What Are Remote Virtual Inspections?

A Remote Virtual Inspection, also known as an RVI, is a means of performing inspections remotely, but which offers the same thoroughness and attention to detail as traditional, in-person inspections.

RVIs became more widely used as a result of the social distancing mandates during COVID-19, which forced local governments and other entities to take additional safety precautions.

While not all inspections are well-suitable to be conducted remotely, there are many types of inspections, such as violations, building, and licensing, which are. In fact, some remote inspections work so well that even as COVID restrictions are slowly lifted, many local governments will continue to use RVIs as a best practice going forward.

Here is a general overview of a typical RVI:

key steps to remote virtual inspection

To effectively utilize Remote Virtual Inspections, you will need to have the right technology for your team’s size and workflow complexity. In this post, we will walk through two levels of RVI technology maturity and demonstrate how you can offer simple RVIs on your own—with no programming!

We accomplished this using a number of different Microsoft platforms, including Teams, Bookings, Dynamics 365, and TechAir’s Local Government Accelerator.

Remote Virtual Inspections Maturity Levels and Technology Requirements

RVI Maturity: Basic

Technology Stack:

  • Teams
  • Bookings

Key Features

  • Remote virtual inspection with manual picture upload by the citizen
  • Online Citizen Inspections booking for individuals and small teams directly to Office 365 Outlook calendar

RVI Maturity: Basic – Add-on

Technology Stack:

  • Remote Assist

Key Features

  • Collaborate more efficiently by working together from different locations with Dynamics 365 Remote Assist on HoloLens, HoloLens 2, Android, or iOS devices.
  • Remote inspections: Empower onsite inspectors to collaborate with remote inspectors to evaluate and document asset quality.

RVI Maturity: Advanced

Technology Stack:

  • Teams
  • Bookings
  • Dynamics 365
  • Remote Assist

Key Features

  • Remote virtual inspection from a 1 click link and app download
  • Online Citizen Inspections booking for individuals and large teams directly to Office 365 Outlook calendar and your backend Permit and Inspection systems
  • Dynamics 365 Remote Assist software that allows the inspector to take pictures

RVI Maturity: Advanced – Add-on

Technology Stack:

  • Local Government Accelerator

Key Features

  • Pre-configured tables for permits, licenses, and municipal codes
  • Pre-configured citizen portal for applications, scheduling, and payments
  • Automated routed to desired person/department
  • Image verification to the site address
  • ArcGIS integration

Remote Virtual Inspections: Technology Options Summary

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is a chat-based collaboration platform complete with document sharing, meeting hosting, and other useful features for business communications. Having an excellent team space is key to communication and creative decision making, and Microsoft Teams delivers.

MS Teams can be specifically useful for local government RVIs. For example, as a result of the platform’s pervasiveness and convenience, citizens can easily download the Teams application and connect to the Microsoft Bookings invite link to join a meeting with an inspector.

Microsoft Bookings

Microsoft Bookings makes scheduling and managing appointments a breeze. Bookings include a web-based calendar that seamlessly integrates with Outlook, providing your staff and customers flexibility in scheduling. Automated notification emails help reduce no-shows and enhance customer satisfaction, and organizations can save time by reducing repetitive scheduling tasks.

MS Bookings meetings are facilitated via Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business. Each appointment booked creates a unique meeting link that is sent to attendees so they can join via a web browser, phone dial-in, or the Skype or Teams app. Bookings is also available as an app within Teams, allowing users to create calendars, assign staff, schedule new meetings, and manage existing appointments—all without ever leaving Teams.

Microsoft Bookings has three primary components:

  1. A booking page, where customers and clients can schedule appointments with specific staff members. This scheduling page can be shared via direct link, your Facebook page, and even through website link embedding.
  2. A web app where calendar owners and admins can define appointment types and details, manage staff schedules and availability, set business hours, and customize how appointments are scheduled. These pages allow for versatility to fit the diverse needs of your organization.
  3. A business-facing mobile app where calendar owners and admins can see all of their appointments, access customer lists and contact information, and make manual bookings on-the-go.

Remote Assist

Empower users to collaborate more efficiently by working together from different locations with Dynamics 365 Remote Assist on HoloLens, HoloLens 2, Android, or iOS devices. For RVI, we take advantage of the Android and iOS features to help confirm location of RVI as well as recording and annotating RVI sessions.

