GIS Centric Asset Management: Using Time Aware Data

Over the past year or so we’ve seen Elements XS users take advantage of Esri’s time aware technology within Elements XS to accomplish some pretty neat things related to asset management.

Time aware layers allow us to see where activities are taking place over time - for example, we can see where Service Orders (or inspections, work orders, preventive maintenance activities, and so on) were created during a certain time period.  We can then compare time periods and analyze how the map looked during a different time period.

Why is this helpful? A few things we’ve seen:

  • If there’s a major event (at a utility, for example) that’s affecting many assets in a certain geographic area, we can compare that event to other similar events that may have occurred in other geographic areas.
  • If we can determine that a certain geographic area of our system is having an abnormally hight amount of issues during certain times of the year, we might be able to gain some insight as to what’s going on with that specific geographic region - are these problems weather related? soil related? was there another external event that triggered these issues?
  • If we can see patterns over time we may be able to prevent (or predict) major events - for example, if leading up to the last major event (water main break, for example) there was a high number of pressure calls in a specific geographic region, we can look for similar patterns in other geographic regions to mitigate risk.
  • We can also use this to analyze operations and crew performance - why does it take so much longer to do work on one side of town than the other side of town?
  • We can use this data to make sure we’re providing the standards defined in our Service Level Agreements - when a leak occurred in a certain area of town, how long did it take before service was restored? How did that compare to another leak that happened at a different point in time in a different geographic area?

In summary, there are lots of ways to integrate time aware data with asset management - if you’d like to learn more about how we work with time aware data in Elements XS, or if you’d like to learn more about Elements XS, drop us a line, we’d love to hear from you.

Comparison: Elements XS and the Cityworks Extension for Geocortex Essentials

A Brief Introduction 

Elements XS uses the Geocortex Essentials platform throughout the application - we love Geocortex Essentials.  Geocortex greatly enhances the overall flexibility of Elements XS and we think it gives Elements XS a competitive edge over other asset management applications in the space.

Latitude Geographics (the developers of Geocortex Essentials) offers an extension for Cityworks - a product that directly competes with Elements XS.  So the question arises, why should an organization choose Elements XS over the Cityworks Extension for Geocortex Essentials? Or the other way around?

To start, let’s quickly compare the two solutions:

Cityworks Extension for Geocortex 

The Cityworks extension for Geocortex is built and maintained by Latitude Geographics.  It consists of a set of workflow activities and pre-built workflows to create targeted applications that reflect unique business processes; faster, at less cost and in a way that can be maintained over the long term.  Essentially, it makes Cityworks quicker and easier to use in certain scenarios.

Elements XS

Elements XS is built and maintained by Novotx.  Novotx is a Latitude Geographics Technology Partner and we work closely with Latitude in our efforts.  Elements XS is a comprehensive asset and work management application geared toward utilities, public works, and municipal operations.  Elements XS utilizes and is built around the Geocortex Essentials technology - Geocortex is utilized throughout Elements XS and the Elements XS application code references Geocortex in many instances.

Key Differences Between the Two Solutions

There are a few key differences between Cityworks + the Extension and Elements XS.  The primary difference is that Elements XS is built on the Geocortex Essentials platform and the Geocortex Essentials map viewers are used exclusively throughout Elements XS.  There are no other map viewers.  In contrast, the Cityworks application has it’s own map viewer, but the Geocortex map viewer adds functionality - replacing the Cityworks viewer in certain scenarios to improve functionality and performance. 

It's also worth noting that when using the Cityworks Extension for Geocortex Essentials, you're not actually working in Cityworks - you're working in Geocortex, and the data gets passed to and from Cityworks.  In Elements XS, you are actually working in Elements XS while using Geocortex so the integration is much tighter.

In summary, Geocortex Essentials does not get added on to (or used alongside) Elements XS to add additional functionality or enhance usability, whereas the opposite is the case with Cityworks - the Cityworks Extension is used alongside the core Cityworks product to provide added value.  Elements XS is built on the Geocortex Essentials platform, fully integrated throughout, providing (we think at least) a better, more flexible map viewer across the board.

The Geocortex Essentials map viewers are embedded directly in Elements XS and used by Elements XS as the exclusive map viewers throughout the application.

The Geocortex Essentials map viewers are embedded directly in Elements XS and used by Elements XS as the exclusive map viewers throughout the application.

When is the Cityworks extension the best option?

Well, that probably depends on who you ask - but the way we see it, if an organization is already heavily invested in Cityworks and they like the Cityworks company and platform, but they’re not getting the performance or flexibility they’d like, they’d probably be well served by the Cityworks extension for Geocortex Essentials.  Of course switching to Elements XS is an option, but the juice might not be worth the squeeze in this case.

When is Elements XS the best option?

If someone does not have asset management, or if they’re looking to switch to something new - maybe they’re not getting what they want out of their current system (be it Cityworks or something else), Elements XS is probably a good choice.

