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New York City Department of Buildings: Electronic document management

The New York City Department of Buildings (Buildings) oversees the safe and lawful use of more than 975,000 buildings and properties.


Buildings’ main activities include examining construction applications and architectural plans, issuing construction permits, inspecting properties and licensing trades.

Buildings wanted to overcome the many problems associated with both processing and storing voluminous amounts of paperwork. With Accenture’s help, the Buildings Scan and Capture Application Network (B-SCAN) solution was created, capturing high volumes of paperwork into an electronic document management system for immediate and easy retrieval both by internal staff and by the public over the Web.


Since 2002, the New York City Department of Buildings has worked to increase transparency and infuse safety, integrity and accountability into its daily operations. Buildings receives more than 320,000 paper documents from applicants each month, and these paper documents were previously manually routed to various departments across the city’s five Buildings borough offices, extending processing times and increasing the risk of misplaced documents.

Buildings wanted to overcome the many problems associated with both processing and storing such voluminous amounts of paper. Buildings selected Accenture, an experienced partner with innovative yet pragmatic ideas, to collaborate on the development of a next-generation electronic document management system, a system for capturing and storing electronic images of paper documents.


The goal of Buildings Scan and Capture Application Network (B-SCAN) solution, as named by Buildings, was to capture high volumes of paperwork into an electronic document management system for immediate and easy retrieval both by internal staff and by the public over the Web. The system needed to be available 24/7 and account for each piece of paper scanned.

Accenture worked with Buildings and NYC Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) personnel on all aspects of the solution. In a true collaborative effort, Accenture brought a team with both functional and technical skills to work side by side with the Buildings regulatory experts and DoITT technology architects.

The combined teams began with the development of the solution’s vision and strategy. Accenture assisted with translating the ideas into a solution that could be used by a multitude of people in the field. The solution had to be durable, simplistic in its design and able to scale to handle the varying job volumes and application filing types from borough to borough.

The design of B-SCAN incorporated several characteristics of a next-generation electronic document management system. The system was designed to perform distributed scanning, meaning documents can be scanned from different borough locations while being stored in a single repository.

B-SCAN also delivered real-time publishing to the Web, making documents available usually minutes after being scanned.

The solution also provided secured storage and retrieval, producing documents for read-only viewing and unable to be edited by anyone. The solution was designed using a services-based architecture, to provide the flexibility to extend the solution to include additional filing or document types.

B-SCAN also involved implementing process improvements to make the filing of jobs more efficient and reduce lost paper. Greater efficiency was achieved by standardizing a process across all boroughs that eliminates the reliance on paper documents. With B-SCAN, job files are scanned once and then made available electronically almost immediately.

B-SCAN was deployed across New York City’s five boroughs over six months, starting with Staten Island, the borough with the smallest volume of documents, followed by the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and lastly, the borough with the largest document volume, Manhattan. The system for each borough was deployed on schedule and within budget.

Today, B-SCAN interfaces with the Department’s Buildings Information System (BIS) and BIS-on-the-Web Internet and Intranet frameworks. After documents are scanned, they are immediately available to both staff and the public online through the department’s website, which receives more than 500,000 visits daily. In addition, other NYC agencies that depend on B-SCAN documentation can view documents online and no longer require paper exchanges between the agencies.


The next-generation B-SCAN electronic document management system has helped Buildings achieve a tremendous increase in efficiency and effectiveness by dramatically improving its capabilities for receiving, storing and retrieving the vast amount of paper documents it manages. Along with these improvements are gains in service, safety, transparency and accountability to the public.

New York City residents and Buildings customers citywide are benefiting from this next-generation electronic document management system in additional ways:

  • Customer visits and calls to Buildings offices are reduced. Applicants spend 20 percent less time at Buildings by having online access to job documentation.

  • Buildings staff have experienced a 10 percent increase in productivity. Service to customers is consistent across the five boroughs.

  • Disputes between filed applications and filers' claims are reduced because the original documents submitted cannot be replaced or edited.

  • On-site paper storage has decreased 30 percent. B-SCAN reduces paper storage requirements, paper handling and document loss through online retrieval.

  • The reconciliation process verifies that all the required documents have been filed, which allows staff to focus on the review. Management’s ability to track filing documentation and staff processing times has greatly increased control of the business process.

In 2007, B-SCAN received the “Best Application Serving the Public” award as part of the New York City Excellence in Technology Awards Program. Going forward, the solution provides the foundation for future growth to capture all other documentation processed by Buildings—such as plans, architectural drawings and photos—and to electronically submit documents. This potential expansion will enable Buildings to continue its path to high performance.