Community development needs integrated permitting and electronic plan review

When I was a government IT director, I spent many days responding to the needs of my managers and directors. Often, their needs were the direct result of requests (or demands) for better service, more accountability and always, faster processes. It was a top-down approach, and while their concerns over customer service were important, there was a disconnect between demanding a better customer experience and supporting the technology investment needed to meet their requests.

Community development, the important effort of managing the development and rehabilitation of communities, is one of the most visible, interesting and important things that local government does. From land use planning to zoning and codes, permitting and licensing, and finally reviewing plans and projects for construction, community development determines the fabric of counties, cities and towns.

Often, new construction is desirable, adding tax revenue, and if it brings new jobs to a community, it can be very welcome. However, if your community is growing faster than your staff, the good news for your community may create a crisis as you try to keep up with traditional paper-based processes for permitting and plan review.

Electronic plan review

With jobs and revenue on the line, it is no surprise that requests from customers and managers can be persistent. For IT managers and community development managers and staff, figuring out how to use technology to manage this important responsibility is top of mind because paper-based processes can’t keep up and no longer meet the needs of today’s constituents, or even our staff.

Given these realities, it is no surprise that communities are deploying permitting and licensing solutions like Accela and connecting them to electronic plan review solutions. The benefits to staff and submitters are significant.

Consider how one city described why it needed to integrate Accela with OnBase Electronic Plan Review:

  • Document retention

The difficulty of storing, retaining and purging paper plan sets was overwhelming.

  • Multiple plan sets

Submitters might have to submit 17 paper plan sets to support the number of reviewers as the city tried to execute on simultaneous review to shorten a process that paper lengthens.

  • Lost plan sets

Too much paper is hard to manage. Lost plan sets mean submitters have to bear the costs and delays associated with lost sets.

  • Moving from paper to Accela

Overworked, drowning in paper and still having to update their Accela permitting solution resulted in data issues and delays.content services

Facing these challenges, it’s no surprise the city was excited to achieve its goals for community development technology projects.

These goals included:

  • Streamlining the permit application process and including electronic plan review submission

This eliminates the burden and cost of paper plan submission and storage while creating easier, simultaneous review for a faster process.

  • Creating a single workflow for all internal staff to reduce duplicate work

Eliminating steps, especially those necessitated by paper, optimized the permitting and plan review process and allowed transparency into that process.

  • Building and integrating permitting and electronic review system as “one source of truth”

With integrated permitting and plan review solutions, the city not only takes advantage of the unique benefits of permitting and content services, but it also eliminates the need for the staff to retype data, while connected systems keep the data in sync as applications and plans move through the process. This means internal staff with different duties and different key solutions have the same data driving their decisions.

And my favorite:

  • Design the system through the lens of the applicant

This is so important for constituent and customer-facing technology. It is also at the heart of digital transformation. The promise of digital transformation in this case is eliminating paper, offering web-based submission and creating an end-to-end efficient process.

Given the importance of this process and the attention it invites, it is a logical and critical area for investment by local government. By connecting permitting and electronic plan review, your community can design a system with the advantages of digital transformation to offer a better – and more intuitive – application and review process. With a portal to the customer, data in sync and process status provided automatically, the solution now offers a design that keeps the city’s submitters informed and happy.

The right tools for the future

As your community moves forward with development, selecting the right tools is essential. The city we’ve been discussing knew it needed to abandon paper and that key systems should connect and keep permitting and plan data in sync.

It also knew that with the right tools, it could improve these important local government processes and make community development an easier venture. It’s a great example for local governments hoping to achieve the same results.

Terri Jones

Terri Jones

Wondering what goes into a document management, ECM or content services deployment in government? Terri Jones, Hyland's government marketing portfolio manager, has your answer. In her 10-plus years in both state and local government, she's managed IT departments, implemented ECM strategies and written legislation and program policies. If that isn't enough to prove her IT expertise in government, she has also designed and implemented data systems and websites to manage compliance and funding in excess of $90 million annually. Have a question for her? Contact her at [email protected]

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