Utilities are jumping into technology and embracing a vision of mobile solutions that connect their systems of record, their people, and the work they do. Their goal is to provide more reliable service to their customers while also finding a solution that works safely around their electric and gas facilities. Imagine, if you will – customer and job details, designs, historical touches, and resources, all at one’s fingertips.
This journey is not comfortable from paper processes and can almost seem untouchable for an experienced workforce that keeps the lights and gas flowing each day.
Primera recently had the opportunity of working on such a process with a utility, charged with defining and leading a program to support an integrated geographic information system (GIS) maintenance vision for gas asset management. The objective was to improve the accuracy of gas asset data quality and location information within a newly acquired GIS platform.
The challenges and/or known factors in this case were the following:
- Current data collected and work processes were not in a digital format
- Existing field/back office workflows delivering data from the job site to the office to the end user were taking too long
- CAD drawings converted to a newly-adopted GIS environment changed the viewing of gas assets in comparison to land base features
- The organization was in a significant change management process
- An approved technical solution could deliver the desired outcome
With evidence of the benefits, the Executive Team was ready to invest in a transformation. To start, the utility piloted a technical solution that captured gas asset attributes and locations via field users successfully. This solution was accepted and provided the basis for an innovative concept to take form. However, this project needed a place inside the broader vision that the utility was considering.
This solution impacted key stakeholders, supporting departments, regulatory representatives, contractors, field, and management team members. More extensive mobile GIS and Work Management IT initiatives were in the works, and this project could impact decisions well into the future. Therefore, understanding where the current and resulting work practices were on the maturity scale from the paper to digital processes was critical for future integrations and successful application.
A storyboard was developed to present the event timeline, the vision, the gaps, completion of items thus far, and the shift in focus to reach the vision. Most importantly, it enabled collaboration and approval among all impacted stakeholders who shared in and supported the story, because they were part of it.
The utility was already on a path toward mobile and GIS solutions, but not yet in design. It was clear that the project needed to focus on data accuracy first and foremost; obtaining, verifying, and publishing to benefit all future people who would work around these facilities.
The process fostered a project management approach where the client’s needs, resources to execute the program, business processes for integration, financial targets, and success measures were defined.
As this process developed, questions evolved that helped Primera understand the magnitude of the work processes the program could touch. The following areas needed investigation consideration to secure the scope, determine the level of complexity for change management, and prioritize the work scope to improve performance:
- GIS maturity
- Current workflow integrations
- IT architectural and security protocols
- Performance trends
- Geographic conditions
- Systems of record maintenance practices
- Field confidence in information
- Contractual strategies
- Organizational roles and responsibilities
- 3rd party sharing of project planning information
The data model needed to accept the field data captured and supported the symbology defined in the GIS. The field tool design, the data collection specifications for the field users, the criteria for data accuracy reviews and approvals, and the data acceptance for GIS production were designed, tested, and entered production.
A gas mapping project team was established that works with support organizations maintaining the current GIS application, collecting gas asset data within 2 inches of accuracy, and updating the current systems of record.
The team includes a field group that defined the business requirements for data collection and managed the equipment deployment and effective use by all operational field personnel.
An investigation team with locating and GPS equipment were deployed to resolve questionable location issues, working to reduce potential damages and improve data accuracy.
The team is achieving its vision of capturing gas asset location information at a higher level of accuracy. The team is also obtaining improved efficiencies in locating gas facilities by bringing this data into the current GIS application and to the end user.
The program feeds growth and future integrations by defining the business requirements and ensuring accurate information exists in the appropriate systems of record.
It may be years away, but we are creatively thinking, participating in the design, and bridging toward the future by supporting:
- Integration of asset location information with other systems
- Growing application needs
- Options for improved performance and transaction management
- Incorporating spatial data from various systems
- Robust use of data and analytics
- Transitioning to a mobile solution integrating Design, Work Management, and Field Operations
For additional information or help with your next GIS program, please contact Tricia Cox.