Meet Auburn, Washington

2013 Excellence in Operations Management Award Winner

Natalie Sacco
Event Planner | Cartegraph

Cartegraph OMS Award WinnerAuburn’s approach to municipal technology is proactive and comprehensive. The city has continually evolved its operations management and GIS technology, giving it a unique ability to manage a wide array of operations and services, including citizen request management, asset inventory and data collection, NPEDES permit compliance, and interdepartmental billing. Auburn was also one of the first municipal organizations to begin implementing the Cartegraph Operations Management System.

 
Here’s How They Do it

  • Auburn always looks for new ways to engage its citizens.  For example, the city recently implemented YourGOV, a cloud-based citizen request app that helps it provide better service and resolve issues more efficiently.
  • The city continually expands its capabilities through technology. During 2013, Auburn added two new operations management modules and a mobile solution for tracking NPDES permit requirements.  The city also began offering on-site staff training to ensure that employees are able to use the technology efficiently.
  • Right now, the City of Auburn is working with Cartegraph Data Services to complete a city-wide mobile data collection project.  Once complete, the city will have a detailed, up-to-date database of city assets that it will use to help plan future projects and budgets.


“The City of Auburn is honored to be presented with Cartegraph’s 2013 Excellence in Operations Management award.  Auburn’s Mayor, City Council and senior leadership have a unified vision of what the City’s goals are and understand how we as a City are going to achieve them.  This award validates our goals and demonstrates how the City leverages technology to become more efficient, proactive and transparent. Auburn strives for transparency in Government through innovation, strategic thinking and collaboration through the use of Cartegraph software.”

Ashley Riggs, GISP
IT Operations Manager
City of Auburn

Meet Waynesboro, Virginia

2013 Excellence in Operations Management Award Winner

Natalie Sacco
Event Planner | Cartegraph

Cartegraph OMS Award WinnerThe City of Waynesboro’s Public Works Department and its associated Transportation Safety Commission, City Council and City Management were recognized for using technology to improve the delivery of government services. Waynesboro evolved from using a single application for tracking water network work orders and now uses Cartegraph technology to manage the day-to-day operations of its Engineering division and Water and Wastewater Treatment plants. This approach allows supervisors to effectively schedule work, track requests and work orders, manage assets, and budget for the future. Waynesboro has plans to take its technology effort even further by adopting tablets for workers to use in the field.

 
Here’s How They Do it

  • Waynesboro started using Cartegraph in 2007 and their use has evolved over time to now being the information system that drives their organization.
  • The city makes innovative use of its technology for managing infrastructure, assets requests, and work.
  • In an effort to curb pollution and ensure compliance with the EPA’s MS4 stormater regulations, Waynesboro plans upgrade to Cartegraph’s OMS technology and begin using tablets in the field.
     

“The City of Waynesboro Public Works Department is honored to be recognized with the 2013 Excellence in Operations Management Award. Cartegraph is the information system that drives our organization, even more now as we begin to fully comply with regulatory mandates of the Stormwater program in the State of Virginia.”

Brian McReynolds
City of Waynesboro
Public Works Director

Meet Enid, Oklahoma

2013 Excellence in Operations Management Award Winner

Natalie Sacco
Event Planner | Cartegraph

Cartegraph OMS Award WinnerThe City of Enid has emerged as a thought leader in the municipal industry through its focused, data-driven approach to achieving a return on their organization's technology investment.  Enid understands the importance of sharing data among multiple departments and levels of management, and consistently looks for new ways to use technology as a means to improving the way the city does business.

Here’s How They Do it

  • Enid is extremely enthusiastic about creating new processes and developing best practices, and routinely engages its staff in making these organizational advancements successful.
     
  • Enid works closely with its departments and with 3rd party providers to discover better, more proactive approaches to work, asset, resource, and request management.  Most recently, the city partnered with Cartegraph in the development of an app that makes solid waste collection more efficient.
     
  • Enid’s data-driven approach to managing operations has established the city as a thought leader in the municipal industry and a case-in-point example of best practices at work, and city representatives are always willing to share insight with its industry peers.
     

“I feel honored as one of the recipients of the 2013 Excellence in Operations Management Award.  The City of Enid is a very progressive city that is embracing automation and technology.  The City’s commitment allows me to embrace such technology and work with different entities to achieve this goal.  In addition, I also have to thank the employees of the City of Enid.  They have also embraced the change and have taken an active part in making this change such a success. Cartegraph has been a great ally in achieving our new ideas and embracing them as part of our daily routine here at the City of Enid.  Collaboration, productivity, and confidence has made an outstanding product which has enabled the City of Enid excel in operations and management.  Thank you for the award and we intend to keep striving towards new ideas and technologies.”

Robinson Camp
City of Enid
Deputy Director of Public Works

Meet the Lewis and Jefferson County Joint Infrastructure Management Initiative

2013 Excellence in Operations Management Award Winner

Natalie Sacco
Event Planner | Cartegraph

Cartegraph OMS Award WinnerThe Lewis and Jefferson County Joint Infrastructure Management Initiative has established (JIMI) a unique model for managing municipal assets. Through its use of the Cartegraph Operations Management system, the project shares technology and data among 15 individual municipalities.  This collaborative approach gives these organizations accurate, innovative tools for capital planning, budgeting, and proactive maintenance programs.

 Here’s How They Do it

  • The JIMI Group utilizes Cartegraph’s Operations Management System to catalogue, track, and maintain vital assets such as roads, equipment, water meters and valves, drainage culverts, and signage.
  • All project participants in the project share data, reports, forms and training to help reduce costs and increase efficiencies.
  • The group’s unique sharing model helps each participating organization ensure that its assets are replaced before costly repairs are needed, maintenance and repairs are accurately documented, and reports are generated effectively and efficiently.

 

"I was excited to learn about the JIMI group receiving the "Excellence in Operations Management Award."  This group, which is made up of 15 local governments, has been a great group of people to work with.  They are a very committed group of people that exemplify what shared services are about.  I couldn't be more proud of this group receiving this award and am excited about the work that is being done using Cartegraph OMS."

Mickey Dietrich
Tug Hill Commission 

Meet Mankato, Minnesota

2013 Excellence in Operations Management Award Winner

Natalie Sacco
Event Planner | Cartegraph

Cartegraph OMS Award WinnerMankato was recognized for its forward thinking approach to managing infrastructure and day-to-day operations in its Water, Wastewater, and Public Works departments. The city leverages its Cartegraph technology to accurately track assets, labor, equipment, and materials, and a fleet of more than 300 vehicles.  This use of technology allows departments to bill their services more accurately and demonstrate to upper management, city council, and citizens exactly how tax dollars are being spent.

HERE'S HOW THEY DO IT

  • Mankato uses Cartegraph to manage sewer, storm and water network assets and work orders, and to track the associated labor, equipment, and materials.
  • Tracking these items allows the city to bill other City departments, as well as private contractors, and recoup funds that were previously lost to them.
  • The city also uses Cartegraph to manage a fleet of more than 300 vehicles, including preventative maintenance planning, tracking fuel usage, and reporting on parts and labor used for each department.
  • Cartegraph reporting has helped supervisors and employees do their jobs better and justify to elected officials and citizens that tax payer’s dollars are being well utilized.


“It’s an honor to receive this award. City staff will continue to be a leader in this area by looking for opportunities to use technology to help enhance efficiencies. This benefits taxpayers and contributes to Mankato’s quality of life.”

Mary Fralish
Director of Public Works
City of Mankato
 

Meet Boone County, Missouri

2013 Excellence in Operations Management Award Winner

Brad Schweikert
Marketing Communications Specialist | Cartegraph

Cartegraph OMS Award WinnerBoone County earned its award for successfully implementing a multi-department Operations Management System.  In doing so, the county has steadily improved the integrity of its collected data and renewed its commitment to citizen engagement and transparency. In addition, Boone County says it has experienced notable improvements to its methods of internal communication, particularly between its departments of Public Works and Resource Management.

