A technology and process checklist for local governments
It’s clear that reviewing, tracking and managing development plans on paper leads to extra and avoidable cost, time, effort and frustration for planning staff and developers alike. The obvious answer is to store and access development plan sets online, but it must be done in a well-thought-out way.
How Digital Documents Transform Plan Reviews
Beyond the basic ability to accept, view and store these diverse electronic files, a planning department needs a broader enterprise content management (ECM) solution that applies technology to improve planning processes in three essential areas:
- Document management. An ECM system manages and stores all project documents and files in a central digital repository. The system accepts numerous file formats and associates all files related to a particular project, making them easily accessible to every employee who needs to review them.
- Review management. For the planning coordinator, the ability to define automated workflows in the ECM system helps to ensure the right documents go to the right people at the right time. A system dashboard shows the current status of each review process to keep everyone on schedule.
- Developer communications. An ECM system can integrate with a Web portal that allows developers to submit plans and other project documents electronically. After each review cycle, the developer can download the comments letter and marked-up plans. The portal also creates a central point of communication between developers and planning staff.
Streamlined Planning Reviews Benefit Government and the Community
Streamlining the planning process involves the right ECM solution and a willingness to adopt new approaches to review activities. The payoff is that the local planning department can improve its internal operations and services to constituents with:
- Centralized document storage. Electronic storage eliminates expensive file space for paper plan sets while providing better document control and access. Over the long term, an ECM system also enables easier retrieval of documents or images for site maintenance and emergency response purposes. For projects that have significant community impact, selected documents can be posted on the government website for viewing by citizens and the media, including access via mobile devices.
- Better review management. Automated workflows and review tracking help to improve the efficiency, timeliness and completeness of the entire review process.
- Coordinated review comments. Reviewers in multiple departments can see each other’s comments and work collaboratively to resolve issues, resulting in a definitive and consistent response to the developer.
- Easier compliance. . Digital documents, automated routing, and electronic comments and sign-offs make it easier to comply with required document submissions and mandatory review timeframes.
- Improved service to developers and citizens. A Web portal for document submission and streamlined plan reviews reduce the time until plan approval. In turn, faster approvals reduce delays and costs for developers as well as for citizens who must submit plans for residential remodeling projects
As these uses show, implementing an ECM system does more than simply reduce paper. More significantly, it transforms how reviews are completed and how planning staff serve developers and citizens.
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