Core Dynamics 365 Local Government Functionality

Dynamics 365 is an enterprise platform that can support any local government department, such as police, fire, public works, building and zoning, parks and recreation, etcetera.

Key functionalities include:

  • Contact Management
  • Activity Management
  • Portals
  • Mobile solutions
  • Document Management
  • Workflow and processes
  • Business Intelligence
  • Development Framework
  • Service Requests
  • Work Orders

The Microsoft Cloud Advantage for Remote Virtual Inspections

Intelligent use of data empowers staff and provides better citizen engagement. For local government agencies, Microsoft’s cloud provides the tools to digitally transform the status quo.

Where numerous disparate spreadsheets, old access databases, and legacy systems cause inefficiencies, Microsoft Dynamics 365 integrates seamlessly with the Microsoft 365 platform (including Outlook, mobile, SharePoint, OneDrive, and Teams) to centralize all of your data in one place.

For organizations already using the Microsoft 365 platform, Microsoft Dynamics 365 is the next level up in improving internal processes and adding value to your existing investment.

Microsoft Cloud for remote virtual inspections

TechAir Group Local Government Accelerator

TechAir Group has taken the Dynamics 365 Customer Service app, Field Service, and utilized the development framework to build our own Local Government Accelerator. The accelerator has prebuilt modules to:

Simplify the permitting process

  • Full management of parcel information, parcel owner data, violations, inspections and more.
  • Automated tasks with built-in rules to start processing permits more efficiently.
  • Improved citizen experience with an online permitting portal, where citizens can apply and pay for licenses, upload signed documents, and more from any online device.

Streamline licensing

  • Full licensing process management, including license holder information, past licenses, renewal data, past payments, GIS maps, and contractor details.
  • Automated renewal process with automatic emails, mass export of renewal letters, and SMS messages.
  • Improved license-holder experience with an online portal, where users can apply and pay for licenses, renew applications, and upload signed documents from any device.

Enhance code enforcement

  • End-to-end management of citizen requests, complaints, violations, work orders and inspections.
  • Full automation, from emails and mass renewal letter exports to SMS messages.
  • Improved citizen experience with an online portal to submit complaints, which can be turned into violations and/or work orders.

Revamp citizen request management

  • Quick complaint resolution for improved citizen experience and satisfaction.
  • Silo-breaking communication features that automatically turn complaints into work orders and route work orders to inspectors’ tablets in the field.
  • Meet customer expectations by being available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, on any device, and on any channel.

Digitize and track work orders

  • Digital, customizable work orders to save time and operate more efficiently.
  • Enhanced work experience featuring real-time GIS integration, automated workflow, and field notes capability.
  • Enable Public Works office or others to give transparency to their work orders so no inspection or order falls through the cracks.
  • Stay current on citizen requests and ensure every level of inspection is up to standard.

Integrate with ArcGIS

  • ArcGIS integrates easily on the Microsoft cloud platform.
  • Connect services without the need for separate integration tools.

Planning Your Remote Virtual Inspections

From a workflow perspective, there are a few key questions you will want to ask:

  • What departments will be involved?
  • What inspections should I start with?
  • How will new inspection requests be assigned, divided, and routed?
  • How should contractors and homeowners prepare?

Inspection teams

Next, consider inspection teams that will be using the software.

City/County Service Sample Bookings (# of Inspectors)
Building/Property Inspection and Code Enforcement
  • Electrical North Territory (1)
  • Electrical South Territory (1)
  • Plumbing East Territory (1)
  • Plumbing West Territory (2)
  • Code Enforcement (4)


Configuring An RVI With Basic Functionality

remote virtual inspections basic

Microsoft Bookings Configuration for Remote Virtual Inspections

First, let us look at the Office 365 Bookings application. To get there, go to the Office 365 home screen, click on the lower left all apps icon, then the “Bookings” icon.

opening Microsoft Bookings RVI

With the Bookings home screen launched, select the option for multiple Bookings screens, located on the left side of the window next to the name of your Bookings configuration.

In TechAir Group’s example you’ll see three pre-configured Bookings and we will be adding a fourth Bookings screen in our Microsoft 365 tenant.

Microsoft Bookings add new calendar

Click Add a booking calendar to start the setup process.

new bookings calendar

From here, we have the option of putting in a Business name and Business type. Only the Business name text field is required, which will serve as our scheduling group name.

