Deploying Cityworks Server PLL with AMS … Why Not??

Nearly 425 organizations currently use Cityworks as their asset management solution. Each day, literally thousands of users log in to Cityworks to record the day’s activities. Looking at Cityworks through this lens is remarkable. It’s not just an application – it’s an industry. I often refer to this as the “Cityworks Economy” which is simply meant to summarize all the impact that Cityworks has across multiple types of organizations and individuals throughout the world. The great thing about the Cityworks economy is it is growing and, as with all economies, growth is good.

One Cityworks product that continues to generate interest within our user community is Cityworks Server PLL (Permits, Licensing, and Land). Over the past few years, several organizations have adopted Cityworks PLL. The year 2010 was indeed a strong year for PLL. Ten organizations chose Cityworks PLL, bringing the total from 7 at the end of 2009 to 17 at the end of 2010. Although a relatively new product, Cityworks PLL has proven to be an efficient and productive solution for those who’ve deployed it. The majority of these organizations were current Cityworks AMS users. They found that adding PLL to their current Cityworks AMS solution was both cost-effective and simply “made sense” considering the advantages of one enterprise product versus piecing together two or more systems.

Indeed, there are many benefits of deploying Cityworks Server PLL and Cityworks Server AMS together in the same web application and database. These two products, working together, provide an enterprise solution designed to manage the complex business processes and workflows that span across local government agencies.

As the Project Manager over the majority of Cityworks Server PLL implementations and several Cityworks AMS Server and Desktop implementations, I have seen how organizations achieve a greater return on investment (ROI) by using both Cityworks Server AMS and PLL. The benefits of one system versus multiple systems can be divided into three categories depending on the perspective of the Cityworks user:
1. Core end user processes and workflow
2. Reporting and other higher level benefits
3. IT departments

Processes and Workflow
Core end user processes are the day-to-day activities Cityworks manages. For asset management, these include service requests, work orders, and inspections. For permitting and licensing, they are permits, inspections, cases, planning and zoning activities, etc. All of these activities can be stored, managed, and tracked in the same Cityworks application. This provides an organization and its end users a single place to go for “all things” with one login. Take a look at some specific examples:

• Public works, streets, and water crews or supervisors use work orders to manage the preventive and reactive maintenance of their assets.
• Supervisors and administrators track maintenance and asset management costs on the work orders.
• Call takers log calls and complaints routing them to the appropriate department or person via service requests.
• Planners manage development applications, projects, and permits.
• Building departments manage permits and inspections.
• Engineers track City-sponsored or privately funded construction projects with associated bonding and inspection requirements.
• Code enforcement officers manage cases and violations.
• Licensing clerks track business licenses and renewals.

Cityworks AMS and PLL manage all of the above, and, if needed, any of these items can be linked to one another within the system. That’s right … the workflow of a given process may span both AMS and PLL!

I’m often asked, “Why would a user need to create a work order from a permit or vice versa?” While the majority of core end user processes in asset and permit/case management may not require the need to jump back and forth from a work order to a permit, there are certain events on a permit or case that may require creating a work order, or certain work orders may need a permit.

For example, code enforcement cases often require public works crews to abate past due violations such as weed overgrowth or snow removal. In this case, creating a work order could be incorporated in the workflow of that code enforcement case, and a link established between the two.

A residential construction permit may use a service request to request a water meter installation associated to a newly constructed home. Even more, the service request would ultimately be associated to a work order performed by the water department. All three of these items would be linked together and accessible from each application.

Service requests can be used to log violation complaints or even requests for permit applications. That service request would be routed to the appropriate user and a case or permit may be created as a result.

These are just a few typical examples. (Examples of how an organization might also incorporate GIS edits, invoicing, legal, warranty inspections, bonding, and other financial tracking within the workflow will be covered in a future article!) The point is that organizations using PLL along with AMS have the option to leverage both systems should a given workflow require it. This promotes greater communication across departments and increases overall efficiency as Cityworks tracks the multiple events in a single web application and database.

Higher Level Benefits
Deploying both AMS and PLL adds significant ROI at a higher level. From this perspective, the ROI is really a return on efficiency or productivity. Using the Cityworks solution enables access to a wide variety of activities that Cityworks manages. A key advantage of deploying both Cityworks AMS and PLL together is the ability to share information. Within Cityworks, it is very simple and quick to pull the data together through the use of event layers, inbox, searching, and reporting. As such, planners can view open work orders that may affect a particular project. Public works staff can view new permits or development applications coming down the pipeline. City administrators can export a report that combines expenditures from AMS and revenues from PLL. Cityworks takes all of this information and empowers its various users with what is important to them. Literally, within seconds, users can access information that impacts their responsibilities.

City administrative staff, council members, planning commission members, and others can be given a login to the system and access the Inbox, Dashboard, or custom reports that summarize everything happening within the city all in one place. No interfaces needed, Cityworks stores it all. In addition, Cityworks tracks a good portion of the financial information of an organization—all expenditures (labor, material, and equipment costs for work order activities) as well as revenue from permit fees, application fees, and code enforcement invoicing. This can help simplify monthly and yearly reporting because the data is all stored in Cityworks rather than pieced together with multiple systems.

At the core of both systems is Cityworks GIS-centric approach to asset and community development management. The organization’s GIS is an integral part of the application. Both Cityworks Server AMS and PLL standardize around the GIS features and spatial data. Information from the GIS can be imported directly into Cityworks via attached work orders and permits/cases. The map viewer allows users to visually track activities occurring throughout the various departments. This eliminates the need to replicate data—in particular parcel and assessor data—across two (or more) systems, which saves time and effort for many staff members.

IT Department Savings
Another significant advantage of one system is the savings for the organization’s IT department. Two (or more) systems result in two sets of system requirements, which may require unique hardware and software components. As a web-based system, Cityworks is one application with one database that can handle the entire gamut with one set of system requirements. This results in fewer software updates, fewer applications to support, less user training, less dedicated hardware to purchase, less time managing interfaces between different systems, fewer vendors to contract and work with, and so on. “Less” in all of these categories saves an organization and its IT staff a lot of time, money, and headaches. 

Also, many agencies that run multiple systems encounter incompatibility issues where one application doesn’t yet support a third-party system (e.g., ArcGIS, MS Office, Windows, etc.), but the other system requires it in order to upgrade. Thus, many times an organization gets “stuck” on older software. Using one system like Cityworks reduces this problem if not eliminating it altogether. This in turn streamlines upgrades and allows users to take advantage of new features sooner.

Summary
Cityworks is unique in its ability to share information easily and efficiently across multiple departments and disciplines in local governments. It is currently the only GIS-centric-certified system that provides this “out of the box.” From its first release, our user base has provided dozens of request and ideas to further integrate the two products. These organizations have “caught the vision” and experienced the advantages of one fully integrated solution versus piecing together different products. Cityworks 2011 and future releases will continue to feature more and more interactivity between PLL and AMS.

While both AMS and PLL can stand alone as an efficient solution for their specific audiences, organizations that utilize both systems enjoy a greater return on investment and efficiency through better communication, combining workflows, leveraging GIS, reporting, and IT savings. We encourage our current Cityworks AMS organizations (Desktop, Server, or Anywhere) interested in a permitting system to contact us to see how Cityworks Server PLL can improve your organization’s use of Cityworks. Matt Harman mharman@cityworks.com

By Matt Harman, Project Manager, Cityworks

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