Here's how they do it:

  • Boone County uses Cartegraph and ArcGIS in tandem to collect, analyze and review maintenance activities and assets, manage requests from citizens, and create mapping applications that provide location accuracy and geographic visualization.
  • Supervisors are making efficient use of mobile technology in the field; using it to update work orders, track staff, material, and equipment costs, create road condition graphs, and track culvert types.
  • New reporting methods help staff calculate costs and provide departments the information needed to identify cost savings, develop realistic work plans/schedules for future projects, and accurately budget for those future projects.
  • Boone County’s united communication efforts have introduced new, dynamic ways to illustrate daily operations using additional technologies such as Cartegraph Mobile applications, ArcGIS Online, web-based reporting, and social media. 

“Winning this award is very exciting because it is great to be recognized for all of the time and effort it took to combine technologies, personalities, ideas, and talent that have resulted in a dynamic workflow that continues to challenge the way we think about data management. We are passionate about what we do, because we are passionate about serving our citizens.”

Charly Clendenning
GIS/Data Management Technician
Boone County, Missouri Public Works

Meet the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission

2013 Excellence in Operations Management Award Winner

Brad Schweikert
Marketing Communications Specialist | Cartegraph

Cartegraph OMS Award WinnerOne of the core themes of the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission's (CMRPC) transportation planning program is maintaining its transportation infrastructure at its current state or better. To help accomplish this, CMRPC manages its pavement using Cartegraph and Esri technology. This combination of technology allows CMRPC to accurately collect and analyze asset data, perform various budget scenarios, clearly communicate data-driven priorities to non-technical decision makers, and transparently validate its use of funds to the public.

HERE’S HOW THEY DO IT:

  • CMRPC successfully created a pavement priority strategy for identifying the current condition and future replacement needs for pavement segments with OCI rating in the bottom 10 percentile of the organization’s predefined condition/repair limits.
  • Using its Operations Management and GIS technologies together to map and inspect its segment inventory, CMRPC is able to justly and efficiently identify segments in need in replacement and repair.
  • According to CMRPC, this ongoing prioritization process helps decision-makers see the importance of infrastructure maintenance and ensure that limited funds are distributed among diverse locations and projects.

“This award reaffirms the value of the time and investment by CMRPC staff to create a transparent and data-driven decision making process which was made possible using the robust asset management  package developed by Cartegraph.”

Sujatha Mohanakrishnan
Transportation Engineer
Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission

Meet the City of Colorado Springs, Colorado

2013 Excellence in Operations Management Award Winner

Brad Schweikert
Marketing Communications Specialist | Cartegraph

Cartegraph OMS Award WinnerColorado Springs is recognized as an early adopter of operations management technology and uses it to manage work, assets, and processes in many of its public service departments including Traffic Engineering, Pavement, City Parks, GIS, and many others.  Even in the midst of limited resources, Colorado Springs is able to maintain a steady level of customer service, infrastructural integrity, and return on its technology investments. Among its many accomplishments, Colorado Springs recently concluded a technology and data driven Forestry division project that saved the city well above half a million dollars.

Here's how they do it: 

  • City leaders, administrators, and technology users routinely take the time to work together and learn from each other. This cooperation has allowed Colorado Springs to operate according to industry best practices, and save a great deal of time and money in the process.
     
  • Andy Richter, the city’s Cartegraph Champion, eagerly shares his knowledge with other pubic sector organizations, helping them understand how technology can simply their day-to-day operations and realize a tangible return on investment.
     
  • Colorado Springs takes the time to engage its citizens and understand their expectations. In doing so, the city has been able to consistently improve the services it delivers to the public. 
     

“The City of Colorado Springs is honored to receive the 2013 Excellence in Operations Management Award using Cartegraph technology. We have gained efficiencies with our work force responding to citizen concerns. Developing asset management strategies for the city’s infrastructure for future generations while having a positive return on investment for our community.”

Andy Richter
Asset Management Supervisor
Colorado Springs, Colorado

Meet the City of Santa Barbara, California

2013 Excellence in Operations Management Award Winner

Brad Schweikert
Marketing Communications Specialist | Cartegraph

Cartegraph OMS Award WinnerThe City of Santa Barbara Public Works Department has achieved much success in its use of technology. This success is especially evident in the city’s wastewater collection system maintenance and capital planning activities. Using Cartegraph and ArcGIS in tandem, the city has been extraordinarily proactive in the maintenance and management of its wastewater system infrastructure. The city has also made technology an integral part of its restaurant fats, oil, and grease (FOG) management program, using it to streamline planning activities and manage inspection data.

Here’s how they do it:

  • Because the city’s Cartegraph software has been geodata-connected to its Esri software, field crews can easily visualize wastewater system infrastructure.  This ability to work visually and geographically helps workers efficiently perform daily sewer system work activities, data entry, and reporting.
     
  • Santa Barbara has developed algorithms within Cartegraph that use the condition findings of pipe cleaning events to proactively schedule future maintenance and cleaning.
     
  • Sewer main CCTV work is scheduled and documented in Cartegraph, and CCTV PACP grading results are uploaded into Cartegraph.  With this information, management staff is better able to prioritize CIP sewer main rehabilitation and repair projects.
     
  • Private sewer lateral inspection program activities are recorded in Cartegraph, as well.  The city then uses Cartegraph’s automated form letter feature to communicate with property owners.
     

“Receiving the 2013 Excellence in Operations Management Award is an extremely rewarding experience, as the City of Santa Barbara Public Works Department both values and utilizes technology to manage its valuable resources.”

Chris Toth
Wastewater System Manager
City of Santa Barbara

2013 Excellence in Operations Management Awards

Meet the 10 winners

Brad Schweikert
Marketing Communications Specialist | Cartegraph

Cartegraph OMS Award WinnerThe nominations are reviewed, the judging is done, and the results are in. We’re pleased to announce the winners of our first annual Excellence in Operations Management Awards, an initiative recognizing municipal organizations that use Cartegraph technology to work smarter and improve their communities.

First, we want to thank everyone who took the time to nominate a public sector organization. 31 organizations were nominated and each one is doing truly remarkable things with its operations and technology.  Determining the winners wasn’t easy — trying to separate the best from the best never is. Ultimately it came down to 10 organizations that most exemplified the five core tenets of the competition:

  1. Effective Methods of Work and Data Management
  2. Tech Savvy Approaches to Citizen Engagement
  3. Proactive Solutions for Public Infrastructure Management
  4. Demonstrated Leadership in the Municipal Industry
  5. Data Driven Methods of Achieving ROI

Four of the winning organizations were also awarded a special Pioneer designation in recognition of their early adoption of municipal technology and longstanding commitment to helping other public sector organizations develop technology strategies. 

Winners: (ALPHABETICALLY BY STATE)

  • City of Santa Barbara, CA
  • City of Colorado Springs, CO
  • Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission (CMRPC)
  • Boone County, MO
  • City of Mankato, MN
  • The Lewis and Jefferson County, NY Joint Infrastructure Management Initiative (JIMI) [Pioneer]
  • Enid, OK [Pioneer]
  • Anderson County, SC [Pioneer]
  • City of Waynesboro, VA
  • City of Auburn, WA [Pioneer]

Follow us on Facebook and find out how these winning organizations earned their awards. 

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be spotlighting each award winner.  Each winning organization has a unique and valuable story to share.  We hope you’ll take some time to find out what sets these organizations apart from the rest. You never know, you just might find yourself inspired to earn an Excellence in Operations Management Award of your own next year!

The future of government technology.

Bigger and curvier?

James Willis
Emerging Technology Strategist | Cartegraph

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to spend a couple of days at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. This is, by far, the largest conference held in Las Vegas, which is saying something. This year, approximately 150,000 technology industry types (sorry regular people, the show is not open to the public) came from all over the world to wow and be wowed by the newest advances in consumer electronics.