Type in “Code Enforcement” as our example.

default bookings calendar

Manage Business Information in Microsoft Bookings

Next up is the Business Information settings. We can upload a custom logo. The business hours are flexible and allow you to block for lunch, setup split shifts, and accommodate your different needs.

Microsoft Bookings manage business information

Manage Services in Microsoft Bookings

One of the goals of using Bookings for Code Enforcement is to reduce the number of times inspectors have to leave the office to, for example, follow up on environmental violations. With Bookings, you can schedule a Remote Virtual Inspection to ensure that an environmental violation (i.e., Grass, litter, vegetation, etc.) that was previously observed on a citizen’s property, has been taken care of and resolved.

To set up a service like this, click on Services on the left, then hover over the Initial consult line to access the edit pencil icon.

Microsoft Bookings manage services

The Services details page is for individual services, which can be published or linked. (There is also an overall bookings page with access to all services.)

Fill in the “Service name” and “Description,” enable “Add online meeting,” and setup your “Default location” and “Default duration” for the service you are setting up. Then, select the staff that will fulfill this service. (Note: You can set up one calendar per staff member if you do not want the citizen to be able to select between staff.)

Next, we will continue scrolling down the page for additional settings.

Here, we can modify the buffer time (time in between inspections). Each team and situation have their own requirements, but for a typical 30-minute virtual inspection, we would recommend buffering 15 minutes before and 15 minutes after. We do not recommend booking RVI’s back-to-back, as you will need time between each to update your systems with the appropriate information.
We also recommend allowing citizens to manage their own appointments online After you’ve configured this area, we’re going to add some custom fields by clicking on Modify under Custom Fields.

edit services details remote virtual inspection

Here, we can modify the buffer time (time in between inspections). Each team and situation have their own requirements, but for a typical 30-minute virtual inspection, we would recommend buffering 15 minutes before and 15 minutes after. We do not recommend booking RVI’s back-to-back, as you will need time between each to update your systems with the appropriate information.

We also recommend allowing citizens to manage their own appointments online After you’ve configured this area, we’re going to add some custom fields by clicking on Modify under Custom Fields.

Microsoft Bookings modify custom fields

From the Custom Fields section, we can add our own text and dropdown questions. Based on what your exact needs are you can add questions and make them required fields. Change the order of the fields by clearing your selected fields and then reselecting them in the desired order.

Here are some examples of custom fields we’ve created:

Microsoft Bookings add custom fields

Now, let’s add two custom fields, which are questions that we want the citizen to answer. Add a dropdown and a custom text field. We’ve also made phone number and address fields required in order to double check the information against the violation. After you add the questions, click on them and mark them as required. After we have setup the questions for this service, click Okay to continue.

Microsoft Bookings add question to form

Returning from the Custom Fields screen is a save prompt. You can finish any edits to the configuration and save at the end; there is no need to click back into the service to continue setup.

Under “Reminders and Confirmations,” You can edit email reminders and confirmations by clicking on the pencil icon.

MS Bookings Add Reminders and Confirmations

Below you can see the options for email reminders. You can also select to enable text message notifications for your citizens. To make a service only available to be booked via a call or by your employees, uncheck this box. When you’re finished, continue to the next section.

Microsoft Bookings Add Reminders

Here are the rest of the options for the service setup. The Bookings page has a “Scheduling Policy” setup that applies to all services. If all your services have the same scheduling options, you can leave this section alone. If not, you can uncheck and edit the settings for your workflow. That concludes the service setup. Save your record and click on staff next.

From the Manage staff screen you can manage everyone assigned to every service for this booking. Remember you can have as many Bookings pages as you need to support your configuration. Next, we will edit the CRM Admin user and staff.

Microsoft Bookings manage staff

Under Staff details we can see the status of the user on the Bookings and you can edit individual user availability. As you can see, the user in this example is ready to be booked. You can also change the contact’s color and other contact details. This user will have the default booking page availability. When finished, click “Save” and then click on “Customers” on the left.

MS Bookings staff details

From the Customer screen we can add, edit, delete, and import customers.

MS Bookings import customers

On the Add Contact screen we can put in the information to create a new customer. Click “Save” and then we will click on the “Import customers” link.

Microsoft Bookings Add Contact

When you import your customer Microsoft’s AI will autodetect your columns and match things up (if needed). Below is a sample of a random list being imported. After importing we will head over to the Booking Page on the left.

