Bright Ideas: Inspection Reporting Made Easy

Web-based reporting systems can streamline inspection processes, helping users efficiently receive, manage and consolidate reports online. Integrators can provide customers increased communication, cost savings and effective code compliance while creating new RMR.

We are all familiar with the idea of contracting with a third-party service provider, such as legal services, human resources and accountants, to name only a few. Here is a lesser known form: Web-based, third-party inspection reporting — a new area that offers installing systems integrators the opportunity to increase recurring revenue and improve efficiencies.

The cloud-based service connects and facilitates cohesive communications among authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs), service providers/companies and commercial property owners. Service providers can distribute, manage and consolidate inspection or any other type of reports/communications with AHJs and property owners through one central Web location. This increases communication and code compliance, and is an environmentally friendly approach offering specific benefits and features for each entity.

What is making Web-based, third-party reporting a new innovation isn’t the actual concept, but the application and platform it uses — the Internet. These systems are breaking away from traditional software programs and streamlining the reporting processes efficiently and effectively. Let’s take a look at how these services are being utilized and the benefits they afford.

The New ‘Third-Party’ Defined

The term “third party” can be misleading in that these Web-based systems don’t offer an actual third service beyond the cloud-based, hosted platform. Web-based reporting systems were initially designed to connect three main entities: AHJs, service providers or inspection companies, and commercial property owners (with emphasis on the inspection process between all three).

Currently, inspection processes between these entities is time consuming, inconsistent, unorganized and anything but cost effective. Due to each entity having its own way of managing, the practice of following up and tracking can be fraught with communication issues. Not to mention economic challenges have greatly reduced staff and budgets for both service providers and AHJs. Trying to follow through using deficient or even critically deficient reporting systems precipitates neglect and can be nearly impossible to track.

Let’s use the current inspection process as an example. Service providers perform an inspection in the field and make the report available to the customer by leaving a paper copy, via mail or E-mail, facsimile, or allow the customer access to it on the provider’s Web site. Nonetheless, the owner will still have to print and file the report. The process of delivering a copy to the AHJ is similar. The issue facing both the owner and the AHJ is they are receiving multiple reports from multiple providers with no centralized collection vehicle.

The inconsistency with the above scenario is that while providers must follow specific codes and standards, the forms and the details specifying issues on these forms vary from entity to entity. It’s difficult to clearly identify status, such as a deficiency, let alone respond in a timely manner — especially if the copies aren’t received until well after the inspection is completed.

For example, “ABC Company” may clearly identify the status of the inspection report on page one, while “XYZ Company” takes the line by line approach. Whether it’s the service provider’s administrative personnel to the fire inspector receiving, separating and maintaining reports with a deficient status, it takes a great amount of time for the current process. And time is money!

Centralization Is Key

The Web-based model offers solutions that traditional pen-and-paper reporting methods, and even software programs, cannot. Many of the companies offering this type of service designed their models based off the issues and complications with the current inspection process.

Centralization is one key solution of the Web-based model. Multiple entities now have the ability to have one centralized location to perform, receive, manage and share data or information. It’s eliminating the entire process of creating a PDF or other type of document and saving it on one’s own server, printing, mailing, faxing or E-mailing, and then finally filing the copy away. Furthermore, it eliminates the need for in-house data storage, as well as each entity having to purchase, install and use the same software program.

Another benefit of the cloud is the ability for real-time and direct access to information and communication. Companies are now able to gain real-time knowledge and solutions for their employees and customers, bridging the communication gap with the current process. Features designed within a Web-based system offer end users the ability to track, follow up and have access to information in a more efficient and timely manner. These systems are fostering and building the relationships between the entities.

“A Web-based system creates a speedy means of offering our customers the ability to follow closely along with our service calls,” says Ivan Mullenix, IT and special products coordinator for Phoenix-based Sierra Fire & Communications. “This system provides perfect follow-up information to our AHJs and customers.”

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