Considering the last trade show I attended was APWA in Chicago, this was somewhat of a culture shock. No offense to APWA, but CES runs at an entirely different scale. The whole show covers 1.9 million square feet and, over a 24-hour period, I walked almost all of it.  By the time I was headed home, I had at least one blister and a gammy hip. It was big, it was bright, it was noisy, and it was thoroughly overwhelming.

Take, for example, Samsung's booth, which was packed with everything from giant TVs to dishwashers, and seemed to be the size of a small city block. I saw men enter the booth clean-shaven and eventually exit the other side crawling on all fours, beards brushing the ground, gasping for water.

In an area of the show dubbed Eureka Park, I found the ambitious startup companies showcasing their latest “concoctions,” exciting hybrids of new and emerging technologies such as location awareness, cloud, 3D printing, internet of things, and wearables, all poised to evolve the technology landscape even further.

At the end of the day this is a consumer-based event. The intention is, after all, to build excitement about the technology and devices hitting the consumer market in 2014. Which begs the question: why should government care about a 110 inch curved UltraHD television?

As you've probably noticed by the growing prevalence of iPads and smartphones in your office, the line between consumer technology and government technology is blurring. Each technological advance that’s made available in the consumer world will eventually effect the expectations of government employees and the citizens they serve. 

As consumers, our lives get a little easier with every new innovation and device. It doesn’t take long for us to wish for that same convenience in all our affairs.  That’s why we built Cartegraph Operations Management System (OMS) with a distinct focus on creating incredibly simple and pleasing user experiences.

We here at Cartegraph are consumers as well as municipal industry experts. When we sat down to build a new product we looked at typical government software and asked ourselves if it really had to be that way. Does it have to be ugly? Does it have to be difficult to use? Our answer is no. Our answer is OMS.

Our user-centric focus is evident in every part of the Cartegraph interface. We integrated the Google maps that everyone uses in their everyday lives, leveling the geospatial playing field for those non-GIS types.  We created easy to use apps for managing almost any type of municipal asset imaginable.  And we designed our technology to perform optimally on those iPads the public sector is so fond of these days.

So whether you’re a citizen reporting a pothole online or a Public Works employee closing a work order for the pothole you just repaired, the Cartegraph technology you’re using will provide nothing less than a first class user experience.

Looking back at the CES show through a filter of time and well-rested legs only reinforces the view that usability is the key factor in adoption and success of a technology. No matter how great an idea someone has, when you pick up a gadget and it is hard to understand or use, you probably put it down and move on to that simple, intuitive solution in the next booth. The products that stick in my mind are those that were able to both grab my imagination as well as make sense in my hands.

You know, products like Cartegraph!

Creating local government software.

An insider's look from an outsider's perspective

Todd Henderson
Subject Matter Expert | Cartegraph

Changing careers in your 40’s is risky, especially when you work at a job that you enjoy, with people who have become like family to you. But, that is exactly what I did a few weeks ago, when I transitioned from a client to an employee of Cartegraph Systems.

I have learned over the years, that the things we most regret in life are not those things we DID (though we all have a few of those), but rather the things we COULD have done, but did not. Opportunity lost is a sickening feeling that takes a lifetime — or longer — to go away. I was not going to take that chance, so when the opportunity presented itself to work for a company I had admired as a customer, I just had to say “yes.”

However, as the old saying goes, “after every wedding, there is a marriage”. I knew that there would be a few things that I saw as an outsider that would look differently as an insider, and there are.   

I am still very much in the client mindset. In a way, I hope I always stay that way. I never want to lose the view that I had as a municipal Utilities Resources Coordinator who had to make Cartegraph technology work in the real world, where the situations and people that surrounded me were not always ideal.

I am writing this from as honest of a perspective as possible. I believe that you, as the customer, deserve the same “transparency and accountability,” that the government sector strives to pass on to its constituents. So, join me as we get the electronic access badges out and allow our credentials to escort us deep into the heart of a software company that sits at the southern edge of Dubuque, Iowa; a city on the banks of the Mississippi River.

“So, Todd, tell me; what was your biggest shock since you started at Cartegraph?”

This was the question posed to me by our President and CEO, Jake Schneider, as we sat at dinner just two days after I arrived in Dubuque to start my new position. I knew Jake wanted me to be perfectly honest with him, so I told him my truthful assessment. 

“Well, to be honest, two things stood out and spoke to me the loudest,” I said. “First, is the level of contact Cartegraph has with its customers. I have never heard so many conversations with, about, and advocating for customers as I have here. Second, I was shocked by the number of projects that involve assisting clients with services they need after implementing the software.”

In other words, I discovered that Cartegraph really is all about us...or I mean YOU (See? I still think I am a client sometimes).  

When I was a client, I used to call technical support all the time, especially when we were first trying to implement the software. Every time I called, I was confident that a helpful voice on the other end that would resolve my issue. I became very accustomed to the attention and excellent service provided. As a matter of fact, I became good friends with the Cartegraph Tech Support staff and, whether they knew it or not, they literally trained me into becoming the newest Cartegraph Subject Matter Expert.

Settling into my cubicle the first day, I quickly learned that customer contact is constant. New business prospects and existing customers from all over the country are contacted at a frenetic pace. Implementation Specialists, Account Executives, Sales Associates, Project Managers, and just about every person in the company is singularly focused on helping customers and meeting their organizational needs.

Particularly revealing are the conversations happening off the phone lines. Efforts are made to organize meetings, ask other staff members with expertise in a certain area to assist a client, etc. I went out the door at the end of the first day impressed and excited. Why? Because what I had suspected as a customer was confirmed to me as an employee — they really do care about the people who use Cartegraph as their software of choice.

My first day was no anomaly. This exceptional level of communication continued during the next three days, as I overheard multiple conversations of the staff at Cartegraph doing their best to assist every client and provide a very high level of customer service. It was constant, consistent, and clear. Cartegraph, and the individuals that make-up its incredible culture, sincerely strives to provide great customer experiences. They take the time to understand the challenges you face and they work hard to create technology that makes your job easier.

As I boarded the plane back to Tucson on Friday morning, my morale was at an all-time high, buoyed by what I experienced during my first few days as an official Cartegraph employee. I was thankful — thankful that I did, indeed, make the right choice in joining the Cartegraph team. I arrived home confident in the knowledge that, culturally and philosophically, this company and I were in lock-step.

So, the risk that I mentioned in the first paragraph of this article was worth it. The safety and security I left as a Utilities Resources Coordinator, at a public sector job where risk was minimal and everything was familiar, was replaced by a new passion and enthusiasm. I am now a part of a company that affords me the freedom to: focus on my strengths (speaking, writing and working with people at all levels of an organization), find my limits, and work with clients in such a way that I can help them bring their organizations to a new level.

That is what motivates me and fills me with energy every day. Now, back in my home office in Tucson a week later, I realize just how happy I am to have this unique view; an insider’s look from an outsider’s perspective. So, customers, you have an ally here at Cartegraph.  Actually, you have quite a few of us. We have been there and we’ve made Cartegraph software work in the real world. We feel your pain and know the joy of your success, because we lived it ourselves every day.

Take heart and know that you are the singular focus of the Cartegraph organization. As we work together, I believe you will discover what I did; Cartegraph is not just superior software, it is a group of gifted and talented people who want you to succeed. Everyone here is ready to help you take your organization to the next level. We are looking forward to assisting you in doing that. May your best days be ahead of you!

Bringing Municipal Operations Management to social media.

Natalie Sacco
Event Planner | Cartegraph

If you’re anything like us, you’re pretty embedded in today's social media world, where the latest Tweets, Likes and Connects are just a click away. While we’d like to think you’re going out to www.cartegraph.com every week to check out our latest blog or event announcement, we know that’s just wishful thinking. So now we’re delivering this information directly to you via social media.

