In March 2009, the City of St. Cloud Public Services Division became one of the first early adopters of Cityworks Server.  Our users immediately found Cityworks Server to be an enormously powerful and easy-to-use application. It wasn’t long after we began getting acquainted with Cityworks Server that we also realized its web nature could be further improved by tweaking the browser in which it runs.

When we made the decision to deploy Cityworks Server, we also chose to adopt Mozilla Firefox as the browser. In recent years, Firefox has gained significant popularity due to its support of web standards, increased security, improved performance, and extensible architecture through the use of add-ons. With over 5000 free add-ons, Firefox can easily be tailored and enhanced to improve one’s browsing experience.

As is the case with any application used to capture and manage authoritative data, success can really only be achieved when the software is used consistently. We knew that by deploying Cityworks Server we would have opportunities to track more information than ever before – detailed information that is vital to our City so we can continue to improve our services. It goes without saying then that data entry became paramount. This was an area we zeroed in on early and aimed to sharpen to the maximum extent possible. So in addition to the core functions Cityworks Server provides, we augmented our data entry in two other ways: 1) Ensuring that screen entries could be recovered in the event of a forgotten save or network hiccup. 2) Persisting (or remembering) values for workflows that call for the same information to be entered multiple times. The solution to these needs came by installing two Firefox add-ons – Lazarus Form Recovery and iMacros for Firefox.

Lazarus Form Recovery quickly and easily restores “lost” form data due to browser crashes, server/network failure, forgotten saves, etc.  As a user enters data, Lazarus automatically stores it locally on the user’s computer. Should the session get interrupted, one would simply go back into the screen they were working in, right-click in the field to restore, and select “Recover Form” from the menu.  A list of recently entered data is presented from which the user simply selects, and the entry is placed into the field.  If you’ve ever had the experience of entering large amounts of data into a service request, work order, or inspection, only to have a failure of some kind that wipes it away, you’ll like this add-on. Try it and it may never happen to you again.

iMacros for Firefox records repetitious data entry so that it can be replayed and applied later. In some of our work orders, it is not uncommon for the same data to be entered multiple times. In one workflow, the installation of water meters at several individual addresses on the same block calls for the same information to be entered into each work order (only the address differs). The iMacros for Firefox add-on handles this by creating a macro of the user’s actions, which one then simply replays. Absolutely no programming knowledge is required…. Just click the record button, perform the actions once, and stop the recording. More complex tasks are supported as well. For example, carrying specific information from a parent work order to a child, such as comments, instructions, and/or custom field data, iMacros is able to do. Virtually anything that can be done in the Firefox browser may be recorded and automated with this handy tool – the possibilities are truly endless!

These two Firefox add-ons are only the tip of the iceberg.  There are many more that can be incorporated into an organization’s day-to-day operations such as spell check and lockdown. With a little research into these and other available Firefox add-ons and a minimal amount of work, any deployment can be tweaked to increase the efficiency of data entry.  Based on our experience, your users will be happier, fewer mistakes will occur, and work will get done faster.

About the City of St. Cloud
St. Cloud, a midsize, family-oriented city near Orlando, was founded on April 16, 1909, as a retirement community for Civil War Union veterans – hence St. Cloud is known as the Soldier City.  The City was incorporated on January 3, 1911.

St. Cloud is located in the northern portion of Osceola County in the central portion of the state of Florida. It is located approximately 26 miles southeast of the City of Orlando.  The city’s population grew 36% between 1990 and 1998 and now numbers more than 33,800. Since the year 2000, the city’s land area has grown from 9.74 square miles to about 19 square miles.

Cityworks is used primarily by Public Services to manage the following:
Environmental Utilities Department assets – these include the City’s sanitary, potable, and reclaimed water mains, manholes, valves, meters, lift stations, structures, fittings, services, and lateral lines.
Public Works Department assets – including streets, sidewalks, signals, driveways, signs, stormwater pipes and structures, ditches, retention ponds, trees, and City right-of-ways.

In the near future, Public Services is planning on using Cityworks to manage assets for the City’s Vehicle Maintenance and Solid Waste Departments.

Number of active users in Environmental Utilities:  40
Number of active users in Public Works:  25

The Environmental Utilities Department provides service to customers both inside and outside the City limits.  Currently the City provides sanitary sewer service for over 13,500 customer accounts; potable water service for over 16,300 customer accounts; and reclaim water service for over 3100 customer accounts.

By Thomas Bulone, CMMS/GIS Analyst, City of St. Cloud, Florida