Plan review No.1: Make it the start of your digital transformation

Analyst calls for digital transformation can seem far from the realities of your local plan review responsibilities. Review processes are commonly driven by the paper plan set submitted to create new projects in your community. Unfortunately, dealing with large plan sets, requiring submissions during business hours, managing collaboration challenges and dealing with impatient submitters takes up most of your time, so digital transformation may not be top of mind.

If this is your experience, you live in the world that digital transformation wants to change. At its core, digital transformation seeks to make transactions and processes electronic and provide end-to-end solutions. But perhaps most importantly, its goal is to improve the customer experience. Fortunately, these are also things that can make your planning process much smoother.

Affecting the customer experience is difficult if you continue to rely on paper plan sets that infect your process with time-consuming tasks and increased costs. If you still accept paper plan sets for larger projects, each re-submission – often with multiple sets required – is a cost to the submitter.

Construction projects also cost more the longer it takes to get a certificate of occupancy. This tends to add pressure to your staff to get things done as quickly as possible. If the project also includes the potential for jobs for your community, it is likely that pressure could come from your elected officials as well.

The benefits of going digital

The costs of paper-based plan review extend to the cost of government as well. Here are some cost drivers you can quantify and positively affect with electronic plan review:

  • Cheaper submission costs for larger projects

Paper plan sets are expensive and re-submissions require additional time and cost to submitters. Digital plans are easier to edit and do not require costly re-printing. By going electronic, you save the submitter measurable time and dollars.

  • Lower storage costs for plans and approved plans

All those submissions have to be stored somewhere and, in paper, their form factor means special cabinets and ever-increasing physical storage costs.

  • Higher growth and the cost of more staff

Electronic plans improve customer service and drive increased staff productivity. Avoiding additional FTEs is another way to justify the investment in a plan review solution.

If your community is growing, you may be experiencing increasing review backlogs. Electronic plan review users see backlogs disappear and avoid adding additional staff. They are often able to deliver review decisions faster as well.

  • Field staff support

Access to better and electronic information in the field, the ability to use electronic forms on a tablet and the use of photos to document conditions are all things that going digital can bring to fieldwork. These tools help local government complete more work in a day by bridging the gap between process steps that happen in the field and those that happen in the office by making sure people can access the information they need anywhere, anytime.

The costs of relying on paper

Then there are the cost factors that are more difficult to quantify, but still have a large impact:

  • Slower development review could mean less development

This is a loss of potential jobs and tax revenue for your community. Online services are considered as basic now thanks to our smartphones, web usage and private sector experiences. Government is expected to offer the same options.

If your community is interested in more business development, the perception of how easy it is to work with your building or development services department is critical. If you are perceived as difficult to work with, businesses may choose to locate in a neighboring community instead.

  • Phone calls for status

How many calls does your staff take that are questions about the status of a review and the anticipated completion date? How much time is lost? How does it affect the number of reviews that can be completed in a month?

These cost factors and challenges are familiar problems for plan reviewers. It can be tempting to overlook the effects of paper on a government process because we have done it that way for so long. Digital transformation asks that we consider the customer experience. It is one of those rare moments where an analyst theory can actually improve a classic government process, make staff work easier and improve the experience of our external customers.

Next up, we’ll show how electronic plan review makes your internal process better and improves the experience of your plan review staff.

Terri Jones is an enterprise advisor with Hyland’s Global Services team. Before coming to Hyland, 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. As an enterprise advisor, she uses her background in IT deployment, change management and strategic planning to lead workshops that help Hyland customers get the most from their solution investments.
Terri Jones

Terri Jones

Terri Jones is an enterprise advisor with Hyland’s Global Services team. Before coming to Hyland, in her 10-plus years in both state and local government, she’s managed IT departments, implemented... read more about: Terri Jones