Here's a sample of the great stuff we're sharing with our fans every day: 

  • Product updates including the latest features and functionality of Cartegraph OMS
  • A wide variety of blogs and videos discussing the latest news and insights about municipal technology, GIS, citizen engagement, and more. 
  • Cartegraph event details including User Group registration and photos
  • Little surprises to brighten your day.  For example, every Throwback Thursday we share our favorite photos from the Cartegraph archives! 

You can find us on the most popular social media channels.  If you’re feeling especially social, follow us on all three!

Like us on Facebook!

Follow us on Twitter! 

Connect with us on LinkedIn!

Every day is like a holiday (with Cartegraph Government Software).

Brad Schweikert
Marketing Communications Specialist | Cartegraph

Editor's note: This video and accompanying post were originally published on 12/13/2012.  But can you really blame us for wanting to show it to you again?!

"Cartegraph for Christmas." It's the gift that keeps giving, year after year. Play it. Replay it. Share it with your family and friends. We hope you have as much fun watching it as we had making it! We also hope you to take a minute to consider its context.

As much as anything, this video is a timely, rosy-cheeked, belly-jiggling, glad-tide-bearing metaphor: if Cartegraph can improve  day-to-day operations at the North Pole — arguably the most industrious and productive enterprise in any realm of possibility — it’s surely powerful enough to improve municipal operations management, too.

Operations Management software for government?

Yep. As Jake Schneider mentioned in an earlier post, operations management is coming to town…and city, and county, and every other public sector entity out there.

Tracking resources. Maintaining assets. Processing requests. Managing workflow. These are the day-to-day operations that make the public sector tick. Until now, many agencies — maybe even yours — have had to make due with a hodge-podge of systems and applications, each serving a different purpose, department, and need.

But working within these silos puts day-to-day operations at constant risk of being inefficient, redundant, or, even worse, counterproductive. So we built a system that manages municipal operations holistically, allowing processes and functions to complement one another. The result is a continuous loop of data that’s valuable for every type of user in your organization.

Which brings me to my holiday wish...

Those adorable half-pints who energize the holidays have it easy. By wishing, hoping, and believing, they bring Santa Claus to life for everyone. Unfortunately, no amount of wishing, hoping, and believing will help you improve your operations. You need a plan of action. You need the right tools. You need powerful, easy to use operations management software for government

So whatever part of the world you’re in, I want you to start thinking about the future.  I want you to be honest about the things you could be doing better. I want you to take time to understand what your citizens and staff expect from you. I want you to ask yourself if you have the right tools to move your organization forward.Then I want you to go out and buy a brand new, action-packed Cartegraph municipal operations management system (act now and get a free Cartegraph Kung-Fu Grip).

Tell ‘em Brad sent you. Upper management says copywriters — even charming and handsome ones like me — don’t qualify for commission. But it’s the holiday season. According to my darling little children, anything’s possible.

From us and ours, to you and yours:
Have a Happy and Productive Holiday Season!

Does government software talk?

Data has a voice. Let it speak.

Todd Henderson
Subject Matter Expert | Cartegraph

“Sixty-five percent of our work orders are in the northern half of the town. Only thirty-five percent are in the southern half.”

That’s an actual quote from a recent conversation I had with my Utilities Director.  The conversation happened over a pile of data generated by my Cartegraph government software. And it prompted a revelation.

Our Operations Center, where all of Utilities Department’s vehicles, equipment, inventory and manpower are housed, is located on the southern edge of town. According to my data, the majority of our work is happening in the opposite direction of our facility.  So, if I listen closely to what the data is saying, it only makes sense that our Operations Center be more centrally located within the town.  

It’s not just a matter of convenience, either. Centralizing our location would help us create the most efficient and responsive workforce possible — it would reduce crews’ travel time, minimize wear and tear on our vehicles and equipment, save fuel, and reduce response times in emergency situations.  As if that weren’t justification enough, I dug deeper and learned learned that 60% of Marana’s growth is occurring in — you guessed it — the northern part of town.   

The moral of the story? Data speaks.  You just need to take the time to listen.

Soon we’ll be using the data housed in our government software to definitively demonstrate to the powers that be that a relocation of our Operations Center is in order, and why. 

Another example I uncovered had to do with how much money we were spending in each of Marana’s water systems. I broke it down by cost per water meter. One system that has 1899 meters only cost us $25.67 per meter in maintenance issues. However, our water system at the Airport has only 11 meters and cost us…are you ready? $1201.67 per meter!

Full disclosure: We actually had to rehab two wells and do some maintenance on the 16-inch fire suppression main, so the cost was somewhat understandable.  But, still, listening to that data scream at us was rather shocking. The discovery even prompted an important discussion at the management —the first steps toward more revenue-generating development at the Airport.

Suffice it to say, the reports that can be generated from powerful government software, like Cartegraph, are both amazing and voluminous. However, if all you ever do is print several reams of paper, which kills trees and angers your Environmental and Parks Department staff, you have not accomplished much. If you allow the data you generate to speak to you, like I’ve illustrated above, then you are on the road to real progress and a more efficient organization.

Data can speak in a whisper (change your location) or a shout (the Airport is costing us!). It can direct you, frustrate you, and cause you to lose sleep. But if you sharpen your focus and allow the data to speak to your situation, then you will accomplish some amazing things.

Bottom line? It is not just data you are generating. You are generating decisions and future strategy. Listen to it carefully and it will direct you on the path to wise decisions and more efficient operations. Ignore it at your peril. Data has a voice. Let it speak.

Are Citizen Request apps changing the face of local government?

Rebecca Smart
Citizen Y | Cartegraph

The good news:

I won a write-in campaign for elected office on my municipality’s city council.

The bad news:

I won a write-in campaign for elected office on my municipality’s city council.

That’s right:  Rebecca Smart decided to put up or shut up with all this involved citizen business.  Perhaps carrying around the YourGOV app went to my head. I truly started feeling a sense of ownership in my local government and the space around me.  Eminent domain brain.

So I ran.  And I won. 

The rewards?  Four hour meetings the one night there’s a show on TV I like.  My own personal government email to which every resident in the municipality can write complaints.  Six inches of manuals and statutes to read in my free time.  No more free time.  And occasionally, getting yelled at.  They publish my home phone on the city website.  Isn’t that handy? 

No, really, it’s not that bad.  It’s an interesting mix of ordinances, budgets, personalities, and the prioritization of what local government can and should be doing all with that neat trick of having very little money.   When all these things intersect with the lives of real people, you know you better be paying attention. 

There are some positives.  The eye-in-the-sky camera for the public access television station has a flattering effect on certain body parts.  I’ve lost a few pounds since the four hours I would otherwise spend grazing empty calories in my kitchen have been eliminated.  And I’ve met some really great people behind the scenes.    

My initial assessment is that government is, as they say, for the people, by the people.  At the local level, that equates to a bunch of average folks working really damn hard as government staff with the promise of probably never getting a big raise. 

The elected folks come and go, but the staff is in for the long haul.  I see part of my job as not making their work more difficult.  The best way to battle increasingly polarized politics is with common sense.  It’s been working behind the scenes all along.  

Government software gains persistence.

How I learned to love browser navigation

James Willis
Emerging Technology Strategist | Cartegraph

Quick show of hands; who’s hit the back button in their browser and seen a message something like this?

The page “used information” and choosing to continue “might” repeat the action. Does that mean if I continue that I will end up with two DVD copies of Stallone’s 1987 arm-wrestling classic “Over the Top”? Maybe, I won’t know until I find myself in the situation of re-gifting one to my hard to buy for father-in-law.

How about this?

You’re online shopping for your dream car. You’ve reached a great used car site, sorted by price, and begun to navigate the inventory.  You’re halfway down the 3rd page of listings when you see it — the perfect Ferrari Testarossa. Click. Unfortunately this isn’t the dream car you’d hoped for. Among other things, the original engine has been replaced by one from a ‘76 Ford Pinto. Undaunted, you click the back button to continue your search and… WHAT THE! Your sort has changed, you’re scrolled to the top of the page…and, in fact, you’re not even the same page anymore. Annoying.

