Utilities system upgrade primes the pump for efficient city operations.
The Cityworks system allows Augusta Utilities to cohesively and efficiently track work orders.

IN 2014, the city of Augusta, Ga., hired Woolpert to implement a Cityworks work order management system in place of its more than 10-year-old legacy system. As intended, the GIS-centric application streamlined the city’s utilities operations by managing labor, material, equipment, construction, maintenance, and repairs within a single software system.

The byproduct of the implementation was how quickly the city saw the benefits of the change, leading them not only to accelerate the process but also to make plans to adopt the system throughout the municipality. Jerry Philpot, Augusta Utilities’ manager for IT and technical support, said that the city has multiple systems and staff that, prior to this software upgrade, were not able to communicate efficiently.

“With one system, you’re familiar with the same operation, the same technology, and the same principles,” he said. “Our goal is to have all of the city departments on this platform.”

Immediate impact

During Woolpert’s initial implementation of the Cityworks system, the Augusta Utilities team saw several improvements to existing processes. Chief among them were the ability to cohesively and efficiently track work orders, the ease in locating assets and team members throughout the city, the accountability these facets created, and the accessibility to data that benefited city departments individually and as a whole.

Kelsey Henderson, Augusta’s assistant director of construction and maintenance, said being able to track work orders and staff in the Cityworks system has led to increased efficiency. “Once we initiate a work order, the coordinator becomes responsible for seeing it through, no matter how many steps there are,” Henderson said. “The QA/QC (quality assurance/quality control) is attached to the work order.”

Henderson said the system also creates a time factor for each project that ensures the job is being done at a pace that is productive, creating a history and setting a precedent. He said the previous work management system was not as well-maintained.

“Work orders were all sent downtown, and the person who was processing the work order didn’t know how to do the work,” Henderson said. “Now, the guys in charge of the work orders know how to do the work. They know what should be done. It makes everything go much more smoothly.”

Henderson added that the information is consistent and accessible, making for greater transparency.

“When we pull up on a job, we take pictures of the site, and when we conclude a job, we take pictures — the house, the street, etc. If anyone claims something at the site was damaged when we left it, we have the pictures that show what it actually looked like at that time. It’s all in one place.”

Tony Arcuri, Augusta Utilities’ chief locator for construction and maintenance, also saw the immediate benefits of the system. “We have everything right there — we have the incident, the report, the pictures,” Arcuri said. “When it comes to claims, we just print out the information and hand it to [the city attorneys]. We’re not looking for a piece of paper that the crew signed six months ago that nobody can find, or (realizing) that nobody took pictures, or someone took pictures and they’re on a camera somewhere and nobody knows where it’s at. Everything’s right there.”

Philpot said that having all of the Utilities’ divisions working in one GIS-centric work order management system is transforming the way the city conducts business. Henderson agreed.

“I want to know where my guys are,” Henderson said. “With the GIS, I can see what a guy is doing and where. If I have an issue in the field, I can send the guy who’s closest. It just helps us be more efficient.”


Dave Feuer, Woolpert’s Information Management market director, said Augusta’s previous work management system did not allow field crews access to GIS maps, making it difficult to write accurate work orders.

“When all you had was a list of assets, it was difficult to prioritize and effectively manage that workload,” he said.

Henderson noted that the department’s maps had been widely outdated prior to this upgrade, but that every month since the implementation they’ve been updating the GIS.

Mapping is vital in the field, and Augusta Utilities team members each have tablets with access to the live system.

“You don’t have to find a paper map or wake someone up out of bed,” Henderson said. “The GIS becomes your bible; if it’s accurate, you’re where you need to be. It makes us more effective to have such a usable tool.”

Henderson said more than 150 updates made in the first few months following the Cityworks implementation, and access to that comprehensive data, has contributed to the team’s success.

“This weekend while I was at home, I looked at my QA/QC and saw that we had a backlog of about 25 work orders. That was taken care of (first thing Monday) morning,” he said. “The fact that I was able to be at home and see that, and we were able to correct that so quickly, is huge.”

The GIS-centric system helps locate and more efficiently utilize assets and field crews throughout the city.