Do I have to purchase Geocortex Essentials to use Elements?

Geocortex Essentials comes packaged with Elements XS as part of the Elements XS purchase price.

I already have Geocortex Essentials - can I use my existing Geocortex license?

Absolutely! You can use your existing Geocortex license with Elements XS - no need to purchase anything else.

In Summary

Both options are great, and different solutions are going to work for different people in different situations.  Geocortex Essentials is a great product.  Cityworks is a great product. The Cityworks Extension for Geocortex Essentials is a great product.  And, of course, we think Elements XS is a great product.  If you’d like to learn more, drop us a line below!

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Tools for Utility Supervisors: GIS Based Asset Management That Performs

Essentially, utility supervisors in local government positions have 5 daily objectives: 

  1. Which jobs need to be done?
  2. Who’s doing the work?
  3. How soon will the work be completed?
  4. Are we within budget?
  5. How can we plan ahead?

Problems come when one of those daily objectives is not met or one of the questions does not get answered in a timely manner. Having the tools to answer these daily objectives are necessary to staying ahead of the work and assist in fulfilling requests from other departments or administrators. 

A company with similar objectives can be found in Roane County, Tennessee. Rockwood: Water, Sewer, and Gas, a small utility company has the difficult task of managing 6 departments: Water, Sewer, Gas, Water Plant, Sewer Plant & Garbage.  For many years Rockwood was managing their assets with spreadsheets. This practice became very time consuming and difficult to generate reports and make practical business decisions. 

Rodney Griffin, Rockwood Water Distribution Superintendent, explains how difficult things were: 
 

“Before, if you wanted to keep up with everything you had to create a spreadsheet. We had to keep up with all the paper work in folders. If you took vacation you had to get with who was covering for and give them a copy of all your paper work so they would know what your crew was assigned for that week. We had to have weekly meetings just to go over what was being done with the GM.”


When looking for a solution to this and many other challenges that come from running six departments, Rockwood wanted to benefit from the advancements in GIS. By integrating their operations with their GIS they could visualize all the work that was taking place and that needed to be done. The maps provided a simple tool to assign jobs, develop reports based on location, and complete other routine tasks. The software they chose to integrate with their ESRI ArcGIS platform was Elements XS3 from Novotx. 


Software Essentials
Rockwood had several ideas as to the features they needed when researching an asset and work order management system. Some of the features included:

  • Software that interacts directly with their map services via ESRI’s ArcGIS for Server or ArcGIS Online.  
  • When doing updates in their work order software, they wanted those changes to be automatically updated in their GIS so that the geodatabase would be the single, authoritative dataset for all spatial assets with no coping or synchronized of data.
  • A mapping tool with integrated query layers to graphically represent data including locations of work, labor, types of work, job costing details, and more.  
  • Geofences to define job routing and other workflow processing criteria
  • Heat maps, feature clustering, and map-based reporting to enhance the GIS
  • Map viewers that work well on any device in any standard web browser.  
Elements XS Mobile Workspace, utilized to manage Blowoffs at Rockwood WSG

Elements XS Mobile Workspace, utilized to manage Blowoffs at Rockwood WSG

 

Rodney Griffin from Rockwood talks about one of the reasons why they chose Elements, 
 

“Elements ties into our ESRI mapping so with this the employees can see the map live from the field and we can create instant maintenance tasks for them. The Blowoffs are GPS points on our ESRI map, with Elements we can create GIS assets to tie work orders to the Blowoffs, This helps us with all of our system maintenance and keeping reports for them.”


Tailored Workspaces
As to not create confusion, it was important to Rockwood to set up unique workspaces for each employee. This principle allows different users to access different application interfaces, each tailored to meet the unique needs of specific job functions.

Mr. Griffin explains why unique workspaces are important: 
 

“You can set the software filters for the crews so that they only see the work that they need to for that day. If you assign them a task for Friday they will not see the task until Friday. You have a dashboard that not only shows you what you have to do but the people that cover for you will see it too!"
Elements XS | GIS Based Asset Management at Rockwood WSG

Elements XS | GIS Based Asset Management at Rockwood WSG

  
Automatic Workflows
Rockwood wanted to use a data management technology that allowed them to create any custom dataset and associate that information to other assets.  This would help them to design custom permits, licenses, inspections, and any other type of custom form.  These forms can then be combined with the workflow designer to automate business processes and guide them through the processes of managing unique workflows.


Mr. Griffin continues: 
 

“If an employee takes the chlorine reads and they are below the low level the software will automatically create a work task to Re-Flush; scheduled 7 days after the original task. We have these designed to be assigned to the Supervisor so that they are aware of the issue.”


Rockwood understands that they are new to the software and have only configured a small amount of what Elements XS3 can do. Their hope for the future is to continually build workflows to speed up processes and streamline the work.  