Web experiences like these happen all the time.  Not only are they annoying, each incites a certain fear-based response from the technology user.  It's an affliction I refer to as Scared to Click Syndrome. 

Scared to Click Syndrome (STCS)

A behavior exhibited by technology users with a particular aversion to unnecessary  navigation and inconvenience. Common symptoms include:

  • Conflicted wavering of one’s cursor over a web link.
  • A penchant for living in ignorance rather than run the risk of following a link only to return to a reset page.
  • Pre-emptive tendency to ‘open in new window’ for fear of the ramifications of clicking a link.

SCTS is just one of many reasons technology users build and harbor negativity toward web apps. Another reason? There are a lot of bad web apps out there.  In fact, many of them are imposed upon us at our places of work. Suffice it to say, frustration and fear are not good bedfellows with technology adoption.

That's why when Cartegraph set out to build its web-based Operations Management System (OMS), we took these user experience problems very seriously (I can testify to this. I was there). We quickly realized that the ability to easily move around the system — a/k/a navigating without fear — was integral to OMS adoption, and that adoption was integral to the customer’s success.

How seriously did we take it?

The “we built a dedicated framework,” kind of serious. Our Persistence Framework allows us to give the user an unparalleled web experience. As you move around within the system, Cartegraph remembers everything — your map position, your scroll position in the grid, your loaded filters, the order of those filters…I could go on and on. And I will, because I am really proud of this.

The tasks listed in this work order summary map tip are all hyperlinked to their associated task detail page. I can easily click one of those links to get the additional information and when I navigate back, I'll see the screen exactly how I left it. The tip will be open. It’ll be on the correct tab within that tip. My scroll position within that tab will even be the same. It’s like I never left the original web page. That’s persistence (I’d show you another screenshot of it, but you’re already looking at it. Because it’s identical).

Your first response might be “Hey, that’s a neat trick.” But this relentless focus on usability is much more than a simple perk.  It builds a user’s confidence in the system. It delivers a predictable, consistent user experience.  And most of all, it eliminates the user’s fear of navigation. When users start to trust the system they will be more likely to explore the system. That confidence and curiosity will make for less frustrated users who work more productively and efficiently.

Cartegraph persistence is just one example of our commitment to creating technology that’s easy to adopt and use. In a sense, we hope persistence is a feature that Cartegraph users never realize is there — something that doesn’t stand out because it makes so much sense.  But if they do notice it, we hope they realize that persistence is the only cure for STCS. 

Cartegraph introduces Data Collection Services.

Asset inventories, condition assessments, field mapping, digital imagery, and 3D reality capture.

Natalie Sacco
Event Planner | Cartegraph

When it comes to getting started with Operations Management, one of the trickiest parts can be having reliable data to enter into your system. Sometimes you don’t have information to get started or, even if you do have the data, it may not be very accurate.

To help fill this gap, Cartegraph recently introduced its new Data Collection service. At the Esri User Conference this past July, Ken Huisman, Cartegraph’s Data Collection Services Manager, was interviewed by Professional Surveyor Magazine.

Check out what Ken had to say about how we can help you gather spatial information including where assets are located and what condition they are -- all from our state of the art Data Collection vehicle. 

To learn more about Cartegraph Data Services, contact your Cartegraph representative or email us at: info@cartegraph.com

Initiating Municipal Operations Management processes.

OMS Technology is Critical, Part 3

Todd Henderson
Subject Matter Expert | Cartegraph

Once the decision-makers have fully committed to this new business process, then the time has come to answer the original question asked at the beginning of this series, “Who will initiate this?”

Keeping in mind business process and culture change, as discussed here and here, management needs to choose someone who understands both concepts and is motivated to take the necessary steps to initiate the change and see the transition through to its completion.

It is my conviction that the person who initiates the change in an organization should NOT be the one who will eventually oversee the management of the OMS.

A common error I have observed in the public sector is to assign the implementation to a Director or a Manager who is overseeing the working group that will be affected by the changes directly.Someone in another department within the organization or an outside consultant should be brought in to make the necessary changes, and then hand off the system to a Manager or Director who will oversee the program on an ongoing basis. This de-personalizes the changes and allows the person initiating the change to have the freedom to make the tough decisions they need to make in order to create the best system possible.

The answer to the original question,“Who will initiate this?” is discovered after you investigate all of the issues and reach some conclusions that fit your particular organization. Ideally, it will be someone who understands business processes, work flows, labor efficiency, and time management. He or she will need a thick skin and be able to see the big picture that culture change produces. Mostly, the person chosen must possess the trust and confidence of management and have the best interests of the organization at heart.

Granted, it is not easy, but the results you see will pay dividends for the remainder of your organization’s life. With the right combination of Operations Management technology and the people who understand its value, your organization will stand above others in your field as an example of what is possible when an organization commits itself to efficiency, transparency and accountability.

Good luck!

Is Municipal Asset Management dead?

Welcome to the era of Municipal Operations Management

Brant Scheidecker
Business Analyst | Cartegraph

For my next blog post I wanted to write something edgy, provocative, and all-around controversial.  After all, no one seems to remember posts about such things as “Why My Cat, Fluffy, Prefers Whiskas.” Conversely, a blog titled “Ice Cream is Awful and So Are You,” tends to garner some attention. 

So, with my attention-grabbing agenda in tow, I set off on a quest to write something that would rock the world of Asset Management.   Inspiration struck quickly; like a bout of food poisoning compliments of your local mall buffet restaurant.

“Asset Management is DEAD!”

That just happened.  With the first critical step of making a bold, outlandish, and largely unfounded statement checked off, I was prepared for the journey to blogging infamy!

Now what?  Experienced bloggers at this point would begin to dissect their topic, saying things like, “Asset Management is an oxymoron – how can you even manage an inanimate object?” Or, “How can you manage something that doesn’t even exist?”

They would write these statements and their supporting text at a feverish pace, all the while mentally dry-rubbing their hands (and cackling manically, I suspect) at the prospect of the all-out flame war that would ensue in the comments section.

That isn’t happening here, folks. Other than the charming lass from Krieplackastann — who informed me that I’m wasting my efforts in Iowa and should, instead, invest all my time and money into kreb-kablesh (which I think is some type of food?) — I have yet to receive single comment on any of my posts.  

So, with no anticipated outcry from my dedicated fan base to look forward to, I turned in a different direction, opting for a much maligned and underused practice the web seems to have forgotten —the truth:

While not necessarily dead, what you've always known as Asset Management is actually just one of many components that comprise something far bigger and necessitating even more attention — Operations Management.

Operations Management?  Let’s break this down:

  • You have stuff to manage.
  • That stuff isn’t just assets, it’s people, equipment, materials, time, and money.
  • Managing these things effectively requires coordinating people and the equipment and materials they need to do their jobs.
  • It also requires money, which you need to track to ensure that next year you get enough of the green stuff to do it all over again.

That, my friends, requires an enterprise system; one that can tie into your other enterprise systems — your finance system, your human resources system, your GIS...all the other systems you rely on to keep your organization functioning. In a word (or five), you need an Operations Management System.

Interested in learning more about our Operations Management vision? Our own Jake Schneider, President & CEO, writes about this very topic in his post, “New era. New perspective. Cartegraph — the Operations Management System.”  You can even learn exactly why we made Cartegraph the way we did here.  

Here we are at the end of my first ever controversial blog.  What do you think? Will this cause controversy like no other?  Will the comment section overflow with irate asset management fan boys and girls? 

My thoughts?   Allow me to paraphrase one of the greatest anchormen of all time, Ron Burgundy; "I don't know if it's the greatest blog ever written. I'm too close to the work."

DISCUSS!

SAW Grant program offers funding for Michigan municipalities.

