Saving time effort and money in the DA Process by moving correspondence digital – overview and case.

Paper approval process are expensive. Digitising them results in many hard and soft cost savings. The DA process is a prime example of where great work has been done to accept and process applications digitally, but there are still expensive gaps. The majority of councils use Pathway or a similar solution to capture and manage the application, and a product like Trapeze to work on and ultimately stamp the plans for release back to the applicant. Releasing the approved plans back the applicant though is typically still done on paper, as is significant correspondence across the lifecycle of an application and the subsequent project. This release is a significant driver of cost and lost time.

Printing, packaging and sending Development Applications consumes immense amounts of staff time and has both hard and soft costs. Hard costs in the form of delivery and printing costs, and soft costs in both the time taken to complete these routine, low value postage activities, and the time lost to other activities that often fall within the delegations of the same officers.

Hard costs can be tens of thousands for paper approvals and correspondence. Standard letters are a minimum of $1 per sent document and in the case of full development applications that include approved plans, this can be as high as $5 and in some cases must be sent to multiple parties. In the case of one moderately sized council, direct costs saved from postage of around 1200 development approvals were around $18,000. This cost does not include the cost to maintain printers and the costs of printing supplies.

Soft costs can be significant and can add up to many FTEs across processes. A time and motion study at one of our customers indicated that printing and sending a full development application consumed an average of 45 minutes per application. With 1200 full development applications per year, the council was expending around 900 hours of staff time or around 1/2 an FTE just to send approved DAs. For an appropriately qualified staff member, this time could be used to complete 150 – 200 building related incident inspections, significantly expanding the response capacity of the council without incurring cost.

Applicants and owners have also reported significant increases in satisfaction. Posting to an address is often problematic as well as slow and expensive. In one case, a rejection posted to an applicant was not discovered for 3 months – delaying the application and the subsequent development project. Application processes that deliver routine correspondence via email and large content or statutorily required correspondence via post often suffer from this problem. Moving to a full digital engagement, while not appropriate in every situation, can significantly increase the speed of completion and the satisfaction of applicants.

Key Benefits –

  • Confirmed delivery of determinations reduced from a week to under an hour.
  • Significant savings in printing costs – $18,000 for one council across around 1200 applications.
  • Significant savings in staff time – equivalent to 1/2 an FTE for one customer.
  • Significant increase in responsiveness to building incidents.
  • Improved satisfaction of applicants and owners.
  • All content interactions captured in the local authority system of record where supported.

Typically used in Conjunction with –

  • Information Management System – HPE TRIM/RM/CM, Objective ECM, SharePoint based systems.
  • Infor Pathway.
  • Objective Trapeze

What is it used for?

  • Delivery of stamped plans post approval.
  • Secure and private collaboration among the assessment team, contractors and with the applicant and their agents on complex approvals.

Author: Karl Melrose

Thinker about how to think about economics, security, risk, technology and incentives. Out to solve every optimising problem, out to make sure my thinking gets better, every day.

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