Online Document Submission: A stepping stone to Electronic Plan Review

What is Online Document Submission?

business process at a city or county usually begins when a Home Owner / Contractor / Architect / Engineer / Builder submits an application form and supporting documents. Online Document Submission involves the submittal of these application forms and related documents in a digital format for review by your city or county.

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How is it different from Electronic Plan Review?

Online or Electronic Document Submission is excellent for those situations where once the application forms and documents are received, there is no marking-up or red-lining of these documents that needs to be done by the city or county’s staff. An example of this would be when a Homeowner submits a Building Permit Application to the City or County. The City or County then reviews the information entered on the application form, collects a fee and Issues the permit. Here the jurisdiction does not need to mark-up the Building Permit Application form and return it to the customer for resubmittal.

However, with Electronic Document Review the drawing files that are submitted are reviewed and feedback is given through mark-ups on the drawings. The drawing files are often routed to and reviewed by multiple reviewers belonging to different trades / departments. Electronic Review therefore involves some way through which the mark-ups and feedback given by different reviewers is consolidated and made available to the customer and other city or county staff. After a Review Cycle is disapproved, the customer is allowed the opportunity to address the issues based on the red-lining and resubmit the plans for the next cycle of reviews.

Thus, a jurisdiction can choose to implement Electronic Submission without implementing Electronic Plan Review. For many local governments, Electronic Submission is often a great first step towards implementing full fledged Electronic Plan Review at some point in the future. It allows the jurisdiction to put in place the technology and process changes required one step at a time.

Why should my city or county consider Online Submission?

Electronic Submission allows your county to drive efficiencies, allows you to provide a much higher level of service to your customers, and saves you and your customers time and money.

Being able to submit the information online means that your customers:

  • Save money spent on Gas, Parking and Transportation
  • Eliminate the cost relating to printing the application form and related documents on paper
  • Be able to submit the documents from the convenience of their office or home at any time of their choosing
  • Prepares the City / County to start receiving documents online as a stepping stone to Electronic Plan Review

Allowing your customers to submit the information online allows your city/county to:

  • Reduce the number of staff resources required for counter related duties
  • Provide a much higher level of customer service through better tracking of applications received and their current status
  • Align your city or county with the efforts to be more green and save paper

What should I consider while putting an Online Submission system in place?

Local governments would need to take the following things into consideration when deciding to put your Electronic Submission software in place:

a. Choose the appropriate business processes at your city or county as candidates for Electronic Submission. This step is important because only those processes where no red-lining or markup of submitted documents is required are good candidates for Electronic Submission. If you do intend on marking up the submitted documents and giving feedback to your customers then going only with Electronic Submission without Electronic Document Review would be inefficient. This is because your city or county would be responsible for printing the submitted plans on paper so that they can be reviewed.

b. Choose the right technology to receive and manage Application Forms taking into account the various trade-offs for each. In this step your city or county will need to consider various factors such as whether your staff will:

  • Need to perform any Data-entry to transfer information from the submitted forms into your Land Management Software.
  • Be able to design and maintain the application forms themselves without relying on a Software development / IT Team.
  • Need to perform any validations on the information entered into your form by your customers
  • Be able to find all of the forms and documents in one centralized location (such as in your Land Management Software or in a shared storage location)
  • Be able to use the information received in these forms for downstream Decision Making and Reporting activities

c. Consider Training Staff to transition to doing things in a digital environment. Electronic Document Submission might be an ideal first step for staff in your city or county to transition to operating in an electronic world. The leap from paper to receiving documents electronically is not large and can be seen as an incremental yet significant step towards allowing your staff to become more comfortable using latest technology.

 

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