an electronic counterpart. The Site Plan Form involves quite a bit of information. She made a template in Microsoft Word and bookmarked all the fields so it was easy to integrate into the SIRE work forms. We now have a much simpler way to obtain information.

Manny Ratliff, the city's workflow designer, mapped workflow processes and integrated them into the system.

 
Efficiency Upgrade
The collaboration worked, and a new program was born. The SIRE Site Plan is now in operation.

Contractors and design professionals now work with the city more efficiently than before. We start the process by issuing a PIN, which grants them access to the SIRE program. They fill out online forms that check for errors, perform mathematical functions and help the applicant avoid mistakes when submitting. The applicant also uploads any additional paperwork, such as site drawings, plan sheets and other related documents. This triggers the application review workflow, which is forwarded automatically to the queue of the first reviewer. This reviewer checks the application for errors and confirms the documents have been uploaded.

Once the prints are submitted electronically, a plans examiner receives and reviews them on 32-inch screens. The plans are approved or disapproved electronically. Comments are compiled within the workflow and sent to the applicant. Depending on the outcome, the workflow either ends or loops until all reviewers have approved and "stamped" the plans with an image that looks just like their rubber stamp.

We also use the workflow for miscellaneous permits submitted in-person at city hall. A customer service representative accepts the application over the counter from applicants' scans and uploads the documents into a workflow, which takes the application through the new electronic approval process.

In the end the files are all stored in the EDMS. Cape Coral recycled 18.5 tons of paper in 2007, which illustrates how much space and cost savings can be created using electronic file management. 

Moving the system to an electronic document format brought an added element of security to the city. With the electronic backup in place, the files are not at risk from a hurricane or other disaster. In addition, paper-based items can get lost.

Previously, issued permits and documents were stored in a series of giant, mechanical file cabinets. To retrieve a file, we entered a file number on a keypad, and the file cabinet rotated and found the file. However, if the person who pulled the file did not place the "out" card in the right place, the file could be difficult to find again. Citywide e-mails would be sent by staff members who were looking for a particular permit, when the file was simply sitting on someone's desk. With SIRE, several people can view the same file simultaneously. The file is electronic and cannot be lost.

By incorporating these strategies, our customers can save up to $1,000 per application. In addition, time and paper resources are saved.  

We have realized a savings of 11,000 to 15,000 labor hours to date, and we expect to save from 20,000 to 30,000 hours as we continue to build the program.

We also created more space in our buildings by reorganizing the office and eliminating more than 50 percent of our file cabinets because we no longer need to retain and store paper files.

Our vision was to be a state leader in electronic document management, and we ended up setting an example for the rest of the United States. We are constantly helping other city and county governments that seek to emulate our system.

When our director of community development asked me what we can expect to get out of this project, I said we will have the best site-plan application system in the world. I think we are well on our way to making that happen.

Joe Mascari  |  Contributing Writer
Joe Mascari is the business systems analyst and workflow project manager with the Cape Coral Department of Community Development.