Moving to an Electronic Review Process

Dear Management Doctor:

I participated in your Planning Director's webinar course in 2009 I think. It was so great I convinced my co-worker to attend this year's course.  As a result of participating, two years ago I started looking into electronic review software. I worked with what was formerly known as Project Docs and then reached out to General Code and Business Automated Services. It is very cutting edge for NYS and given the fact that we are a 35,000 population community, we struggled with the cost. 

Through all the research I did, I figured out a way to switch to mostly electronic submissions, purchased laptops for our Planning Board so they could review application materials electronically, and moved our technical staff review from a 4-6 week paper review process to a 2 week electronic process for a total cost of $5,904 ($4680 (at $585 each) for laptops and $1224 for four (one per staff member) Adobe Pro X licenses). It has revolutionized our processes. We are not completely paperless, but for what we have spent, it has shown the elected officials what kind of return on their investments they can expect. 

The Planning Board has been using their laptops since September 2009 with great success. At the Town Board meeting this past Wednedsay, the Town Supervisor suggested it might be time for the Town Board to move to laptops. I intend to move the Zoning Board to laptops as well at some point. Our technical staff has also been able to communicate more effectively with the applicants because instead of putting comments into a memo, they now comment directly on the plans using (FREE) Adobe Reader. The applicants have been very receptive to the new process.

If you would like to learn more about our process to share with others, please give me a call or let me know if there is a good time for me to call you. I have attached a sample of an old PRC memo (our technical review) and a new PRC memo so you can see the difference. We also send the actual pdf maps with the comments on it as well. Since they are typically large documents, I will only attach one as an example.  We use a subscription service Adobe SendNow to send large documents. It is inexpensive and fits our needs.

Take care,
Katie Evans

Click here for the Scribner Rd PRC memo

Click here for the Key Bank PRC memo

Click here for the Key Bank Site Plan

Dear Katie,

Fantastic. It’s nice to see you found a way to get around the high prices. Our emailers will appreciate this and hopefully add a few of their tricks as well.

The Management Doctor

Reader Responses

It is my understanding that when using Adobe, there is a 500 form limit before a fine is levied. That means that if you have more that 500 people complete an application, you can be fined. So before many people run to electronic submissions, you may want to verify this information. I do believe that you may be able to purchase a license that will allow you to have more than 500 but I don’t know for sure nor do I know the cost if it is an option. And yes, I believe that Adobe has the right to set such limits.

I know for many municipal and State governments, this is a growing trend. However, if such a limit exists, it is better to know the full cost before you make such a transition.

Mark E. Stivers
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