Laura Carr, chief operations officer of NewEdge Services, LLC, knows what it takes to help clients achieve their implementation goals as well as their vision for the future. We asked her to share her insights on GIS and asset management trends, implementation strategy, and cloud-hosted solutions.
Q. You’ve been working with GIS and asset management for 25 years. Why did you choose this field and how did you get your start?
A. I was studying geology at Texas A&M University. During my junior year, a geologist recommended that I get some knowledge on a new mapping technology called GIS. I added four classes and got an internship with the City of College Station’s GIS department. I graduated in 1997, got a job as a GIS technician with the City of Denton, Texas, and never looked back.
Q. What GIS and asset management trends have you seen recently?
A. During my career as a GIS technician, analyst, and consultant, I have seen GIS move from a backroom mapping application to a technology of its own that requires an understanding of spatial relationships, information technology, the internet, and building business relationships with the users. It is no longer just a mapping software but a tool to provide valuable data such as which assets we spend the most money on for repairs and maintenance. It allows us to use demographic data and past permitting history to make zoning and land use decisions, and in today’s COVID-19 environment, we can determine where cases are abundant and provide not only tabular but location information on those hot spots.
The shift from GIS being a desktop-only software to having abundant capabilities in the web has allowed the use and understanding of GIS to grow outside of just the GIS staff. City managers, council members, and citizens can log into portals and see dashboards of information all built on GIS data. Just ten years ago, these types of users would have needed to ask a GIS staff member to provide pieces of information for their reports that they can now access through a website.
Q. What role does an enterprise approach to systems play in the workplace?
A. GIS is now a large piece of a city’s enterprise software puzzle. The ability to integrate GIS with work order management software, permitting systems, and financial software provides municipalities with more data and tools to make good decisions for growth and for its citizens. When I started out as a GIS technician, no one would have thought to ask if a utility billing system could integrate with GIS. Now, as a consultant and implementer of Cityworks, I see it all the time.
Q. What is one of the biggest mistakes organizations make when implementing new software or technology?
A. Lack of planning. It’s all about planning—planning for how you want your software solution to look now and how you want it to look in the future. That planning includes setting goals to “fix” your current issues and long-term goals for the future. Engagement of the end users is key when planning for a software implementation. When we implement Cityworks, we encourage users from all levels to participate in the discussion. That way, you get a big-picture view of how operations occur from the top down.
Q. What tips do you have for any implementation strategy?
A. There are three questions I always ask at a kickoff meeting: 1) Why are you implementing Cityworks? 2) Where have your previous systems failed? 3) What is the vision? If I have a client start to think about these three items now—whether that be for GIS or the data and the application are still their property but that they do not have to deal with the hardware and upgrades to the software. NewEdge handles those services for our hosted clients and takes the burden off IT staffs.
Cloud hosting also provides the ability to have your applications available should an emergency occur or should you lose power or internet within your network. So, while your time-keeping app might not function because it’s on-premises, through the NewEdge hosted solution users can still access both GIS and Cityworks apps and information, pull reports, and so forth.
► You’ll also like: 6 Reasons to Use Cityworks Online
Q. What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned throughout your career?
A. Be flexible. Times change, and you have to change with them. Build your network—it is the most important thing you can do as a professional.
Q. What advice do you have for women in GIS?
A. Stand your ground and always be the smartest person in the room. If you know what you are talking about and can give solid advice, then those in the room will listen.
Q. Who is someone you admire in the industry?
A. There is a group of women who I admire in my industry. We all started out in the GIS community together in the mid to late ’90s in the North Texas area. We have seen each other through the thick and thin of our careers including changing jobs or industries, figuring out how to be good moms and wives, and how to be successful GIS professionals. Without them, I would not be where I am today.
Q. What technology are you geeking out over?
A. I spend all day using technology. My geek-out moments are time with friends and time to settle in and read a good book—not on a device but an actual book!
Watch the video below for implementation tips from Laura Carr.