential, and outdated information was culled from the shelves.

  1. Routing documents to various authorities as required

When licensing agents would go to a facility to perform necessary inspections, they were confident they had access to all of the documents previously filed and that the most current versions of these documents were available.

  1. Ensuring all trailing documents were compiled and placed with the original application

A simple check-list of the 17 required documents was included at the point of license initiation. They were then able to note the date a particular document was received and to clearly see which item(s) might be missing or unapproved. This simple process was also the framework for the digital workflow that would follow.

In next week’s blog post, learn the six steps that Denver took to redesign the process to handle new applications.

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