Microsoft Bookings import contacts

We can publish our Booking page so it is live and available. You can also “Embed” the Bookings form into either HTML code or an iframe, share the link to your page on social media, and edit your color theme and other central settings. Here is where you set the central Scheduling policy for users and services. When you have set up your Booking page we will move onto the Calendar on the left.

Microsoft Bookings embed bookings page

In the Availability section, we see the small text + Set different availability for a date range. This is where you’ll input annual holidays and any other days that can’t be booked. This should be considered as part of the design and ensure that this solution is scalable for your implementation.

MS Bookings set availability

Here we see the options for the Calendar. We can create a new Remote Virtual Inspection booking, an onsite booking, or any other service that you’ve setup. For our purposes, pick “Remote Virtual booking.”

MS Bookings new booking

Next, you’ll be presented with the Customer information window You can either create a new customer by filling in the pertinent information or look up a customer already in the system. For the latter, simply start typing a name. You can choose your service details and pick which staff member will get the booking.

Microsoft Bookings customer information

The Calendar screen now shows the new booking. By clicking on the booking, you’ll see the summary details as well as the ability to edit or cancel the booking.

Microsoft Bookings booking summary

Next, go to the booking page and launch the booking link. This is what the citizen would see.

The following screenshots show the different user interface options citizens can interact with. You’ll see two service options implemented. After those images, you’ll see the two individual service Bookings pages. They are the same as the central page, except the Citizen can’t pick between services—they can only pick the one service on the page. From there, we will see a sample of the default email notification.

Microsoft Bookings page remote virtual inspections

Microsoft Bookings page select staff remote virtual inspection

MS Bookings page select staff

Microsoft Bookings remote virtual inspection

remote virtual inspection confirmed

Microsoft Bookings edit remote virtual inspection

Remote virtual inspection confirmation email

In this email template, we can click on the Change your appointment to see the same screen as you did after your initial ‘thank you’. There is also a mobile app for employees, but not for Citizens; the latter would use the website exclusively, which is optimized for mobile.

This brings us to the end of the Bookings configuration.

Microsoft Bookings change schedule for remote virtual inspection

Microsoft Teams Configuration

Rather than walking through an initial Teams setup, we’ll compare your existing Teams environment with the needs of the citizen in this section.

If you have access to Booking, chances are you have MS Teams configured for video and chat. The setup needs to support basic functionality between the employee and the citizen.

  • Employees should have Teams with the ability to make a video call to someone outside your organization
  • Citizens should download the Teams application prior to the booking
  • If you’re using the free version of Teams, know that Microsoft is planning to cap video calls to one hour at some point in the future. For now, the cap is a generous 24 hours.

It’s that easy to utilize Microsoft Team’s to support RVI’s.

Configuring Dynamics 365 Remote Assistant Functionality

remote virtual inspections basic add on

Dynamics 365 Remote Assistant setup and configuration

One option to increase your RVI maturity is to add Dynamics 365 Remote Assist to your process, rather than having the user connect with Teams. Using Teams with your Citizen is often imperfect because the citizen is responsible to take the screen shots on their own and upload the pictures to your staff. Using MS Bookings to schedule Remote Assist sessions is a much better experience.

Dynamics 365 Remote Assistant Setup for Remote Virtual Inspection

From here, we can generate a link now or in the future.

Dynamics 365 Remote Assistant Setup Generate Link

There are three types of free trials for Dynamics 365 Remote Assist:

  • Free trial for Dynamics 365 Remote Assist
  • Dynamics 365 Remote Assist for free on your HoloLens, HoloLens 2, and mobile phones and tablets.
  • Dynamics 365 Field Service with Remote Assist free trial.

dynamics 365 remote assist free trials remote virtual inspection


Microsoft has some great low-code, out-of-box solutions to help smaller teams manage Remote Virtual Inspections (RVI). Hopefully, we have highlighted some of the capabilities and shortcomings of Bookings and offered solutions to scale to bigger needs. For any questions about Dynamics 365 and the TechAir Local Government Accelerator or to request a free demo, contact our support team here.

Stay tuned for part two where we walk through Dynamics 365 Field Service setup to support RVI’s.

Remote Virtual Inspections are here to stay, and Microsoft offers saleable solutions for teams of all sizes.