Glen Wiederholt
Enterprise Sales Executive | Cartegraph

You already know that having the right data (accurate, concise, and timely) empowers you to make good decisions. The challenge is paying for the technology necessary to capture quality data. Funding sources are always in short supply. That's why it's vital to take advantage of any and all programs that help defray costs. A great example is Michigan’s Storm, Asset Management, and Wastewater (SAW) Grant program.

In case you haven’t heard, the State of Michigan’s SAW Program is part of new legislation that provides grants and loans for asset management plan development, stormwater plan development, and sewage collection and treatment plan development. Here are some of the program highlights:

  • $97 million is available for grants/loans in the fiscal year 2014
  • Grants are available up-to $2 million per municipality
  • The state will match 10%  for the first million and 25% for the second million
  • Some municipalities may qualify for a 100% grant
  • Grant and loan applications will be accepted starting December 2, 2013
  • Funds are awarded to grant and loan recipients on a first come, first served basis

**You will find more information, including FAQ's and SAW Program applications, here.

Can good asset data increase your chances of receiving funds?

Yes. Not only does good data result in a clearer, more thought out plan, quality data will put you well ahead of the curve when it comes to preparing your grant application (remember, funds are awarded on a first come, first served basis). Working from a centralized, easily accessible database populated with accurate data means you aren't depending on others to help you gather and vet the information. It's there for the taking not just by you, but for other people and purposes, too. Not to mention, that same valuable data can be leveraged once your asset management plan is in place — analyze and use it improve service levels, reduce the cost of asset ownership, and increase the sustainability of your infrastructure.

Operations Management and the Asset Life Cycle approach.

Every couple of years the ASCE gives an annual report on the infrastructure of the USA.  That being said, there is good news and bad news.

The good news? In 2013, our national infrastructure earned a 'D+' — that's an improvement over the 'D' we were awarded in 2012.

The bad news? The best grade we could manage was a 'D+'.

Owning assets means you are spending money.  That’s no secret.  If we can reduce those costs, obviously we are saving money.  By creating an actual plan for managing the life cycle of your assets, you’ll quickly begin reducing those costs.  It’s time to roll up the sleeves.

A simple, but effective, plan.

Getting funds involves having a plan. Having a plan involves having a capable management system in place. The system needs to be able to tell you what you have, where it is located, and what its current condition is.  That’s the first part.  From there it’s kind of like washing your hair – wash, rinse, repeat.  Here's a basic, foolproof approach: 

  1. Review or plan your attack for each asset
    “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Ben Franklin said that.  I believe him. 
     
  2. Tell your team where to start
    It's not a team until everyone understands the overall plan, goals, and desired end results. 
     
  3. Submit your work requests for each asset
    If you conduct careful, accurate inspections, you'll capture great data and create the appropriate follow-up actions. 
     
  4. Receive and assign tasks
    Group tasks according to your plan and assign them geographically for maximum efficiency. 
     
  5. Complete the work
    Before closing-out work orders, take time to schedule future inspections and maintenance. 
     
  6. ​Review your plan
    What parts of the plan worked?  Which parts didn't?  Should the plan be adjusted?
     
  7. Repeat steps 1 – 6

Results that matter.

With good planning and the right operations management system in place, managing the life cycle of an asset will reduce ownership costs. Here’s how:

  • No more best guesses
    Predictability curves along with an ongoing account of inspections, maintenance, events, and OCI for each helps you accurately forecast an asset’s service life and budget for upgrades, replacements, and repairs.
     
  • Fewer urgent call-outs
    A well-kept asset performs better. And when an urgent situation does arise, you’ll have the information necessary to resolve it faster.  Not to mention, your crews will be able to focus on working proactively rather than reactively — that translates increased worker productivity and efficiency.
     
  • Greater visibility
    Understanding how and where money is being spent helps you quickly identify problem assets and inefficiencies in how they’re being managed and maintained. You’ll also have a platform to monitor your plan, and the flexibility to adjust it as needed.

Developing an effective asset management/life cycle program may require some very fundamental changes to your organization.  However, building a responsible community for the future is a task we must all strive for.  With these types of efforts we will be able to not only show long term cost savings, but long term sustainability for generations to come.

The hottest new public sector resource.

Brad Schweikert
Marketing Communications Specialist | Cartegraph

At this very moment there's a team of dudes on our roof equipping us to harness the power of the sun. All said and done, Cartegraph's new solar setup will save our company approximately 10% annually on electricity costs (even more if electricity costs happen to spike).

I know, I know. 10% percent isn't exactly an eye-popping number. But when you're paying to power an entire facility, every bit helps (a few renewable energy tax subsidies never hurt, either). But if we think beyond the bottom line nature of business, there's a factor that defies numbers — doing the right thing. 

For us, this solar setup is our latest example of practicing what we preach. A big part of Cartegraph's mission is to help businesses and organizations become more sustainable. That's why we design and build technology that helps users manage operations intelligently and eliminate waste — of money, time, resources, and more.

It's unfortunate that the clean energy conversation got lost in the bitterness of this last election cycle. In the big scheme of things, it was definitely a conversation worth having. But even without the attention, the clean energy effort has remained alive and well and at the top of many peoples' minds. Case-in-point: the City of Cambridge, Massachusetts.  

Just last year, Cambridge teamed with the Sustainable Design Lab at MIT in the development of a web application that helps Cambridge residents understand how much a solar setup might cost for their business and/or home, and how much money they might save in doing so.

If you're a fan of sustainability, the effort, in and of itself, is very cool. What's even cooler, though, is that the app uses satellite mapping to demonstrate how effective a given address is at soaking-up sun. Sustainability is, after all, a not-so-distant cousin of practicality. And with this information,  businesses and home owners are equipped to make practical decisions about whether their building is good candidate for solar. 

Click here to read more about the project and the city's Solar Tool. You can even check out the app itself on the City of Cambridge's website.

What do you think; are there sunny days ahead for solar powered buildings in your region? Are those days already here? We'd love to hear your thoughts.

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in January, 2013

Meet the municipal industry’s best tech support team.

Cartegraph Tech Support extends its hours.

Josh Glider
Technical Support Specialist I | Cartegraph

You call, we answer – that’s the expectation.  And that’s how it should be, right?  How many times have you dialed a support line, eager for resolution, only to be greeted by begrudgingly monotonous hold music?  Not Cartegraph.  Our team proudly wears a 92% live call rate on our collective sleeves.  As a company, we understand your investment in our system, and we strive to make a similar investment in your success.  Integrations, upgrades, conversions – it all requires a lifeline, and we’re here to help.

Recently, the support team has extended our operating hours to 7-7 CST, offering improved coverage across multiple time zones.  Utilizing Cisco WebEx technology allows us to remotely connect to your workstation, streamlining the support process, greatly reducing the time and frustration typically involved with support inquiries. 85% of our cases are resolved on the same day, and most within the same hour.

We also realize the importance of providing the necessary resources for self-help and continued education.  Do you have a login to the Client Center?  Have you taken one of our web sessions?  We welcome any question – large or small – but often, an answer is easily found.  Taking a web session in hopes of learning something specific?  Stop us and ask a question!  We welcome it.  The best learning is accomplished in a hands-on, collaborative environment, and an open dialogue does nothing but benefit both sides.

You have the unique opportunity to help shape your own Cartegraph experience.  Constructive criticism is warmly welcomed, so much so that every year for our annual Client Satisfaction Survey, we give away a free iPad in appreciation!  Tell us how we can improve and your advice is likely to reach fruition. 

It’s an exciting time to be a Cartegraph user.  New ideas and technologies are becoming increasingly prevalent, invading and enhancing nearly all facets of our professional and personal lives.  Cartegraph allows organizations to become more targeted and efficient, and top-tier support is just another reason why we’re the operations management system that everyone will want to use.

Big Data and Municipal Operations Management.

James Willis
Emerging Technology Strategist | Cartegraph

Big Data. Maybe you’ve heard the name? On the surface it’s a simple enough concept — every day, incredible amounts of data are being produced and, increasingly, organizations need better strategies for dealing with it. 