Article by Michael Boyd of Novotx

About Novotx
Located near Salt Lake City, Utah, Novotx develops, maintains, and implements the Elements XS3 application.  Novotx has been developing GIS-based asset and work management software since 2004 and has customers throughout the US and Canada.

City of Covington Finds Success Using Elements XS3 for GIS Based Asset Management

The City of Covington, WA has successfully implemented GIS based asset management for streets, parks, and stormwater assets in their Public Works Department.  The City has integrated their ArcGIS platform with Elements XS3 to track and coordinate efforts in Public Works and maximize their GIS investment.

The City has found value in three primary areas using Elements XS3 together with their ArcGIS platform:

  1. Visualizing work history and related data using GIS
  2. Saving time by implementing custom workflows, tailoring processes to specific users
  3. Generating reports to focus on quantifiable metrics

For asset maintenance, the City of Covington was looking to enhance their current GIS with software that works directly with ESRI rather than act as an application extension. The City was able to accomplish this by leveraging Elements XS3’s full, consistent integration with Geocortex Essentials and ESRI’s ArcGIS platform.

Covington’s GIS Administrator, Shawn Buck, describes the before and after:

“The map viewer has greatly increased the accuracy of reporting on assets. It has given our department the ability to log into the website and see all of the city’s physical assets in one place.  No more thumbing through a binder to find an asset number, just click and enter the job information. The mapping element improved the consistency between our assets so the information is accurately tracked.” 

The integration between GIS and Elements XS3 has given the City of Covington the ability to utilize the full power of the Windows Workflow Foundation and HTML5 map viewer technology by tailoring maps and simplifying workflow processes for individual users.

The City has streamlined workflows for streets, parks, and stormwater operations by creating custom workflows and integrating those workflows with Elements XS3. 

Shawn Buck, describes the importance of workflows in the City of Covington, WA    :

“Determining which tasks we wanted to streamline was really important to the guys in the field.  The workflows we built using the Workflow Designer have saved the field staff time on data entry, reducing the time required for data input and giving them more time to focus on field work.”  

Quantifiable metrics have proven critical to the City.  Using the included reports and analytics designers, the City of Covington is able to clearly measure performance and other asset related metrics. 

According to Mr. Buck:

“Reporting on work has been the biggest improvement over the previous system.  Being able to click on an asset and know you are putting hours towards something that is accurate helps produce much richer data.  The previous system had difficulty producing data you could be confident in due to the inaccuracy that occurs from shuffling paper around. Reports are being generated now that were not possible with the old system.”

What’s Next? The City of Covington plans to expand Elements XS3 to better help with distribution of work amongst field crews and managing citizen requests to improve response times.

Using GIS to Streamline & Automate Asset Management

Located in central Ohio, Del-Co Water Company has found success using GIS together with Elements XS3 to automate workflow processes and streamline operations.

Del-Co has been using Elements XS3 for customer service, work orders, and other maintenance activities since January of 2014.  During the initial procurement process, Del-Co was seeking a highly-configurable application that could be customized to match their unique operations while streamlining existing data collection and workflow processes. 

Del-Co’s GIS Administrator, Mike Pritchard, GISP, describes the before and after:

“Prior to Elements, Del-Co heavily relied on several different sources to track their daily workflows and asset management.  In addition to committing to Elements, Del-Co invested in developing a GIS to integrate with Elements and better track assets.  Prior to these applications, access to information related to the system existed in the former billing and work order management systems, access databases, paper records, employee memory, and other means of data storage and management.  With Elements and GIS, Del-Co has been able to achieve more centralized data management, work order completion, better streamlined work processes and better communication between departments.  Having a companywide asset management system has greatly improved the day-to-day operations of all areas of the water management processes.”

In particular, Del-Co has found value in the unique Dynamic Data structure of Elements, which allows users to create unlimited custom fields and unlimited custom form layouts, then trigger custom events off of this data and access the information via any standard report designer.

Mike Pritchard, GISP, describes where Del-Co has found success:

“The dynamic data capabilities have greatly improved record keeping and reporting on assets.  The customization of Elements is what makes the product so flexible to the organization and with the correct skill set, very enhanced.  Prior to GIS and Elements, tasks such as valve exercising, hydrant winterizing, hydrant painting, or subdivision plan review, were difficult to track with data stored in a variety of places.  The data was there but making use of it or correctly managing the programs was difficult to access and report on.  For instance, selecting a group of valves to exercise and then managing the exercise tasks proved to be a challenge.  Now a user can select the valves on a GIS web map, have it generate the tasks, then use a GIS layer to manage the tasks.  Also, cross department workflows such as tap installations were broken up by each departments data management methods and data was not always properly associated to the asset during the process.  With Elements and GIS workflows, the service orders are guided through the process even with multiple departments involved.” 
“The integration of GIS and Elements has improved the management of GIS assets.  For instance Del-Co has over 15,000 water line valves on the distribution system.  It is difficult to associate a valve with an address so the spatial component allows for these to be easily managed.  The map has also improved production so a field worker can see his tasks for the day on the map and create a plan to effectively complete all tasks.  An example of this would be for a meter tech to complete double checks on misread meters as they will use the map to know where these occur based off tasks created in the office from the UMS utility billing software.”  