Continuing, expanding success

Soon after the Utilities Division go-live, the Information Technology (IT) Department started incorporating Cityworks in its strategic Software Consolidation Deployment Plan. Augusta’s Stormwater, Traffic Engineering, Parks and Recreation, Airport, and Corrections divisions are among those in the process of implementing the Cityworks solution.

Tameka Allen is Augusta’s director of information technology and served several months as interim city manager during the initial implementation. She said this comprehensive, coordinated upgrade is expected to help each division and the city.

“It made us really look at business processes and identify which need to be modified or consolidated,” Allen said. “It also showed the dependency our departments have on each other. We had separate systems for quite some time, but this brings all of our major assets into one system.”

Allen added that having a central location for trusted, citywide data has been utilized and appreciated by the Augusta Commission. “Having this data available has helped us respond to the Commission and better forecast our budgetary needs for asset replacement,” Allen said. “It also gives us what we need to respond to our constituents.”

One example of this opportunity to provide defensible data concerns stormwater fees. Augusta, like many cities across the country, recently established a stormwater fee for residents. This fee funds the measurement of impervious surface area, which is what determines stormwater runoff amounts and avenues. This is measured so municipalities can minimize flooding and other damage caused by storms and excessive precipitation.

“Citizen visibility for stormwater utility fee assessments is very important, and it’s imperative for a city to know what value they’re getting with their stormwater fees,” Feuer said. “Being able to publish a map on a city website that shows the areas where stormwater funds have been spent on rehabilitation and replacement projects provides the needed transparency.”

Henderson said this accessibility of information, across the departments, offers a level of accountability that some people don’t want because it shows what is being done — or not being done. Responsibilities and project statuses are clear, the program is easy to use, and there is less room for error.

“The implementation from Woolpert and help from our staff made the system so that it’s not complicated at all,” Henderson said. “Guys who can navigate a smartphone can do it, and anyone who can read a work order can tell what a guy did and how much of the job was completed.” Allen said she also enjoyed working with the Woolpert team, who has provided training throughout the city’s implementations. She added that she’s not usually a fan of consultants and vendors, but Woolpert really impressed her.

Every Augusta Utilities crew member in the field has a tablet to access each job.

“Consultants are always promising you Halle Berry and then they show up with Urkel,” Allen said with a laugh. “Woolpert brought Halle Berry.”

Allen also acknowledged her team, which made this implementation successful and will carry forward with future implementations. She gave special thanks to Deputy Director Mike Blanchard; Utilities Project Manager Melissa Roberts and her team; GIS Manager Michele Pearman and her team, including GIS Cityworks Administrator Michael Bryant, Deputy Director Gary Hewett, Database Administrator Annette Coker, and Client Support Services Manager Reggie Horne and his team.

Working better, being proactive

Philpot said that the bottom line was that Cityworks and Woolpert helped the city of Augusta refine its work processes. “As a result, we’ve gained so much transparency and accountability for all the work that goes on,” he said. “Upper management can monitor the work daily, and every crew member out in the field has a tablet to access each job.”

Henderson added that since the implementation, the Utilities Department has gone from being reactive to addressing issues proactively through preventative maintenance. “It just eliminates so many balls being dropped,” Henderson said. “It has also served as a learning tool for us, helping us to improve efficiencies.”

Feuer said the biggest drawback to how Augusta’s departments formerly functioned was that their work management software wasn’t implemented as an enterprise solution. “When every work group or division has its own instance — production, testing, and development — it makes IT support a nightmare,” he said. “It’s impossible to compare work productivity, and normalizing metrics across divisions also becomes very difficult.”

He said now they’ll have one system, with one production, testing, and development environment. “They can just put their users into one development environment and say, ‘Let’s learn,’” Feuer said.

Henderson called Cityworks a “living, breathing thing,” that allows him to get the job done without relying on others for information. “I love what I do, but I also love what Cityworks gives me the ability to do,” Henderson said. “We’re a group known for shovels and digging. The success of this implementation speaks volumes for the group.

“We now process more orders than anybody, and it’s all tracked in Cityworks,” he said. “It makes us better.”

STEVE SCHWABE is an Institute of Asset Management-certified project manager in the Information Technology and Management Consulting market at Woolpert (http://www.woolpert.com), a national architecture, engineering, and geospatial firm.

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