ESRI GIS has become a mission critical enterprise system used for core business processes.  The distinction between the software application and the GIS is no longer valid; they have become one.  This is especially true for how ESRI GIS is utilized by local government and utilities.

How It Was
For more than 20 years, local governments and utilities have prioritized investing in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and in particular ESRI® GIS.  Initially the goal for most organizations was to replace paper maps with digital maps that had the added benefit of powerful spatial analytical tools.  As ESRI GIS became widely adopted and as GIS incorporated open system standards, particularly database interoperability, organizations started to see ESRI GIS as much more than maps and spatial analysis tools.  For many organizations, the ESRI GIS database (geodatabase) became the most current and accurate inventory of their assets.  The geodatabase became a de facto standard.  Organizations desired to use their investment in ESRI GIS for other business process needs.

Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) developed separately from GIS.  The first systems were designed around proprietary database systems.  At the core of any CMMS is an asset inventory.  One of the primary goals of a CMMS is to track maintenance activities performed on individual assets.  Each system designed unique proprietary data structures for cataloging asset data.  Influenced by the same open systems market forces as GIS, during the mid-‘90s CMMS moved away from proprietary databases and adopted the open systems databases while maintaining proprietary data structures considered trade secrets for cataloging asset data.

Fast-Forward to 2010
For local governments and utilities, ESRI GIS is the most widely utilized and common platform for cataloging, viewing (map rendering being just one way to view), and analyzing asset data.  For a majority of organizations, the geodatabase has become the de facto and most up-to-date asset inventory for dispersed assets.  Many organizations have also discovered the geodatabase is a superior tool for cataloging condensed assets such as treatment plants and facilities.  With the modern ESRI GIS and geodatabase tools, there is no longer a reason to have separate databases for dispersed and condensed assets.  ESRI GIS is the system of choice to support management needs for Public Works, Utilities, Transportation, Land Management, Permit Management, License Management, and more.  ESRI GIS is now viewed as a mission critical enterprise system.

Nearly all local governments and utilities have and maintain an ESRI GIS.  Of these, many also have and maintain a CMMS.  Maintaining asset data in both systems is an inefficient and redundant allocation of resources.  Most CMMS vendors have responded with interface solutions of varying complexity and sophistication that upload and sync asset data from the geodatabase to their data structures.  That an interface to ESRI GIS is a “must have,” and not the other way around, is evidence of the degree to which ESRI GIS is a mission critical enterprise system.

Cityworks and GIS-Centric
Cityworks is different from all other CMMS or Permit and License Management software.  We have always believed the best practice for local governments and utilities is to be fully invested in ESRI GIS as a mission critical enterprise system.  We have always advocated the geodatabase is the best place for cataloging and maintaining an inventory of assets.  Our philosophy has always been to just use the geodatabase as the asset repository avoiding an interface/upload/sync.  We gave this a name–GIS-centric.

GIS-centric resonates with organizations committed to ESRI GIS as a mission critical enterprise system.  Interfacing, uploading, and syncing to a redundant asset database adds unnecessary complexity and duplication of work effort.   John Przybyla, GISP, Woolpert Inc., stated, “The GIS-centric design of Cityworks (i.e., single asset repository) is a FUNDAMENTAL difference from all other products—and it is critically important to the overall success of the system in meeting an organization’s goals. Keeping an asset repository current, accurate, and complete is a huge challenge for many organizations and the failure to do so is, in my experience, the primary cause of failure of CMMS. Keeping two repositories updated and synchronized just makes that problem much harder—so much so that success is extremely rare.”

Cityworks is still the only GIS-centric CMMS and/or Permit and License Management software.  Cityworks is (and always has been) designed and created to fully leverage ESRI GIS including ESRI’s most current releases of ArcGIS.  Cityworks is a leading proponent of the GIS-centric approach.  In fact, to the best of our knowledge, Cityworks first applied the tag GIS-centric to CMMS.   To assure that the term GIS-centric remained meaningful, Cityworks has taken the lead with other leading GIS-centric system developers to define GIS-centric (see  Together we published the rules that define a GIS-centric system and developed a certification process that includes an evaluation performed by a fully neutral third-party (John Przybyla, GISP, Woolpert, LLC).  The process is transparent and independent.  It is open to all.  Not unexpectedly, as with other standard approaches, there are those who choose to belittle and diminish it.  GIS-centric remains an important factor in the design and development of Cityworks.

Cityworks 2010 is GIS Empowered by Cityworks®
The software development tools available in 2010 allow us to create a system so tightly coupled with ESRI GIS that the constituent parts of the resulting system become indistinguishable to the end user.  Cityworks is Powered by ESRI® and Cityworks is Empowering GIS for infrastructure, assets, permits, and licensingTM.  For many users, Cityworks is the GIS as it’s through the Cityworks user interface that users interact with the GIS.  For Cityworks 2010 it is now appropriate to say GIS empowered by CityworksTM.  A common term describing software designed in this way is “content aggregate application.”  The resulting application is an aggregate of multiple software systems.  In the case of Cityworks 2010 Server, at a minimum the aggregate includes ESRI GIS, Cityworks Server, SQL Server or Oracle, and a browser.  It can easily be configured to include many other software systems and apps, too.

The design and benefit of GIS-centricity is still relevant and applicable.  But it is more.  This software development approach does not diminish ESRI GIS.  Content aggregate software is a realization of ESRI’s vision for GIS supporting core business processes, even mission critical enterprise system processes, yet can be utilized by non-GIS professionals.  The end user is not concerned that the aggregate pieces are ESRI GIS, Cityworks Server, SQL Server or Oracle, the browser, and other applications.  All the end users care about is that they can easily utilize the application on a daily basis to do their mission critical enterprise system work.  This is the future of software applications and Cityworks 2010 is already there.

By Brian Haslam, President & CEO, Azteca Systems, Inc.