Del-Co has also created their own custom workflows using the workflow designer applications included with the product.

“We have created some nice workflows that provide an easier, more efficient way to complete work.  For instance, if we need to alert customers of a line break, customer contact information needs to be collected and sent to an IVR or create a mailing.  With the GIS, Elements, and our UMS utility billing software fully connected, a user can select a group of customers from the map and a workflow automatically generates this data from our billing system and produces the necessary document.  We have also taken it a step further when we have a system shutdown due to an event such as a leak - there is a workflow to generate a service order based off a point on the map.  The information from this workflow is passed to another workflow to relate to the customer data to the original service order for the leak.”

Del-Co also utilizes a seamless integration with Geocortex Essentials; meaning Elements can utilize the Geocortex Essentials engine 100% of the time for all mapping requirements. The integration between these two applications has given Del-Co Water the ability to utilize the full power of the Geocortex Workflow Designer and HTML5 viewer technology to deploy tailored maps and simplify workflow processes for individual users and departments throughout the service area.

What’s Next? Del-Co plans to use the rating systems in Elements XS3 to score assets and expand the use of risk analysis tools in order to visualize potential problem areas and use preventive maintenance to address issues before they occur.

About Del-Co Water Company

Located in central Ohio, Del-Co Water is a privately-held public drinking water company with a service area that stretches into six counties. As of 2015, Del-Co Water has successfully implemented the Elements XS3 asset and work management software across their utility services and maintenance. Currently they are utilizing Elements XS3 to connect all departments including Distribution, Metered Services, Engineering, Operations, Administration, Maintenance, and IT. 

About Novotx

Located near Salt Lake City, Utah, Novotx develops, maintains, and implements the Elements XS3 application.  Novotx has been developing GIS-based asset and work management software since 2004 and has customers throughout the US and Canada.

2016 National User Group Conference

NVTX_2016_SF_01-web.jpg

Date: October 12-13, 2016 / San Francisco, CA

Registration Deadline: June 30, 2016

REGISTRATION FEE: $350
(PER PERSON, PER CONFERENCE)

Contact Info
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Please select both options if you/your company plan on attending the entire conference.
Optional pre-conference training will be provided on Tuesday, October 11. If anyone from your organization is interested please indicate here.
This course is an extra $500 per attendee.
Price for non-registered conference attendees is $100 per person.

An invoice will be created once registration is submitted. You will be responsible for payment upon receipt.

For payment arrangements, please contact Susan Cole, scole@cusi.com or 870-336-2225.

Ultra Flexible Asset Management with the City of Maple Valley

The City of Maple Valley, WA has successfully implemented Elements XS together with Geocortex Essentials for a complete asset and work management application across their street maintenance, stormwater, and parks departments.

The City manages citizen requests, work orders, and other maintenance activities using a seamless integration between Elements XS and Geocortex Essentials.  Elements XS goes beyond a basic application extension and offers a full, seamless integration with Geocortex Essentials; meaning Elements XS can utilize the Geocortex Essentials engine 100% of the time for all mapping requirements.   The integration between the applications has given the City of Maple Valley the ability to utilize the full power of the Geocortex Workflow Designer and HTML5 viewer technology to deploy tailored maps and simplify workflow processes for individual users and departments throughout the City.

Feature clustering is used to show where staff labor is taking place throughout the City.

Feature clustering is used to show where staff labor is taking place throughout the City.

Heat maps are used to show where high concentrations of work are taking place.

Heat maps are used to show where high concentrations of work are taking place.

 

The City of Maple Valley has used Elements XS together with Geocortex to manage asset inspections and maintenance activities performed both by internal staff and outside contractors.

Steve Kincade, GISP, GIS Administrator for the City explains:

“Prior to having an asset management system to manage our City’s assets, staff had no way to quantify the amount of work that went in to the creation or maintenance of our facilities or infrastructure.  With the advent of the powerful and intuitive Elements XS software, the City now has the capability of tracking actual work done on any asset – both spatial and non-spatial.”

“The implementation of Elements XS for our work order/asset management system has allowed us to not only bring additional value to our taxpayers through improved spatial management of our stormwater facilities, but also give us the means to further achieve compliance with our state-mandated National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) phase 2 permit.”

“Before having a work order/asset management system software, inspections were tracked on cumbersome Excel spreadsheets that were hard to use and extract relevant information from. Using Elements XS, we now are able to schedule, track, and manage the inspections of our stormwater facilities with ease, generate informative reports for our stakeholders, and visualize where each inspection has occurred spatially using Geocortex Essentials.”

