I have not yet been through the City of Cincinnati permitting department. I hope that will change soon - until then, here are some comments on the Chicago permitting process I do have experience with:
1) There are a set number of reviews and procedures that need to be accomplished in a predetermined schedule and methodology. This is not written down anywhere. If it is not the same for every project, make sure that it is and provide everyone with this information. "start here, do this, then go here, then do that." Prescriptive and helpful.
2) There were no scheduled meetings for the zoning review, which is required before a general plan review. There are businesses whose only role is to sit outside of City Hall at 5:30am to be first in line every single day to hopefully get through the zoning review process in one day. Others without access to these contractors were forced to sit in the waiting area for up to 8 hours for a 'chance' to get a review. (If anything changed or was incorrect, you had to do it again.)
3) Schedule for completion through the process was guesswork at best. It could potentially be two weeks for a small project plan review with helpful nudging by the local Alderman. Anything else could be up to two months of hoping.
4) I've heard that recently they expanded their E-plan submittal process, that allowed architects and engineers to submit drawings electronically for review. This should be standard in the future for all projects. I don't typically print anything until the contractor needs a set for the construction site. Everything else, including planning, design, coordination, and bidding is done electronically for many offices.