The new plan review: 3 keys to a more efficient process

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Facing piles of plan sets to review is a great indicator of your community’s health. Sensible, well-designed growth means more community amenities, jobs and tax revenues. Speed of review can be a selling point for your community or it can be a magnet for criticism, particularly from private sector partners who are trying to get fast approval. Even the cost of submitting projects for review is scrutinized as local economic development advocates look for ways to improve the climate for business.

These are not new challenges, but recent economic difficulties have made every potential job and new or expanding business seem crucial. The pressure is on to complete reviews, but with reduced staff, it can be hard to go faster. And with complex projects, faster might mean missing something critical.

If your community is facing this dilemma, or is interested in overall process improvement, electronic plan review solutions offer great options.

Consider the key tools offered by these solutions:

Self-service portal for paperless submissions

Try this new way of engaging with your submitters: Use an electronic portal and plug it into your existing community website. Submitters can submit electronic versions of their plan sets and use this same site to monitor the status of reviews and pick up marked-up plan sets and response letters. They can resubmit revised plans and pick up approved plan sets the same way, saving them thousands of dollars in paper plan set costs.

Tools to make the jump to paperless

The tradition of paper plan sets makes sense in some situations, especially for larger projects. But today’s plan viewers have tools that can speed reviews by making staff more efficient. Being able to zoom, calibrate, measure and more with keystrokes and mouse-clicks using large monitors eliminates moving back and forth between plan sheets. Plan viewers can note your mark-ups and comments and even let you see your colleagues’ comments in real time, fostering the collaboration you need to complete the review.

Once plans are resubmitted, the plan viewer has a compare tool that colorizes the changes so you can quickly see whether required changes have been made and notice changes that were not requested – without flipping through pages and pages. This tool is a game-changer for faster reviews of later submissions.

Process transparency

If your role involves coordinating reviews and ensuring that they meet your goals for a timely process, you’ll love how going paperless changes your life. Plan review solutions offer dashboards so that coordinating functions, review assignments and status of reviews for all projects can exist in a single, project-centric screen. Assignments, timers and notifications are driven by a workflow engine that can match your review processes. This same internal tool automatically updates the submitter’s portal so that they can check on their submissions 24/7 without having to call.

Process transparency begins with going paperless, and electronic plan review solutions take that to another level when they are paired with a robust workflow engine that can update and manage notifications and routing of work.

If you are facing a need to be more efficient, electronic plan review can meet this overall goal. To be effective as you move forward, these key functionalities will help you make the leap. And by dumping the paper and the associated costs and time, your review department more effectively supports the development of your community.

Terri Jones

Terri Jones

Wondering what goes into a document management or ECM software 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 terri.jones@onbase.com.

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