Oklahoma City's Watershed Moment

25 Jul, 2007 By: Michelle Nicolson

The city's public works department integrates GIS and maintenance management data to support its water and wastewater infrastructure.

Oklahoma City’s Water and Wastewater Utilities serve more than half a million people spread across 622 square miles, treating on average 90 million gallons of water a day (low of 35 million and high of 190 million gallons). The quality of the city's water and the commitment to customer service is a source of pride for city officials, resulting in an investment in technology to ensure Oklahoma City’s residents are receiving the best services available for every tax dollar.

To improve the department’s response to residents, city employees began developing an in-house database in 1995 to manage citizens' requests and subsequent work orders. This simple system only collected data and allowed employees to track phone calls. Never intended to be more than a temporary solution, the homemade system soon bogged down under the load of hundreds of thousands of work orders. Moreover, data was difficult to extract, and city staff members eventually discovered they were losing important information.

Oklahoma City has long recognized the importance of technologies such as GIS and computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS), investing in GIS software from ESRI in 1991. So Randy Harris, Water and Wastewater Utilities dispatch supervisor, was convinced from the beginning that a GIS-enabled system would provide countless benefits because city employees could see what work was going on where. His goal was to implement an easy-to-use system from a commercial supplier so future upgrades and technical support would be available. Equally important was having a work order management system that functioned along with a GIS, taking advantage of the investment Oklahoma City had already made in public works infrastructure GIS data.

"Over the years, we looked at several solutions," Harris said. "Seeing the benefits of a GIS-based system really turned me around."

To achieve these goals, Oklahoma City employees found Cityworks from Azteca Systems , a GIS-centric CMMS created specifically for public works and utilities organizations facing the challenge of managing community infrastructure assets. Using the data contained in the geodatabase, Cityworks helps to manage dispersed infrastructure with tools for creating and tracking maintenance activities associated with assets and/or addresses. These include handling requests for service, conflict resolution, work orders, tests and inspections, ad-hoc search and reporting, and more.

Oklahoma City’s GIS and IT teams knew about the benefits GIS provides for data visualization, and both saw the potential in Cityworks' ability to use the core infrastructure geodatabase as the asset inventory -- a single source data repository shared across the enterprise. Additionally, Cityworks worked with the city’s ESRI software, allowing them to get more out of their investment in GIS data because the two are tied together.

Azteca was awarded a contract in January 2003 to implement Cityworks in the Line Maintenance Division of the Water and Wastewater Utilities Department, with the intention of deploying Cityworks throughout the remainder of the city in the future. Azteca developed an interface to the city's utility billing system and an automated daily download for the customer information system. Now, Cityworks is able to capture water meter problems identified in the customer information system and create work orders to remedy these issues.

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Cityworks enables Oklahoma City to track work orders based on asset information.

“We utilize our ESRI GIS system to attach the work orders to specific assets, so we can visually track where the work is being done using custom map services written by our GIS team,” explained Stan Reichert, IT project manager with Oklahoma City. “Since Cityworks has such tight integration with GIS, our users can now utilize Cityworks and GIS simultaneously and increase the quality and quantity of their work. Utilizing the data that is collected in Cityworks, the Water Department engineers can be proactive in the decisions they make to spend money on infrastructure repairs and replacements.”

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Screenshot of Oklahoma City's water and wastewater service requests and work orders using ESRI's ArcMap software.

The implementation was successfully completed in August 2003, and soon after that Oklahoma City upgraded to a citywide site license to deploy Cityworks throughout the remainder of the city. Today, Cityworks is used by Water and Wastewater Utilities staff to collect and react to citizen service requests, dispatch reactive and preventive work orders to field operations crews, and track related infrastructure assets throughout the service area. In addition, the Cityworks database is tapped by the city's map-based Web service to display active work activities along with other GIS data.

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Oklahoma City's map-based Web service, written by the city’s GIS team.

“Ultimately, customers benefit from the consistent workflow that Cityworks allows because [city employees] can use their resources in a more efficient manner,” explained Stacey Saunders, IT project manager with Oklahoma City. “If the work done on the front end of the call is accurate, time will be saved during the duration of the work order. Cityworks allows the opportunity for the accuracy to be increased.”

Building on the success in Water and Wastewater Utilities, Oklahoma City has already deployed Cityworks in other divisions and departments -- Will Rogers World Airport, Public Works (Streets and Traffic), Parks and Recreation, and Building Management -- and is scheduled to integrate the system in Water Quality, Civic Center, Oklahoma City Zoo, and Transit.

About the Author: Michelle Nicolson

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