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Chelsea, MA's low-cost strategy to bring multiple departments' workflows online for remote work

Chelsea, MA 02150, USA

Government Champion

Licensing Department, City Manager's Office


Zero upfront cost to local government
2 Thousand USD

Project Status

Operational since 2021


Digital Permitting

Challenges Addressed

Economic Development
Process Improvement


Smart city
Resilient city

Funding / Financing

General Fund/Existing Public Funds

Project Type


At a Glance

The town of Chelsea had one of the highest COVID-19 infection rates in MA, and must support remote work for its staff and online licensing and requests to keep its residents safe. It quickly expanded its digital services to include more departments and more workflows, without any impact on its budget.

Problem Addressed

Like many local governments, Chelsea has always had very specific applications and requirements for certain business license types. These requirements made it seem daunting for the town's small staff to transition to digital services. Additionally, the town had limited budget to devote to improving its digital offerings. In 2018, the town began offering digital business licensing, and expanded to digital workflows in its Recreation and Cultural Affairs department as well. In 2020, the community is facing high rates of COVID-19 infection and needed to quickly move even more of its operations online to support remote work for its staff and remote, digital services for its residents and businesses. The town wanted to maintain its operations and continue to generate revenue and provide oversight and licensing for its businesses, even in today's challenging circumstances. Now they're using CityGrows for everything from Public Record Requests to Temporary Sidewalk Dining Permits.

Chelsea used/is using CityGrows' low-cost workflow automation software platform to address this/these challenge(s).

Solution(s) Used

The town of Chelsea, Massachusetts Licensing Department launched their Amusement/ Entertainment License, Common Victualler License, and Rooming House License Applications on the CityGrows platform in 2018, bringing these workflows online for the first time. By doing so, they were able to reduce the total time required to approve these permits, offer integrated online payments, increase the accuracy of data collection, and reduce the staff time needed to review and approve each permit. In 2019, the Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department began offering Special Event permits and Athletic Field reservations online as well.

Now in 2020 the town is facing budget pressures and the need for staff, residents, and businesses to be able to interact remotely. Chelsea has the highest rate of COVID-19 infection in Massachusetts, and they must quickly transition workflows that had traditionally had been paper- and in-person processes to digital to protect staff and residents. Because Chelsea has access to create unlimited workflows with CityGrows, it's rapidly launched additional digital service capability without spending any more money. The City has recently launched:

- Public Records Requests

- Registration of complaints

- Hearing appeals for code violations

- Open Air Vendor Permits

- Sidewalk Cafe/ Sidewalk Use Permits

- Yard Sale Permits

Since the software is easy to use, department staff (with no technical training) can set up new permits and licenses in just a few days, including testing and refinement. When ready to go live, a new link is added to the City's site.

Because CityGrows is extremely low-cost, there was no need to conduct an RFP process, so Chelsea got started immediately.


  1. Chelsea is able to quickly set up and launch as many licensing, permitting, and request workflows as it likes for the same low-cost subscription fee. Online payments are included.
  2. Chelsea staff can process more requests in less time, whether at home or at City Hall, and real-time status updates are available to everyone. That means less time spent on email and phone.
  3. Local businesses and residents appreciate that they can submit pay for or renew their licenses and check the status of any request remotely from their phones or computers, 24/7.
  4. Chelsea staff can continue to provide service from home, maintaining operations while working remotely.
  5. Digital services result in an updated list of emails for all local businesses, giving teams easy way to communicate with them during a crisis.

Lessons Learned

  1. Having a flexible, low-cost, and quick to set up digital services solution in place is invaluable in times of crisis when governments need to adjust operations and services on the fly.
  2. Online payments that are integrated with permit and license applications mean better compliance and easier reconciliation for Finance staff.

Something Unique

CityGrows “clone this process” feature lets other local governments benefit from the great work that Chelsea has done.  CityGrows makes it easy to duplicate, adapt, and launch workflows, so local governments don’t have to start from scratch, and can digitize their work with extremely minimal time or budget impact.

Who Should Consider?

Small or medium-sized cities and counties that want to work remotely, continue generating revenue, and access a low-cost option to bring all their licensing, permitting, and request processes online.

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