Think back to pre-pandemic times. There are a lot of good memories – movies in theaters, gatherings with friends and families, indoor dining in restaurants, and all without masks. But it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. The pre-pandemic mode of business for permitting and public sector agencies was the reality of hand delivering cumbersome and heavy paper plan rolls. And having to wait in busy waiting rooms and lobbies to submit plans. It was crowded and uncomfortable and took up a LOT of time in the day, not to mention travel time for applicants to get to the agency. Then to add insult to injury, an applicant, as often as not, found themselves circling parking lots over and over hoping to snag a parking space as soon as it became available. Or worse, too often, they would have to park blocks away and then carry their heavy rolls of plans for the distance.
Step forward to present day. Virtually all agencies and businesses have been forced to adapt to a new way of working. Mandates are in place that require distancing and remote work when at all possible. Agencies that are still working with traditional paper plan reviews have had to change their mode of operations dramatically, just to stay open for business. But it hasn’t been easy, and in some cases, employees have been furloughed as a result. Processes that historically take weeks or months, are now taking even longer due to the workarounds needed just to receive new and adjusted plans. If there’s one upside for these agencies, it’s that their waiting rooms cannot be crowded, and that means parking lots are also not impacted. Doesn’t sound like much of a victory, does it?
But what if those agencies could operate at full capacity and still work within mandates for remote work, and as a result avoid crowded waiting rooms and parking lots? (Hint: they can!)
Got your attention? Now let’s take a look at the agencies who have adopted a cloud-based electronic plan review model. It’s a very different scenario. Employees can work from anywhere and from any device with a secure internet connection. Intake is performed online, and at any time of day or night. Communications and each stage of the review are conducted electronically, and without the lag time that occurs with paper plan reviews. Parking lots and lobbies are no longer overcrowded and no longer causing risky proximity to others. These agencies are now operating in a practical and sustainable remote collaboration model. In fact, agencies who sought improved efficiency in their permitting and plan review procedures and found the high value and immediate ROI of a cloud-based electronic plan review model were able to maintain business continuity without interruption when distancing mandates were imposed. Their customer satisfaction is higher – their plans are being reviewed, processed, and approved faster than ever before, and with far less inconvenience than ever before. It’s not a coincidence.
Comparing the two previous scenarios, it’s easy to see the difference in outcomes. One option offers a better bottom line, sustains employment, improves customer satisfaction, increases productivity, complies with social distancing mandates, reduces the carbon footprint of the agency, and exemplifies fiscal responsibility to constituents. The other…doesn’t. But the common factor among all public sector agencies is their responsibility to their customers and their purpose to serve their constituents.
As society gradually reopens, many public sector agencies are planning to move forward with dated plans to expand and add parking lots in an effort to accommodate agency traffic. But such initiatives are effectively an investment in the past and in outdated modes of operation – essentially, a very expensive Band-Aid. A more practical approach is to improve efficiency, while reducing traffic, which will produce better outcomes now and into the future.
Improving, expanding, or building new parking lots can easily cost millions in taxpayer dollars. WGI reported that in 2019, the median cost for a new parking structure was $21,500 per space, which is up 5.1% from the previous year, and the cost continues to rise. Remember, construction rates for government work will be higher than in the private sector, as they will work with unions and the unions’ prevailing wage. The resulting space dedicated for parking will be top quality and should last for years to come. However, the investment supports antiquated operations, and the expenditure does not improve efficiency, productivity, customer satisfaction, or even support maintaining the workforce. It works to exactly the opposite effect.
Plans that support inefficiency and work to suppress progress and improved service to constituents should, at the very least be examined and compared against the opportunity to provide better service to the community.
Agencies who have transitioned to digital operations, specifically in their plan review and permitting operations, have not only improved efficiency and service to the community but have made a very practical decision toward their future and have served as an example to other agencies who would be well served by a similar strategy.
The investment in the future via a cloud-based electronic plan review solution offers:
- Efficiency: Plan reviews are processed up to 50% faster. Communications and each stage of the review occurs quickly, with automatic notifications.
- Remote collaboration: Reviews can be conducted from anywhere and any device with a secure internet connection. Teams operate in sync and collaborate in real-time, eliminating unnecessary delays.
- Flexible and remote intake: Applicants and homeowners can upload plans and revisions through an online portal. There is no need to interrupt other obligations in order to travel to the agency. And there are no issues with parking or crowded waiting rooms.
- Reduced carbon footprint: Electronic plan reviews render paper plans as unnecessary. 100% digital plan reviews save thousands of dollars in printing, eliminate wasted paper and reduce traffic on the roads.
- Increased customer satisfaction: Builders and homeowners appreciate the quicker time to approval without inconvenience and lengthy approval times.
- Supports and sustains the workforce: When operations can be fully performed remotely, employees are able to continue with their work, maintain and improve the level of work performed, and there is no need for furloughs.
From every perspective, it is the logical approach to invest in technology that maintains and improves the future of the agency, rather than to steer precious budget funds in a futile effort to sustain ineffective processes.
Did you see your organization in any of these considerations?
e-PlanREVIEW® from e-PlanSoft™ is trusted by public sector agencies across the country to improve their plan reviews and to maintain business continuity even in the face of distancing mandates. Agencies who have adopted e-PlanREVIEW report up to 50% faster plan reviews, with this easy to learn and easy to use plan review solution. This leading-edge cloud-based solution allows for real-time remote collaboration among all stakeholders, improved communications, greater customer satisfaction, and more.
To learn more about e-PlanREVIEW, contact us at email@example.com.