But how much data is “big”, what should you do with it, and why should you care?

Let’s start with the why. At its heart, Big Data is the analyses of large amounts of varied, disparate data to help you better understand complex systems. The hope is that there’s “gold” hidden within the deluge of information that will help you make better decisions…if you can extract it from all the “noise.”

“Almost every aspect of government, from how we fight crime, to how we take care of our kids, to how we fix potholes will change as a result of analytics,” said Stephen Goldsmith, former mayor of Indianapolis, Indiana, in a recent interview. “We have a chance to make government more targeted, efficient and effective at solving problems before they occur.”

Goldsmith’s point is this: if we ask the right questions of all this data, we’ll  get valuable answers that positively shape the way we work.

Organizations have been analyzing digital data for decades; why do we need new strategies now? The answer comes with the three “V”s of Big Data: Volume, Velocity and Variety.

Volume

In 2010, Eric Schmidt, Google CEO said, “We create as much information in two days now as we did from the dawn of man through 2003.” That is five exabytes of data per day. And that was 3 years ago.For 2011, estimates put the number at 1.8 zettabytes, or 1 trillion gigabytes, of data.

Relax, you probably don’t have a zettabyte of data that slipped behind a filing cabinet. However, the average state and local agency does store approximately 499 terabytes of data. Needless to say, there is more data being produced and stored than ever before and that is just one of challenges Big Data aims to solve.

Velocity

​Gartner, Inc., a well-known IT Research firm, uses the term Velocity to describe how fast data is being produced and how fast that data must be processed. So not only is there a large amount of data being generated, it’s also happening at breakneck speed. So if you are unable to analyze and detect patterns in the data quickly, the situation will have changed by the time you are ready to act upon it.

Just how fast is data being produced?

  • Twitter users create up to 25,000 tweets per second.
  • The US Stock Exchange averages 28,000 trades per second.
  • 20 hours of video uploaded every minute.

So, whether you’re talking log data from sensors or video from traffic cameras, it is all valuable data that’s ripe for analysis.

Variety

Data can be found in many places. The first sources that come to mind are those held within structured relational databases. But that only accounts for about 15% of the data available to an organization. The rest is what Big Data considers unstructured—tweets, video, audio, SCADA log data, instant messages… the sources are endless. 

Traditional analytics focuses on the 15% of data whose structure and relationships are well understood. However, Big Data suggests that, although structured data is important, it’s tools that allow you to include the 85% of unstructured data in your analysis that truly unlock the value of your data.

It’s important to remember that the payout from Big Data analytics depends on the quality of data you have. That means identifying important data and collecting it as soon as possible. The more historical data you have the clearer the emerging patterns will be.

A recent report suggests that only 2% of state and local agencies have a clear Big Data strategy. So if this topic hasn’t made it to the top of your to-do list, you aren’t alone. Even if you don’t have a well-defined Big Data strategy today, take time to think about the data you should be collecting. That way, when you dive in to Big Data you’ll get the best results possible.

A new generation of government software developers.

Cartegraph soaks-up ThatConference.

Brad Schweikert
Marketing Communications Specialist | Cartegraph

The Cartegraph Development team recently returned from ThatConference, a collaborative “summer camp,” where software tech-heads can geek-out on everything mobile, web, and cloud for three days straight.

Needless to say, the team had a lot of fun (it was, after all, hosted at a waterpark/resort in that Midwest vacation wonderland, Wisconsin Dells). But more importantly, they came home dripping with exciting knowledge and ideas that will keep Cartegraph evolving the OMS technology landscape for years to come.

Sounds great for us; right?  But what’s in it for you?  Everything. 

Efforts like this allow us to keep a very important promise to customers like you — that we will continue innovating and pushing the technology envelope for the greater good of your organization. In other words, we love what we do and who we do it for.  And we’re not afraid to show it.

Here are some of the team’s takeaways from ThatConference 2013: 

Jarrod Koch: Software Engineer III

It was great to see everyone not only embrace technology, but also the idea that we are a team, rather than a collection of people working on disparate projects.  Between sessions there were always groups of Cartegraph people to be found discussing what they had just learned in the previous session.

Brian Peterson: Sr. Software Engineer

I was shown Temboo and how it gives developers super powers! You can write to hundreds of Web Services with ONE RESTful API. OMS may be speaking French soon! It was my last session… and my mind was blown!

Elizabeth Groom: Programmer Analyst

The Open Spaces were Awesome!  Looking forward to including them in our process here!

Mark Oppedahl: Software Architect

The best part of ThatConference for me was strengthening the bonds with all my teammates. After recharging our programming superpowers, our super team is ready to save the world!

Eben Krapfl: Software Engineer

ThatConference was an incredible opportunity for all of us to go and learn about all kinds of cool new things that interested us.  I took the chance to get some hands-on experience with Google GLASS, learn a little about functional programming languages, and introduce myself to Firefox OS.

Jake PfohlL: Software Test Engineer

The session I attended to learn about the Arduino was fantastic. The speaker showed how to implement some simple programs to make an LED blink, respond to an input (a button), and then went to show a little character she had created that moved its arms and used a small speaker to make sounds.

It was also inspiring to see some projects that had been created with Arduinos – there was a guy who even used an Arduino to monitor a small indoor garden he had created to measure temperature, moisture, and light levels and then used these inputs to turn on a motor for example to release water into the soil or turn lamps on and off.

Overall, the conference was packed with great sessions, great people, and best of all, great food! 

Jessica Munson: Software Engineer II

It was a really nice eye opening experience for me. It was amazing to see so many different tools and technologies at one place. I am glad that I got the chance to attend That Conference.

Aabristi Khadki: Software Engineer I

While listening to the energetic speakers, I was reminded why I chose this profession. Although challenging at times, it can be really rewarding to create software. I left the conference excited to explore upcoming technologies and work on techniques to refine my craft.

Your technology drives your organization’s culture.

The Right OMS Technology is Critical, Part 2

Todd Henderson
Subject Matter Expert | Cartegraph

Once you have made the wise decision to treat the OMS as a business process, then you can tackle the next issue (which is decidedly different); culture change.  

Deciding on new business processes, work flows, systematic changes and other inanimate concepts is easy. The real challenge is changing the people who are affected by the changes. 

People are what make OMS technology work. This dichotomy of people and software is what creates a dynamic and effective system. Both are critical for success. Without the proper people to run it, the software does virtually nothing. Without OMS technology, people are inefficient, uninformed, and have little knowledge of what’s already been done and/or needs to be done.

I had a hand in driving a pretty dramatic culture change in my organization. The experience gave me a lasting appreciation for how difficult and painful culture change can be. However, in order to achieve the results you’re seeking, it absolutely has to be done.

Culture change is challenging, but not impossible. In order for change to happen more easily and the transition into the new way of doing things go more smoothly, pressure must come from the top of the organization down.

The fact is, some people will not change unless forced to do so. You will be implementing new work orders, processes, work flows and new assignments for people. This upsets their world and creates uneasiness, suspicion and in some cases, paranoia.Of course, the degree of difficulty you will experience will be in direct proportion to how much your organization needs to change. Suffice it to say, there will be some pain involved. 

So, if the decision-makers in your organization do not see the value or understand the concept of operations management and how it will benefit them and if they are not fully committed to making the changes necessary to realize the benefits, then I suggest waiting until they are. Otherwise, your efforts will fail at the first sign of resistance.

Someone (usually a long-time employee who finds comfort in the status quo) will complain loudly (and often), management will be sympathetic, and the process will cease. 

Don't let your hard work and good intentions be undone.

Municipal Operations Management: Process or project?

The Right OMS Technology is Critical, Part 1

Todd Henderson
Subject Matter Expert | Cartegraph

OMS technology works brilliantly...that is, when it’s properly implemented. And in order to implement it successfully, you first need to understand that your evolution to Operations Management is a business process, NOT a project.

