New Series: Get to Know Your Friendly idtPlans User
There are so many organizations that benefit from using our electronic plan review software, that we here at idtPlans thought it might be a good idea to share some of their perspectives with you. To that end, we’ve started a new quarterly blog series where we can highlight some of the great folks out there using idtPlans, and share how it has affected their day-to-day work.
This month, we spoke with Lauren Simmons, of Brighton, Colorado. Check out her interview below!
NAME: Lauren Simmons, AICP
JOB TITLE: Senior Planner
ORGANIZATION: City of Brighton, CO
Why did the City of Brighton start looking for an electronic plan review platform?
The City started looking for ways to use planning staff’s time more efficiently in a fast-paced growth environment. I came on board with the City of Brighton in early 2015 and saw a great opportunity to use technology to assist planners in managing development projects with electronic plan review. I had worked in a municipality that was using electronic plan review in my previous position and saw that it enabled staff to not only easily manage their own projects in a high-growth environment, but allowed staff to comfortably manage more concurrent projects than Brighton staff were managing at the time.
How long did it take to get the software set up? What was that like?
We met with idtPlans’ staff once a week via GoToMeeting in order to go through all of our paper applications, workflows, processes, and regulatory items. After seven months of steady work from the City’s staff and the staff at idtPlans, we were ready to go fully electronic with a custom website containing all of our land use applications including rezoning, site plans, annexations and plats. idtPlans staff customized the software and work flows where we needed to accommodate our processes and regulatory environment.
What made you decide to go with idtPlans over the competition?
We looked at a few different systems and found that idtPlans had the specific plan review software that we were looking for. Some vendors had a program that we could use for plan review, but it was intended as document review and storage software, or their software did not have all the capability we were looking for. We were also impressed with idtPlans’ support program and ability to customize the review process with the software and the user-friendly interface.
In what ways has idtPlans improved your plan review process?
Our review process before idtPlans depended on the Planner managing the review process by creating review memos, setting up tracking, sorting plan packages, and managing emails and the applicant’s responses. We used many programs that did not talk to each other, so it was up to the Planner to keep track of everything. idtPlans cuts down the original time it takes to send out plans from several hours to just a few clicks of the mouse. We also started using Bluebeam (software) which has been a great improvement over redlining plans manually.
What unexpected features have been the biggest game changers for you and your team? Why?
Definitely adding Bluebeam to our review process. We were redlining plans before, but each reviewer was redlining separately. Bluebeam allows for each reviewer to redline the plans in real time, which reduces redundant comments and allows everyone to be on the same page. It clearly draws the applicant’s attention to marked up areas of the plan sheets and for reviewers, has an overlay feature that makes finding changes from submittal to submittal very easy. We also work closely with a plethora of outside review and viewing agencies due to the regulatory environment in Colorado. idtPlans helps us coordinate directly with those agencies in a timely and efficient manner through its email function that not only gives them immediate access to the plans, but allows their comments to be seen by all the reviewing parties.
How has electronic plan review been received by the community?
We have found the system is easy to use and the community appreciates the precise checklists and application requirements embedded into the system. We worked closely with idtPlans to create several guides and walk-throughs, many of which are now included on the idtPlans website. And, to make these easily accessible to our users, we linked to these documents directly on our custom idtPlans website.
How has your job changed since the implementation of idtPlans Electronic Plan Review?
As a Planner, I spend more time working on the technical aspects of my projects and less time coordinating submittals and administrative functions of the plan review processes. I am also able to assist the management team at the City with project tracking, using idtPlans’ reporting functions as well as their easy to use interface for looking at projects in progress.
Lauren Simmons, AICP is a Senior Planner for the City of Brighton, Colorado. Brighton is a fast-growing community, located on the Front Range of Colorado, just northeast of Denver. Lauren has worked for over 10 years in municipal planning in Florida, North Carolina, and Colorado. A big “thanks” for her time and contributions to this interview.