It can be difficult to manage your assets when you aren’t sure how many you have. This was once a major issue in West Jordan, Utah. Prior to Cityworks, the city relied on multiple GIS shapefile formats of water, sewer and storm systems. Most of these files had been created using as-builts, staff memories or simply drawing lines and points closest to where an asset was believed to be.
Unreliable maps led to expensive problems. In one instance, a water line broke and crews could not find the shut-off valve to stop the water. As the water continued to flow, the city lost valuable time, money and energy. It became clear that having a general idea where assets are buried was not enough.
Value in GIS
Luckily, city staff understood the importance of GIS, and they began looking for a system with GIS-centric asset management capabilities. Cityworks met their specific needs, and they liked that it had the potential to integrate with their Esri software.
Some city departments were reluctant to learn a new program. A GIS specialist, Spencer Munson, was brought on full time to focus on creating spatially accurate data. His office became a central location for utility managers and workers to collaborate and bring their data, knowledge, and frustrations. Using a combination of as-builts, drawings, GPS points, TV records and institutional knowledge, Spencer combed through the data, marking places that need to be verified. He then worked with the department to survey assets in the field.
As more reluctant departments saw the payoff for their colleagues, they opened to the idea of implementing Cityworks. Spencer helped each team make the most of their Cityworks experience, resulting in more accurate maps across all departments. Regular trainings were implemented to ensure success as each department went live. Today, Cityworks is used in eight departments, and the team is creating spatially accurate data for more than 1,000 miles of lines and 60,000 points of assets.
Improvements on West Jordan’s maps helped city officials identify where their assets are located and how many they have. Accuracy improved greatly as utility departments invested more time and effort to contributing to accurate maps, knowing they would be updated promptly. Perhaps most importantly, the GIS and utility departments have developed a relationship of trust and accountability.
“Although we had some GIS elements prior to Cityworks, the new platform gave our staff a better appreciation for what GIS can do,” said Andrew Thorup, GIS specialist at West Jordan City. “Users began interacting with and depending on GIS data as opposed to paper maps or institutional knowledge. Our data became more accurate because our users had a stake in making sure their field observations matched what was in the GIS.”
There’s an App for That
Since then, West Jordan integrated Esri Collector apps to help their utility locators report map errors from the field. The city is currently in the process of creating unique Collector apps for each department to report errors, see where the GIS team has marked places to verify and check in real-time whether issues have been addressed. The departments now have an official workflow for verifying missing or inaccurate asset information.
West Jordan isn’t done with Cityworks yet. They hope to use the robust suite of integration options provided by Cityworks to drive better citizen involvement in their public works processes. One project, in particular, will link Esri’s Crowdsource Reporter tool with their current Cityworks system. This will allow the general public to report issues that will immediately generate a work order for the team to investigate. In this way, the public will be able to effect change in their community more effectively, and the city will be able to respond with efficiency and transparency.
By Clint Hutchings, GIS administrator, and Andrew Thorup, GIS specialist, West Jordan City, Utah