A man is out walking his dog and he sees a cracked fire hydrant leaking water. He pulls out his iPhone, launches a mobile application, and in three easy steps submits a picture, description and location of the issue to his local government agency.
A woman working at a local government agency is busy dispatching field crews, running reports, and ordering materials. She receives an e-mail request to approve a work order that has been automatically generated by a citizen's request. She simply clicks approve, and the work order is automatically scheduled into the proper field crew's list of to-do's.
A field crew supervisor checks his mobile unit as his men pack their tools into the back of their truck. The next work request is only blocks away. They load up and move out. Within minutes they arrive to a leaking, cracked fire hydrant.
A City Manager comes out of a meeting at City Hall, quickly making his way to another. On the way, he grabs his Blackberry, accesses his mobile work management application, and checks his management dashboard. Everything looks great. There were 19 work orders open today, 18 have been completed. The last work order is a leaky hydrant, and a crew is already on the scene.
For many municipal industry professionals, a story like this sounds like something made for TV, not the real world. However, with the emergence of affordable, easy-to-use mobile devices and citizen-oriented applications, the simplicity of this scenario is closer to reality than ever before.
More and more, municipal organizations like yours are taking cues from the private sector and integrating technology that connects people, departments and systems. The results are better communication, improved workflow and increased productivity - factors that all combine to create good customer service and notable cost savings.
At its very core, we know that government's function is to cultivate and support community. But what supports government and makes it work? Really, it boils down to three vital pillars - workforce, management and citizens - each with its own special set of needs, yet dependent on each other for success. Here's how.
Efficiency for Workforce...
A connected workforce is equipped with the tools to be efficient. Reliable desktop solutions provide a solid foundation, giving users easy access to accurate information and smarter workflow. Today's mobile technology introduces a new realm of efficiency, allowing workers to respond quickly, be more productive and lower operating costs.
Accountability for Management...
A connected organization is an informed organization. Emerging technology gives managers a real-time connection to vital metrics and information. Through this constant connection, management is positioned to make better decisions, accurately analyze the way that money and resources are being used, and quickly cite opportunities for improvement.
Transparency for Citizens...
A connected citizen takes pride in a world that they help create, driving the demand for transparency, collaboration and participation in government. Mobile and web-based tools respond to that demand, connecting citizens directly to an organization's work management system and allowing them to personally report issues and track how government responds to them.
It's a world powered by connection. And it starts right now. The sooner your organization looks inward and examines how its pillars relate, the sooner you will develop a connective strategy that not only improves operations today, but also prepares you for the future.
Question: What does your Public Works building have in common with a stop sign downtown? With a little proactive maintenance, both can easily outlive their standard service life to save you money in the long run.
Not every organization can afford to staff a dedicated facilities maintenance function. And many times, the duties associated with building maintenance fall to individual departments. In a busy organization, everyday maintenance issues - such as leaky roofs, drafty windows and broken stair rails - are often added to an ever-growing maintenance log and set aside until a "better time" arises.
But what if it were your own home? Would you let a roof leak until it damaged itself and everything under it? Would you let drafty windows and doors continually cause thousands of dollars in unnecessary energy costs? Would you let a broken stair rail compromise your safety?
Just like any other asset, a building has its own special set of maintenance needs. But many organizations fail to acknowledge that facilities are as much a part of infrastructure as a sewer system, traffic signal or road. That's why best practices include buildings as a major component of any successful infrastructural maintenance strategy.
There are several useful facility management solutions on the market, each equipped with tools to help you create records on individual buildings, establish and automate regular maintenance schedules, and maximize the serviceability of your facilities. And when integrated with a work management system, many of these applications allow you to manage facility-specific work orders from initial request, to the scheduling of service through completion.
The information captured in a facility maintenance application gives a better sense of what you have now and what you'll need in the future. Right now, you might not have the budget necessary to complete capital improvements to your facilities. But with the information captured and housed in a facility management application, you'll have the hard data to help you make your case for those additional funds.
Today's mobile technology has introduced a new realm of efficiency for municipalities, allowing workers to respond quickly, be more productive, and lower operating costs. When integrated with work and asset management systems, mobile technology also makes vital data, such as asset location, work order updates, and inspection histories available at all times, giving personnel the resources necessary to make better, well-informed decisions.
The flexibility and portability of today's mobile technology allows personnel to be more efficient and effective at the point of service, providing the tools to receive a work order, complete it, and close it out, all from the field. For municipalities, the common benefits of mobile technology include:
• Work fast and accurately by reducing errors and eliminating the need to enter information again back at the office;
• Enter data into a mobile device at the point of service to reduce the need for paper;
• Lower operating costs by using less paper and fuel;
• Lower labor costs by allowing crews to be more productive at the point of service.
For example, when the city of Golden, Colo. integrated mobile technology for use in its Public Works Department, the goal was efficiency. Golden wanted to allow crews to conduct inspections, close out work orders, and capture data more accurately and quickly while in the field. What the city found was even more than anticipated - an unexpected ally in its community-wide sustainability effort.
By capturing data on an electronic device, Golden now uses less paper. And by utilizing today's mobile mapping capabilities to coordinate tasks, dispatch personnel, and streamline trips to and from the field, Golden consumes less fuel. In these two simple acts, the city not only conserves and sustains natural resources, but it has also successfully lowered its operational costs. In fact, in 2009 alone, Golden lowered sign inspection costs by a staggering 82 percent over those prior to the implementation of mobile technology.
