Big Software, Small Town: District of Sechelt, British Columbia, Canada

The District of Sechelt is a small community in British Columbia, Canada. It has a population of approximately 10,000 people and an area of 51 square kilometers—consisting of 200 kilometers of roads, 65 kilometers of sanitary sewer, and 43 kilometers of storm sewer. “We were looking for an integrated software tool to support several corporate initiatives, including establishing service levels, asset management, structured process workflows, and evidence-based decision making,” said Beverly Ehlbeck, IT manager, District of Sechelt.

“As we were concurrently implementing electronic document management, it was a priority that the solution seamlessly integrates with document management.”

In 2012, Sechelt purchased Cityworks from Esri Canada. With fewer than 55 staff, the district tasked a small team consisting of one IT manager, two GIS staff members, and two Permits, Licensing, and Land (PLL) experts to implement the solution.

The team began by developing a plan and restructuring Sechelt’s GIS database to align it with Cityworks’ local government model. Using a phased approach, they implemented the solution to streamline service requests in April 2014. In October, they applied Cityworks to enhance the management of work orders and implemented i-Open Technologies’ worXlog solution for payroll integration.

Next, they introduced a mobile application that enabled staff to conduct risk inspections of sidewalks, manholes, and playgrounds. In 2016, they rolled out enhanced work orders to enable cyclical preventative maintenance scheduling for the district’s new state-of-the-art wastewater treatment facility.

Taking It One Step at a Time

To ensure a successful implementation, the team evaluated each department’s needs first and then developed solutions that would help that department’s users to understand Cityworks’ benefits.

This meant not always following recommended implementation best practices and refining the implementation to best meet the needs of staff and the environment. For example, Sechelt began by emailing service requests, so staff only needed to open an email attachment instead of learning the functions in Cityworks right away.

The team found that providing a proof of concept or a prototype before implementing an app significantly helped users to comprehend Cityworks. This reduced resistance to adopting a new app and fostered excitement among staff. They also kept implementations simple and started with small projects or “quick wins.” As users and management more fully understood the benefits of the app, the team then added enhancements based on the users’ requests. Sechelt’s agile development methodology facilitated buy-in for Cityworks. This approach proved successful in several implementations, including sidewalk and playground inspections, batch processing of BC One Call requests (for utility locates), and adding mobile computing (iPad apps).

Seizing Opportunities:

Integrating Work Orders

Once service requests and inspections were completely integrated into Cityworks, the district faced the overwhelming challenge of transitioning to work orders and incorporating work order cost data into the system. In such a small and lean organization, the prospect of entering labor data into multiple systems was a show stopper.
When the district’s finance department decided to move to electronic timesheets, it was the perfect opportunity to find  single-source time entry solution. Sechelt chose worXlog, which the team learned about at the Vancouver Cityworks Regional User Group meeting.

Working with Esri Canada, the implementation team decided on an approach to integrating work orders into Cityworks. They aligned the standing work orders template with a cost center cheat sheet that staff members were already using to code their paper timesheets. The decision to start with something already familiar to staff was key to the smooth transition to entering time in Cityworks using worXlog.

In conjunction with standing work orders, cost calculations have been done with an averaging approach. This gives management much more information for labor and scheduling. For example, staff calculated that the district spent 794.5 hours or 52.2 man-hours per square meter maintaining sports fields in 2016. With this data, management can now make reasonable estimates on the labor impacts when adding more playing fields to Sechelt.

The standing work orders template has proven to be a bridge to a future where Sechelt can use specific work orders against discrete assets. This direction is driven by users and managers themselves. The district plans to incorporate material and equipment costs into these formulas.

The Payoff

Back in 2014, Sechelt was overwhelmed with how daunting a Cityworks implementation seemed. There was no clear path to managing the project “the right way.” Since then, the district has discovered that some data is better than no data. As well, the implementation team now takes incremental steps to improving their data.

“The management team now has quick access to information for documenting work and justifying resources and future work planning. The ability to access related documentation directly from the map, work order, or permit improves decision making,” noted Paul Higgins, GIS technician, District of Sechelt.
Key successes include: implementing web-based time entry into both Cityworks and the district’s payroll system, integrating work orders for facility preventative maintenance, leveraging PLL for business license applications, and seamlessly integrating OnBase electronic documents with all components of Cityworks (AMS, PLL, and the map).

To improve asset management, Sechelt is currently working to integrate existing road and sewer condition score data into Cityworks. The district will also leverage the platform as an organization-wide asset register. To enhance PLL processes, development services staff are working to configure workflows for all development and building-related permits.

Through the Cityworks implementation project, Sechelt has learned to focus on discrete, achievable goals; scale the solution appropriately to their organizational size, goals, and staff capabilities; and use proof-of-concept applications to improve understanding and gain buy-in from users. With this effective formula, this small community is guaranteed to continue achieving big results.

by Paul Higgins, GIS Technician, and Beverly Ehlbeck, IT Manager, District of Sechelt, British Columbia

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