“Elements XS and Geocortex Essentials work seamlessly together, providing robust and intuitive tools to fully customize all of our internal business processes as needed.”

One example of the integration includes a streamlined workflow to report citizen requests; office personnel use a custom workflow activity to generate incoming requests - Service Orders are then created and automatically routed to appropriate personnel based on the type of request.  Technicians have live access to GIS and other asset management data to help them complete the job.

Labor distribution is managed using Elements XS to help administration analyze where time is being allocated and better serve the citizens of Maple Valley.  The City uses heat maps and feature clustering to view areas where high volumes of labor are required and where high volumes of work are taking place.

Simple reports and dashboards help illustrate what's taking place throughout the City.

Simple reports and dashboards help illustrate what's taking place throughout the City.

According to Mr. Kincade:

“Using Geocortex Essentials with Elements XS, we are able to take our work order information to the next level by generating unique mapping visualizations of our data that help our stakeholders make informed, data-driven decisions about potential maintenance, improvements, and new infrastructure.”

“Our maintenance staff have really enjoyed the simple, intuitive interface that Elements XS provides – which make viewing daily tasks or managing work orders easy and efficient.”

“Because Elements XS is so scalable and customizable, we were able to think outside of the proverbial “utility” asset management box and extend its capabilities beyond just our Public Works department to help us manage and maintain our Parks and Recreation department assets as well.”

 

What's Next? The City plans to integrate Elements XS with other software used by the City to automate the scheduling of Parks and Recreation resources as well as spend more time working with the Elements XS Analytics and Workflow Designers to streamline operations and generate targeted dashboard reports for administration.

Integrating GIS with Work Orders and Asset Management

Integrating our Elements XS3 software with ESRI’s ArcGIS platform for work orders and asset management is what we do all day every day.  Regardless of which app(s) you’re considering or which approach you’re looking to take, here are three quick things to help you through the process.

1. Keep it simple

Few things in life are worse than the gut wrenching realization that you just purchased a software package that’s way too complicated for your staff to use.  Make sure the interface is flexible enough to accommodate different user roles and job functions.  For example, Elements XS3 utilizes unique “workspaces” tailored to different job functions - the mobile guys see only what they need to see, the inventory guy sees his own thing, the people creating and dispatching Service Orders see what they need to, and so on.

2. Keep it open

There’s a fine line here - you want the software to be flexible, but too flexible can sometimes mean you’re dealing with a blank canvas and configuring the app quickly becomes a daunting task.  The philosophy behind Elements XS3 tends to be more along the lines of “design the system how you want it” as opposed to “do things the way the software thinks you should”.  We provide guidance during implementation process to help get the software configured, but with the powerful Workflow Designer, Workflow Processing Engine, and Dynamic Data tools unique to Elements XS3 customers are able to design their own processes start to finish.

3. Leverage your GIS

Is the software GIS-Centric or GIS-Based or something else? What’s the difference and how should I use my GIS?  Good questions, they top the list of questions we receive every day.

Here’s the bottom line, regardless of terminology:

The ESRI ArcGIS geodatabase should be the single authoritative asset repository for any spatial asset. 

This (typically) means a live connection to your GIS via ArcGIS for Server to avoid copying or synchronizing any feature data.  That’s the way Elements XS3 does it, as do several other apps on the market. 

As for the GIS-Centric vs. GIS-Based terminology - at one point a group of folks created the NAGCS (National Association of GIS-Centric Solutions) to try to clarify what it actually means and certify apps as “GIS-Centric”, but as of this writing the website is “parked free, courtesy of GoDaddy”.

Most important is definitely not the terminology - most important is to make sure the software is built around the people who will actually be using the app - which means a simple interface, flexibility for workflow process control, and a smart GIS integration.

If you'd like to learn more about how we integrate GIS with work orders and asset management, drop us a line.

2015 User Conference Registration

Ready for some serious XS3 training?  Please register below to reserve your spot at the 2015 Elements XS3 User Conference.  The registration fee is $350 per person; we'll send an invoice after you register.

Note that you'll need to contact the hotel to reserve your rooms separately.

Date: October 12-13, 2015 / Nashville, TN

Registration Deadline: Sept. 11, 2015

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We'll be doing several training sessions based solely on user-requested topics; if there's something specific you'd like to learn let us know!

City of Springville Finds Success with GIS-Based Asset Management & Geocortex Essentials

The City of Springville, Utah has successfully implemented Elements XS together with Geocortex Essentials for a complete asset and work management application across their water, sewer, storm drain, pressurized irrigation, streets, sanitation, and power generation and distribution departments.

