Sugar Land, Texas: Combining Services, Assets, Cityworks, and Financial Planning

Ask any municipality if they are doing asset management, and the response will be yes. Lots of organizations have an asset management system, capital improvement projects, and condition assessments.

But asset management, as defined by ISO 55000 and the Institute of Asset Management, encompasses a spectrum of strategic, tactical, and operational business processes. By using an asset management policy and strategy, planning asset risk approaches, programming data standards, and delivering day-to-day operations through CMMS or condition assessments, various business processes and departments contribute to the asset management program.

In 2015, the Public Works Department at the City of Sugar Land, Texas, began implementing Cityworks in several divisions, including Administration, Streets & Drainage, Traffic, Right of Way Services, Water Utilities, Fleet, Facilities, and Solid Waste. This was a planned expansion of Cityworks from the surface water treatment plant to the remaining divisions. During the construction of the plant, city management planned for a citywide CMMS with Cityworks as the selected software. Through the implementation of Cityworks, staff anticipated collecting more data regarding work order costs, workloads, and completion times, which would facilitate and support budgetary decisions such as personnel requests, capital projects, and operating budgets.

Also in 2015, the City of Sugar Land developed a project to review best practices for national and international asset management programs. As a result, staff recommended developing a citywide asset management program establishing a precedent of data-based, transparent, and repeatable decision making. Rather than concentrate solely on maintaining physical assets, the citywide approach changed the focus from the condition of assets to customer expectations and outcomes.

As an organization, the City of Sugar Land provides superior services to its residents, which requires a service-centric framework supported by its assets. In Sugar Land, a comprehensive plan holds the community’s vision, which the city council then aligns with their mid-term priorities and uses to develop strategies. While all priorities are impacted by infrastructure and service, two priorities—“Responsible City Government: Financially Sound, Exceptional Service” and “Great Place to Live: Development, Redevelopment, Mobility,
Environment”—emphasize “City of Sugar Land—a Leader in Customer Service and Superior Service” and “Maintain Adequate Infrastructure and Services to Support Growth and Sustain the Existing Community” respectively.

The first step required educating the city’s executive team and key departments on the citywide asset management framework. The concept was well received by asset-owning departments, and the next deliverables were to draft an asset management policy and gain approval from directors and final approval from city management. As part of the policy, the City of Sugar Land committed to develop and implement its asset management program grounded in five principles: superior service, data-driven decision making, risk-based analysis, continual improvement, and future planning. This policy was approved in January 2016.

To assess the initial maturity of each asset-owning department, a gap assessment and analysis was conducted at all levels, from crews to directors. Sugar Land’s first implementation roadmap identified concentrated initiatives, which the project team began tackling in 2016. Currently, the corporate risk framework, investment planning framework, and risk-based water main prioritization project have been developed. Future initiatives include developing a strategic asset management plan, risk matrices, and management plans at the asset class. As for future Cityworks implementations, the next phase includes code enforcement, rental registration, treasury, airport, and parks and recreation.

While a municipality may find it daunting to develop an asset management program, Sugar Land’s staff quickly understood the need to breakdown asset management to smaller, actionable components and proceed to implementation. More importantly, the organization must see value in adopting the asset management framework, including asset-owning departments, finance, engineering, and city management, which should result in support and participation of the aforementioned departments and staff. If, simultaneously, the organization is deploying Cityworks, staff should align asset hierarchy and standards with the asset management framework. Lastly, it takes time.

The integration of both Cityworks and the asset management program supports the City of Sugar Land’s overall goal of data-based, transparent, repeatable decision making, and robust business processes.

By Dinorah Sanchez, Asset and Operations Manager, City of Sugar Land, Texas

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