As mobile technology continues to evolve, stories like that of Golden will become more and more common. As such, local governments will be expected to adopt best practices, set positive examples, and provide leadership in the nationwide quest to achieve more sustainable communities.
By utilizing today's mobile technology in conjunction with work and asset management systems, and citizen applications, you have the opportunity to put your community ahead of the sustainability curve, demonstrating your organization's awareness and setting a positive example for the entire community - one that resonates far beyond the present.
A fleet of vehicles and equipment is one the biggest and most important investments that an organization makes. But when these valuable assets break-down, you not only incur the cost of repair and replacement, your workers are often prevented from getting their jobs done - costing you even more time and money.
In the past, many organizations relied on reactive maintenance and paper records to keep vehicles and equipment functioning - you know, the old "don't fix what isn't broken" mentality. And beyond an oil change every few thousand miles, many of these fleet assets remained in service without much additional thought.
But just like any asset in your infrastructure, a little regular maintenance can go a long way. At the very least, your due diligence will provide reasonable insurance that when called upon, your vehicles and equipment will be ready to perform. But the benefits don't stop there. A routine maintenance schedule can also help you save money and budget more accurately.
People scoffed when President Barack Obama famously proposed that America air-up its tires to help curb our national dependence on fossil fuels. But the truth is that by keeping tires properly inflated, you can save up to 8 cents per gallon of gas per vehicle. An organization that applies this number to its entire fleet of vehicles will quickly realize that there is a substantial savings to be had with this one simple act.
The easiest way to establish regular fleet maintenance program is with a small investment in technology. In today's municipal market, there are several applications that are specific to the management of equipment and vehicles. While these applications differ in scope, depth and features, each is designed to help you implement and regulate a fleet maintenance program.
With the right technology, you can create and assign a detailed service schedule for each piece of equipment and vehicle in your fleet. Once implemented, you will have the ability to establish maintenance actions based on measurable indicators - such as vehicle age, mileage, or service hours - and schedule per vehicle maintenance activities at regular service intervals. This practice also gives you the opportunity to track unique vehicle directives, including specific maintenance needs, part numbers, warranty information, and materials needed to perform each assigned activity.
A regular, established practice of fleet maintenance also helps you streamline the labor and activities involved with upkeep, giving you the opportunity to track and maintain all current and historical vehicle and equipment information - including maintenance activities, upkeep materials, and skilled labor - and manage a task from initial request, to the scheduling of service, and through its completion.
By gauging these vital factors you can anticipate the future condition of your entire fleet and begin to address problems before they arise.
It's a technological age. And for almost every asset in your infrastructure - from signs and signals, to pavement and pavement markings; from sewers, storm drains and water pipes, to street lights, bridges, and vehicles - there is a system to manage it. But what many organizations fail to recognize is that information housed in these systems is useful far beyond mere inventory.
An integrated work and asset management system creates efficiencies by streamlining workflow and managing tasks and work orders from beginning to end, and giving you the tools to track and centralize important information like materials, labor, and equipment, and gauge the progress and status of work orders and requests.
When utilized in full, this data helps an organization ensure citizen safety, comply with local and federal regulations, budget more accurately, reduce liability, and respond quickly to citizen requests. Most importantly, this vital data also serves to sustain the life and value of an organization's infrastructure, giving you the information to establish proactive maintenance schedules that prolong the life your assets.
Today's mobile technology has introduced a new realm of efficiency and sustainability, allowing workers to respond quickly, be more productive, and lower operating costs while sustaining the integrity of assets and infrastructure. Portable solutions give field crews the ability to receive a work order, complete it, and close it out, all from the field. This approach makes vital data such as asset location, work order updates, and inspection histories available at all times.
And it doesn't stop there. Digital photos and video images are being attached to work orders and inspection results to enhance the integrity of asset records and data. Hand-written notes are being replaced with pre-populated dropdown menus - helping employees to capture data quickly and accurately and eliminating the need for paper. Real-time synching allows users to transfer information from the field to the office with the click of a button, quickly updating your database and replacing the need to re-enter data back at the office.
Every day, technology providers make a new breakthrough, opening a new realm of possibilities for the business of government. Don't let your organization fall behind. By using today's technology to your advantage, you become more efficient, productive, and sustainable.
Over the course of this decade, the word sustainability has become an inescapable part of the national vocabulary. Need proof? As of today, a Google search of the word sustainability will yield over 36,100,000 results. And many of those results are directly affiliated with states, cities, counties and other government entities - agencies just like yours - seeking ways to establish and promote sustainable efforts in their own communities.
All too often, it's easy to dismiss sustainability as rain barrels and recycling bins. But people tend to forget that a key component of sustainability is the practice of consuming less.
One way to consume less is to take good care of what you have now.
Do you inspect the condition of your pavement every spring? Have you ever converted old paper files to electronic format? Do you regularly maintain your fleet of vehicles and equipment? If the answer to any of these questions is ‘yes,' then congratulations, you're already on your way to being sustainable.
In government, these everyday functions are the foundation of sustainability. Proactive maintenance, preserving data, prolonging service life...these things add up to more than business as usual. They help you to consume fewer resources and get more out of what you already have.
Today's technology has made these practices easier than ever before. From transportation and utilities, to workflow and system integration, there is a world of affordable technology designed to help your organization sustain your data, assets and infrastructure well into the future.
With each installment of this column, I will explore the many ways that technology can help you gain efficiency, accountability and transparency while becoming a more sustainable organization.