The City manages service requests, work orders, inspections, and routine maintenance activities using a seamless integration between Elements XS and Geocortex Essentials.  Elements XS goes beyond a basic application extension and offers a full, seamless integration with Geocortex Essentials; meaning Elements XS can utilize the Geocortex Essentials engine 100% of the time for all mapping requirements.   The integration between the applications has given the City of Springville the ability to utilize the full power of the Geocortex Workflow Designer and HTML5 viewer technology to deploy user-specific maps and simplify workflow processes for individual users and departments throughout the City, including the mobile workforce.

According to Michael Philp, GIS Analyst at Springville City:

The power of the Geocortex HTML5 viewer along with the ability to customize specific workflows for our field crews is key for us. Field workers prefer to work from the map view as much as possible and ElementsXS paired with Geocortex Essentials makes that possible for us.

One example of the integration includes a streamlined workflow to dispatch meter readers in the Power department; office personnel use a custom workflow activity to validate an address against the utility billing software and generate a Service Order to dispatch a meter technician.  Meter technicians have an iPad based map, specific to their job function that shows the locations of each activity that is assigned to them.  Technicians have access to meter and customer information from the utility billing software; to complete the work the technician selects the job on the map using the Essentials HTML5 viewer, enters the data using a custom Geocortex workflow, and the data is sent to Elements XS where the Service Order processed.  The job is then automatically removed from the meter tech's map and routed back to the Finance department for review.

Sewer and Storm departments utilize the integration between Geocortex Essentials and Elements XS to complete infrastructure inspections.  Inspection results are rated and scored in order for the superintendent to find problem areas and efficiently manage work that's taking place.  The technicians perform the inspections by clicking on the asset on the map and using a Geocortex Essentials workflow to capture and send the data to Elements XS and ArcGIS for Server where the data is analyzed.

The Water department utilizes the integration to manage water main breaks, meter reads, and all other service calls.  The integration between Elements XS and their utility billing software also provides real-time meter data and customer information for field technicians.

In the Streets department, custom Essentials workflows are integrated with Elements XS to manage sign installations and repairs, sidewalk deficiencies, and pavement work.  All data is captured and sent to Elements XS in real-time where managers can manage workloads and easily track work history by clicking on an asset in the Geocortex HTML5 map viewer and viewing the asset management data from Elements XS in real-time.

The Power Generation department uses Elements XS to track routine inspections on equipment as well as reactive service items on non-spatial infrastructure.

What's Next? The City plans to spend more time working with the Elements XS Analytics tools and continue to streamline operations for individual users by creating custom workflows with Essentials and Elements XS.

Integrating Elements XS3 with Geocortex Essentials

When it comes to mapping technologies based on ESRI’s ArcGIS platform, it’s hard to match the quality and stability of what you’ll find from the folks at Latitude Geographics.

Since 2012 we’ve been working with Latitude Geographics and helping customers implement the Geocortex Essentials product alongside our Elements XS application.

The end result? A GIS-based asset and work management application that utilizes the best mapping engine on the market and provides a simplistic, flexible asset management solution for government and utilities.

In the case of an Elements XS / Geocortex Essentials deployment, the integration is a bit deeper than the Geocortex Essentials extensions available for other applications - in our case  users have the option of utilizing Geocortex Essentials as the core mapping engine within Elements XS3.

Elements XS3 used with Geocortex Essentials to create a Sewer Jetting Program, integrated directly with ArcGIS for Server

Elements XS3 used with Geocortex Essentials to create a Sewer Jetting Program, integrated directly with ArcGIS for Server

Sewer Jetting example using the Geocortex Essentials engine and custom workflows.

Sewer Jetting example using the Geocortex Essentials engine and custom workflows.

Our integration philosophy is simple:

  1. Only store data in one place (ie. don’t replicate the GIS assets in another database - keep them in the native ArcGIS geodatabase)
  2. Don’t integrate 2 applications that do the same thing (ie. don’t use a viewer developed by your asset management folks in addition to the Geocortex Essentials map viewer - use one or the other)

Here’s how an integrated XS3 / Geocortex Essentials deployment looks:

  1. All assets are stored in the native ArcGIS for Server (or ArcGIS Online) geodatabase
  2. All asset management and historical data is stored in the Elements XS3 SQL database
  3. Geocortex Essentials is used as the mapping engine driving Elements XS3 - communicating in real-time with both ArcGIS and Elements XS3

The integration consists of custom workflow activities for Elements XS3 (used by the Geocortex Workflow Designer) as well as integration points coded directly into the Elements XS3 application.

Create Service Requests, Work Orders, Inspections, and other documents directly from the Geocortex Essentials interface.

Create Service Requests, Work Orders, Inspections, and other documents directly from the Geocortex Essentials interface.

We’ve found that folks who already use Geocortex Essentials can further leverage their existing investment and organizations who haven’t used Geocortex Essentials can now take advantage of the Essentials technology with asset management, then grow with the Essentials platform down the road.

The XS3 / Geocortex Essentials integration feels a lot like having your cake and eating it too - or at least having the best map viewer available and the best asset management software available without sacrificing on either end.

