The ability to leverage technology, regardless of the challenge, is critical to creating a resilient community—one that can withstand or recover quickly from difficult circumstances. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we do business. And with it comes tremendous opportunity—and responsibility—to modernize and implement solutions that support a safer, more resilient community.
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Many municipal organizations developed their workflows in a paper- based environment and eventually moved to spreadsheets. The use of GIS was likely introduced at some point, but usually in a single department or asset group, so it is siloed from the rest of the organization. It’s common for organizations to juggle any combination of paperwork, spreadsheets, and siloed GIS use for years until they are compelled to change. The trigger event could be a regulatory change, a natural disaster, or even a pandemic. The next phase is GIS-centric intelligence. It occurs when GIS-centric solutions are used to connect people, systems, data, and workflows to drive efficiency across the organization—resulting in a sustainable and resilient community. Let’s contrast two fictional cities to demonstrate how technology can help a community be more resilient to disruptions. City A operates in the phase of paperwork, spreadsheets, and siloed GIS. City B operates in the GIS-centric intelligence phase. Both cities have adopted social distancing policies, which closed city facilities to the public and most staff.
Scenario 1: The IT department needs to provide system access to all city staff working remotely.
City A struggles to balance system access with security risks. Staff can’t access their work remotely since spreadsheets and documents are located on secured servers, which are only accessible from the city’s network via a computer located at city facilities.
City B’s IT department adopted a cloud-first policy for city systems. As a result, they implemented the Cityworks Online cloud-hosted solution. Remote access is a non-issue.
Scenario 2: A contractor applies for a building permit.
City A struggles to take the application due to their heavy reliance on paper applications, paper plan sets, and only accepting cash or check payments at the payment counter at city hall. Up until now, it was city policy to only accept permit applications delivered in person by the applicant. Payments were also made in person by the applicant. City staff must come into the office to collect paper plan sets in order to do their plan review.
City B has seen very little disruption to their application process because they implemented a public portal where contractors can submit applications, and digital plan sets and pay applicable fees online. Supervisors can log in to Cityworks remotely and assign work to staff. Staff can complete their assignments digitally.
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Scenario 3: A supervisor needs to assign work to crews to maintain essential services.
City A historically made work assignments during a morning staff meeting. Assignments were listed on a white board, and crews were given paper copies of their work orders. Time and material were logged on paper and handed in at the end of the day. City A is faced with major process changes in order to protect the wellbeing of their staff while also maintaining operations.
City B also held daily staff meetings to make assignments. However, they used Cityworks to manage their workflows. Once social distancing guidelines were implemented and staff began working from home, daily web meetings and Cityworks dashboard helped them track new assignments and ongoing work. Supervisors and crew leads log into Cityworks on their own devices to see assignments. Most crew members can travel straight from home to the jobsite, bypassing the office. Work is logged in the mobile app and synced throughout the day, resulting in near real-time reporting. Staff members return to their homes from the field.
Is your organization more like City A or City B? Regardless of where it is in its technology progression, there is always room for improvement. And there has never been a more important time to improve than right now.
Click here to learn how Cityworks can help your organization with your emergency management.
By Matt Harman, Cityworks Business Development Manager