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.