As a side note, did we mention that Elements XS3 also comes with a workflow designer built on the Windows Workflow Foundation?  Anyone familiar with Essentials understands the power of building custom workflows - imagine building custom workflows in your asset management application and linking those custom workflows to your Geocortex Essentials workflows.  The good news is it’s now a reality.

Drop us a line to check it out and see the integration in action.

Integrating Utility Billing Software with GIS & Asset Management

One of the things we do different around here is the way we integrate with utility billing software.  We’ve done quite a few utility billing integrations with our Elements XS asset management software, many of those integrations with various degrees of functionality depending on the individual customer scenario.

How it’s typically done.

It seems that most folks in the industry do an integration by (essentially) copying records from one system to the other - for example, you create a “Service Order” in the utility billing software and that triggers a “Service Request” in the asset management software.  Once the “Service Request” is closed in the management software, the “Service Order” in the utility billing software gets closed as well.

The key problem here is ultimately you'll end up with two records for the same problem, each record with slightly different information (the billing side contains information related to billing, the asset management side contains whatever came from the billing software plus additional information not tracked on the billing side).  So, when you look up the history in the future, which application should you be looking in?  Each application will give you a slightly different take on what happened, with a few common denominators between the two sets of data (the information that was passed between the two applications).

How we do it.

Our philosophy is that there should be a single data source for each piece of data, with all of the data sources communicating with each other.  This means that in order to take full advantage of the integration it should look like this:

  • Billing software is the sole repository for Location, Customer, Meter, and Service data
  • Asset management software is the sole repository for all work history
  • ESRI’s ArcGIS geodatabase is the sole repository for spatial assets

How does that work?  It’s probably less complicated than you think.  The billing software looks the same as it otherwise would - the work history is just stored in another database.  The asset management software continues to operate like the asset management software otherwise would - additionally it provides tools for the billing software to reference the asset management data.  And lastly, the ArcGIS geodatabase continues to work like it always has, the asset management software referencing the geodatabase for asset attribute data and spatial information.

How to make it work.

In order for this to work, both parties (asset management and utility billing) need to be willing to play ball.  Ultimately the utility billing vendor may be sacrificing their “Service Orders” module for the asset management software (in this type of integration).  Better for the customer (one data source), potentially worse for the billing vendor’s pocket book (you’re spending money on the asset management software instead of purchasing the billing vendor’s Service Orders module).

Our school of thought is to let each software do what it does best.   We’ve worked with several utility billing vendors - some are in the same boat as us, some are not even in the same ocean.  Ultimately the depth of the integration you’ll be able to achieve depends on how willing the two companies are to work with each other.

See it in action.

The end result of the methodology described above is that everyone is always on the same page, all data is realtime, and each of the applications (ArcGIS, asset management, and utility billing) are doing what they do best.

If you’d like to see it in action just drop us a line, we’d be happy to let you try it out!

Custom Workflow Integrations, ArcGIS Server, and Bikes.

I’m a simple kind of guy - I like being outside and I prefer to ride my bike instead of drive my car. For me, the simpler things are the better.  I feel like a lot of times folks tend to over-complicate things in the GIS-based asset management world, so I’m going to try to avoid that here.

I’d like to briefly explain one of the new features we’re introducing in XS3 - the Workflow Engine.  Given that I don’t like over-complicating things, I’m going to explain the Workflow Engine exactly how I would explain it to my 8 year old nephew:

The workflow engine is a tool that lets people customize how their software works - now go back outside and ride your bike.

For those of you who’d like a little more detail, read on.

The Workflow Engine is one of the most powerful new tools in XS3.  It provides incredible flexibility by helping utilities and municipalities create and deploy custom workflow processes specific to their individual needs.  The Elements XS3 Workflow Engine is based on the Windows Workflow Foundation and includes a front-end Workflow Designer application that allows users to configure their own custom workflow processes and trigger any number of events based on various criteria within the application.

So here’s how it looks in the real world:

A citizen calls in to report a natural gas odor.

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A “Leak Investigation” Investigative Task is Dispatched (a Service Request)

  • Based on criteria entered by the phone call recipient above, the Workflow Engine analyzes the data input by the call taker and generates an “Investigate Leak” task (Service Request) and routes the request to the appropriate person.  (Of course, if the criteria to dispatch a technician is not met, the phone call is logged and nobody is dispatched.)

Service Request is Completed.

  • During a field investigation of the incident, the technician completes required information on his mobile device - including whether or not a leak was actually found, the severity of the leak, and other details related to the incident.

A “Leak Repair” Task (Work Order) is Generated

  • Based on criteria entered by the field technician, the Workflow Engine auto-generates a “Leak Repair” work order, links the follow-up “Leak Repair” back to the original citizen request, and dispatches the Leak Repair appropriately.

