Rodriguez Brings Process Improvement to the DOB
Mayor Richard M. Daley announced in June that he was appointing Richard Rodriguez to the post of Commissioner of the Department of Buildings [DOB]. Rodriguez had been Commissioner of the Department of Construction and Permits [DCAP] and was asked to oversee both departments. In October 2007, the Mayor officially merged DCAP back into DOB. As Commissioner for DOB, Rodriguez has a new set of challenges as he re-integrates DCAP back into DOB.
When asked why DCAP was broken out from the Department of Buildings in April of 2003, Rodriguez acknowledged it was important to separate DCAP because "it allowed for better focus on improving the permitting process alone. I think we have successfully done that and are now able to merge them back together."
Uniting DCAP with the Department of Buildings will produce important efficiencies according to Rodriguez. "We have been able to merge together the talent learned in the permitting area with the inspection side. Permitting is no longer separated from inspections. In fact, staff are being trained to be able to do both permitting and inspections."
Rodriguez was very successful in implementing performance measurements for the permitting process that have significantly reduced the permitting time. Rodriguez now wants to take these efficiencies and adapt them to inspections. He will be asking, "how can we make the inspectional process more efficient? When a person calls in to request an inspection, the issue is similar to the permitting process - how quickly can we get a resource to the site to perform the inspection. And do it in such a way without sacrificing quality."
There will be positive changes resulting from the merging of DCAP and DOB. Rodriguez does not think customers will notice any change in the permitting people or process. "What they will notice," he believes "is that, whereas in the past there may have been a difference of opinion between the staff that handled the permit and those performing the inspection, now with the blending of the talent, the inspectors should be well aware of what was permitted and why it was permitted on the front end. Then the inspectors will be more knowledgeable when they get to the site."
Rodriguez has been a proponent of developing long-term technology solutions to improve city processes he manages. One of his first steps as Commissioner of DOB was to equip building inspectors with handheld computers. "Using these devices, the inspectors will have access to all the information they have access to at their desks," says Rodriguez. "They also can upload their reports quicker and we can process them quicker. The customer gets a quicker response as to the status of that inspection."
Rodriguez does recognize the need to first analyze DOB processes before making changes. "Much of what the department does currently is done manually and we are trying to infuse technology wherever we can to reduce the number of steps to complete tasks without sacrificing quality on the back end."
Rodriguez and his staff have some ambitious goals, but if his track record is an accurate indication, we should see improvements in the inspection process in short order.