Digital Marketing

Are you electronically filing your right-of-way paperwork?

Managing a right-of-way (ROW) project that spans multiple states and estimating the associated cost and schedule has long been a complex problem. Enormous effort is usually spent on gathering and researching information, negotiating, and ultimately ensuring compliance with laws to record the transaction. Standardizing and maintaining common practices across the organization, especially those that operate in multiple states and support multiple internal processes, pose additional challenges. More exciting is integrating a ROW management system with the company’s financial asset, imaging and payables management systems. As ROW’s knowledgeable staff retire or move, more and more companies are realizing the high cost of retaining the knowledge base and transitioning to the new workforce, especially in light of internal and external processes. constantly changing. This is a rapidly growing concern given the impending retirement of baby boomers from the workforce.

Today, with many e-Government and electronic filing initiatives, some of these pains will go away. This article discusses a fairly standard way of obtaining rights of way and the significant savings that come with electronic document management, workflow automation, and electronic collaboration with government agencies. Using an electric power company as an example, this article shows how an end-to-end ROW procurement process can be managed.

A lifestyle

Traditionally, the first activity with a ROW project is to develop a budget and schedule estimate. This estimate has multiple components and its accuracy varies depending on the experience level of ROW staff and the quality of information available to them. The cost of ownership, labor, documentation and legal fees are certainly key factors on the minds of project managers. Large projects are more vulnerable to budget overruns due to the size and complexity involved. On large projects, a project manager leads a team of agents who coordinate various activities such as surveying, negotiating with owners, and perhaps the painful condemnation or expropriation process. This team of agents is responsible for completing easement documents that comply with local and state laws. To add to the complexity, each local and state government has specific dictated formats depending on the particular type of property owner (corporation, person), notarial clauses, etc. In addition, the team must select from several alternate routes and easements, then file documents with status and multiple recipients, and distribute reports.

A plethora of paperwork

These legal recordable documents are complex and vary widely by state and type of owner. Added to this is another set of internal forms and several letters sent to owners and other interface bodies. This process requires a great deal of effort and expertise for an agent to understand and complete the required paperwork within the utility, not to mention all the permutations of state and local government formats.

Despite expensive training or recruitment of specialized skill sets, document generation is error-prone and time-consuming. If the document is submitted incorrectly, late, or incorrectly, the cost and potential liability of these errors are significant. Although the agent negotiates with the property owner to define the proper legal documents, the project manager must deal with the resulting responsibilities. At a minimum, wasted time slows down an already cumbersome process and delays project completion. Missing approvals and other document errors can be catastrophic for the project.

For the utility industry, there are no uniform document standards across various state, county, and local governments, resulting in hundreds of potential legally recordable documents, letters, and forms. Complex legal disputes, especially around expropriation processes, can take a long time, sometimes years. Incorrect or late submissions may result in penalties and further delays. As project managers can coordinate multiple projects at the same time, each with multiple agents in different geographic areas under varying state and local requirements, it is clear that the Right of Way workflow is an issue that requires optimization.