The Work Order is Completed.

  • On the job site, the technician enters labor, materials, equipment usage as well as other pertinent data regarding the details of the actual Leak Repair.

Leak Repair Follow-Up is Auto-Generated and Auto-Scheduled.

  • Once the field technician(s) indicate that the Leak Repair has been successfully completed, the Workflow Engine triggers a “Leak Repair Follow Up” task and schedules the follow up for 1 year after the repair has been completed.

The end result of the above process is a series of Tasks and Events (phone calls, service requests, work orders, and other activities) that are all linked together and associated with all Assets (residing in ArcGIS) that were affected by the individual tasks.

There you have it - if you’d like to see it in action drop us a line and we’ll give you a login so you can try it out on your own.  Now, let’s get back outside and ride some bikes ;)

GIS & Work Order Management Systems: 6 Things to Consider

If you’re reading this post, you’ve probably come to realize that there are more than a few options for integrating GIS with a work order system. There are a multitude of products out there that will let you integrate your work orders with your GIS and at some point you’ve probably even considered building the integration yourself using existing ESRI tools.  At the end of the day, most of those options will likely work to some extent, and will allow you to successfully create a work order and tie it to your GIS in some fashion.

That being said, it can be difficult to find a solid work order system that’s a good fit for your organization (especially when integrating with GIS).  Here are a few items to consider when evaluating GIS-based work order and asset management systems:

1. Web Based

Do you want your GIS and work order system to be accessible via the web?  If so, you’ll  probably want to look for a system that 1) does not require an installation on the local device and 2) is cross-browser compatible (works in Chrome, Safari, Firefox, IE, or your browser of choice).  Some work order systems require a client side application to be installed and maintained – especially when integrating with GIS.

 

2. Live Field Access

Does your service area allow for real-time data access via the web, or do you need to take data offline?  Web-based applications are great, but if you don’t have the web in your service area, make sure your web-based application has some method of taking data offline.

 

3. iPads and Tablet Access

Do you want to access the work order system via iPads, iPhones, Androids, and other devices?  You’ll want to make sure that your work order system (including your GIS data) will be available on the device of your choice – either via an App or via live web access.

 

4. GIS Integration

Do you want to make changes to your GIS from the work order system?  If you want users of the work order system to be able to make changes to your GIS you’ve basically got two choices:

    1    Real-Time Integration. (Best Choice!)  In this case we’re reading directly from and writing directly to the GIS application (typically using ESRI’s ArcGIS Server and ArcSDE technologies).  Users can make real-time, live changes to your GIS (with appropriate user permissions) directly from the work order system.

    2    Data Synchronization.  If the above option is not a viable solution (due to cost or other resources), users can also make changes to the GIS in the work order system then synchronize those changes back to the GIS.  This method can get messy in a hurry if not properly managed – we don’t recommend it.

 

5. Non-GIS Assets

Are you going to track assets that are not in your GIS?  It seems that the non-spatial assets (things that don’t belong on the map) tend to get overlooked.  If you plan on tracking work on trucks, heavy equipment, and other assets that are not GIS-based be sure to take that into consideration.  Some GIS-based work order systems store the asset management data in the same database as the GIS, some GIS-based work order systems don’t.  If you’re tracking work on a backhoe, and your backhoe is not an asset in your GIS, it doesn’t make much sense to use GIS to track the backhoe.  Make sure you understand how data is stored and tracked for non-GIS assets – make sure the work order system doesn’t require to you add things to your GIS that don’t belong there.

 

6. Financial and Utility Billing Integration

Do you want to integrate with your utility billing or financial application?  If so, you’ve again basically go two options here:

    1    Real-Time Integration. (Best Choice!)  Here we’re reading directly from the utility billing (or other) application, getting information in real-time.  In this case no data is being duplicated or stored in multiple locations.  When combined with a web-based and GIS-integrated work order system this becomes a very powerful tool.  Users of the work order system can access job-specific customer, location, and meter information directly from the billing system while on the job site, using the work order system.

    2    Data Synchronization.  In this case data is typically copied or synchronized periodically from the utility billing software to the work order system.  This method typically gets the job done, although the data is not live, it’s being stored in multiple places, and it usually requires a bit of manual intervention to keep it running.

 

So there you have it – six things (of the many) to consider.  For information on how we integrate GIS with work orders and other asset management data visit www.elementsxs.com.

2014 Elements XS3 User Conference

San Antonio, TX • September 22—23

Attention: San Antonio, Texas. We are coming for you!

We’ve got Elements XS users from across the country getting together in this great place for our 2014 Elements XS3 User’s Conference. Are you excited? Because we are. We can’t wait to tell you about all the new features we have been working on. Heck, we're so excited, check out what kind of stuff you'll get at the conference. Thats right, free T-shirts, custom letterpressed notebooks, and a heavy duty name badge, just for you. Thats how much we like you guys. 


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