Managing day-to-day operations holistically is a new way of doing business for the remainder of your organization’s life. It’s not a project, or part of a project. It’s an ongoing, proactive interaction between people and technology that affords you the opportunity to create and manage projects in real time, assign work crews, maintain tight inventory controls, and much, much more.

Simply put, OMS technology is a direct route to saving money, increasing efficiency, and streamlining work flow.

Think of it this way; when you book a flight, you have a destination in mind. In order to reach that destination, you will be involved in the process of flight. The most obvious process of flight is to first get the plane off the ground. This is a project.

The procedures used to get the plane off the ground and in the air (project) are different that the procedures used to maintain air speed, flight path, cruising altitude, etc. (process). This simple illustration shows us that getting the OMS started within your organization is a project, but in order to really make it “fly”, you need to transition to the business process once it is implemented. Besides, who wants to take a flight where the captain believes his only responsibility is to get the plane off the ground?

Can you imagine the look on everyone’s faces when the plane surges down the runway, rapidly accelerates, begins to get airborne…then, all of a sudden, the engines stop and the plane thuds to the ground, the pilot announcing, “Well folks, our flight is over. We got it off the ground.”? Think of all you would miss!!! Not to mention the fact that you would be no nearer to your destination than when you began.

That is precisely what happens when you view your implementation of OMS technology as a project, rather than a business process. By treating your operations as operations, you will change the way your organization does its business, transforming it into an entity that realizes and maintains efficiency, transparency, and accountability — but only if you treat it as a business process.

Tune in next week and get Todd's insight about the vital role that the culture of an organiztion plays in Operations Managament success!

OMS-GIS Integration: Combining where with how.

Takeaways from Esri UC 2013

Brant Scheidecker
Business Analyst | Cartegraph

The Esri International User Conference 2013 has come to a close, and I have returned to the home office feeling pretty good.  During my flight home, I took time to mentally review the conference, which was a challenging task.

If you were there, you understand the sheer amount of “stuff” going on this year was daunting - I routinely had to make tough decisions as to what to see next. “What was really cool?” I asked myself.   I knew I’d be asked the same thing when I got back in on Monday so I focused and here’s what I came up with…

The Esri Toy Box

Esri showed us a host of new tools and product offerings.  ArcGIS 10.2, ArcGIS GeoEvent Processor, ArcOnline, and a ton of a new content; there’s plenty to choose from.  One of my fun jobs to digest it all and see how Cartegraph can continue to leverage and partner with Esri to get you best of both systems – World class Operations Management tools partnered with the power of spatial analysis and mapping tools. Stay tuned.

It’s a Small World After All

With an unofficial count of over 12,000 attendees, it was pretty inspiring to see all the different industries and users who rely on GIS for their day to day operations. It was especially cool to talk to folks from industries outside Cartegraph’s primary domain of state and local government, and hear about what folks in Mining, Utilities, and environmental sciences, just to name a few, are doing with GIS. A take away from this; those industries face very similar trials and tribulations as our state and local government brethren – we’re all in this together.

To the Web

Continuing on the trend, Esri shows no sign of slowing its push to leverage the power of the web for application and content consumption. Seeing features previously the sole domain of desktop applications running flawlessly via web apps was exciting. Cartegraph is right in step, providing a leading edge web-based application, and seeing Esri’s tack and adoption by the GIS community is confirmation enough we are on the right track.

Cartegraph — The Operations Management System

Come on, you knew this was coming. I have no hesitation saying the Esri UC was one of Cartegraph best shows to date. We brought our “A” game and it showed! I had a ton of great conversations with existing Cartegraph users, as well as those getting ready to dip their toe in the Cartegraph pool. The booth looked awesome, the shirt give away was a blast, and the overall buzz and vibe was exactly what we were hoping for.  For those of you who stopped by, thanks for being a part of it all.

We came away from the show feeling really good about our position in the market, where we are heading, and where you all are heading as well. We continue to look forward to partnering with you and Esri in the future to bring you the tools you need to succeed in your day-to-day operations.

Cartegraph brings BIG things to Esri UC.

Brant Scheidecker
Business Analyst | Cartegraph

It’s that time of year again kiddos!  That’s right, the annual Esri International User Conference is nigh, sending a beacon call to all GIS gurus worldwide to get their mapping and spatial analysis on in San Diego.  Are you going?  We are, and we‘ve got some cool things in store!

Asset Management and GIS go together like Easy Cheese and Frito Scoops — a pairing that brings levels of synergy the likes of which have never been seen.

So while you are there checking out your favorite GIS apps and vendors,  stop by the Cartegraph booth and see how you can even further leverage the power of your crispy, fried, corn-based GIS platform with the creamy, cheesy goodness of Cartegraph OMS!

Need more reasons?  Here are five:

  • San Diego weather forecast: 72 degrees and sunny… 24/7/365.
  • Roughly 14,500 GIS savvy folks will be in attendance.  My guess is the word “datum” will be spoken approximately 5,100 times by week’s end – that ain’t happening in Schenectady, NY.
  • Comic-Con will be going on the week afterward – now you have two reasons to pack that Batman costume.
  • I’ll bet there will be a map or two to take a gander at.
  • The new Cartegraph booth featuring 200% more awesomeness, free of charge!

We’d also like to explain the thinking behind our “GIS is where. We are how,” campaign. It has a lot to do with you. In other words, Cartegraph knows who’s getting it done, and as always, we’re excited and happy to be a partner in those efforts!

So no excuses - you won’t be able to miss us (hint, hint). See Cartegraph OMS technologies in-person, get a sneak peek of what we have brewing back in the “lab”, check out our new Data Services team offerings and some of their cool toys, or just stand and bask in the Cartegraph glow!

At a minimum, we'd love you to stop by and say “Hi”! Until then… stay classy! See you in Diego!

Municipal Operations Management on a tablet?

Meet Cartegraph for iPad

Omar Chaudhry
Field Services Manager | Cartegraph

Remember the first time you used a calculator? How simple it was? How it took all the fear and nausea out of solving those complex fractions and math problems? Remember how that felt? Well, get ready to feel that way again.

Cartegraph for iPad has been officially released, and it will give you that same feeling of power, simplicity, and efficiency. But instead of applying those attributes to your math homework, you’ll use it to increase productivity in the field.  

For years, organizations have been sending crews out armed with stacks of paper work order forms, relying on each worker to figure out where to go, what to do, and the most efficient way to do it. 

Each time a task is completed, those same workers are usually required to record materials, progress, future actions, and log their time.  They might even have to enter all that information again when they get back to the office at the end of the day. Or worse yet, leave a stack of forms for someone else to data enter!

Sound familiar?  Well, I’ve got good news. Cartegraph for iPad simplifies the entire work order process and, as a result, will save you time and money.  

It’s simple, yet powerful

The new app gives you everything you need right at your fingertips, so you can get to work without having to figure out yet another new tool that’s supposed to make your life easier. It’s focused on you - the worker.

You’ll have a map, so you know where to go. You’ll have a list of tasks, so you know what to do. You’ll be able to track your information (notes, hours, pictures!), so everyone knows what was accomplished. You’ll be able to use one device to do all these things (GPS, record data, take pictures and videos, email, review documents, etc.) that usually required multiple devices before. Think of it! 

It’s the future of your operations

Not only will your life be much easier, but you’ll be innovating operations in government. You’ll have the opportunity to use the latest technology - not something you’ve typically enjoyed as a perk in your industry.

You’ll be increasing efficiency by minimizing the traditional steps of your processes and tracking more information in lesser time. You’ll be able to share information in real-time, minimizing the need to manually provide status updates and reports on progress. All the while, you’ll be the envy of your paper-toting peers!

Whether you’re in the field dealing with papers flying out your truck’s windows or in the office deciphering hieroglyphs to enter data in a digital system, you’ll love the new app. And like the first time you used that calculator to calculate something like 2642 – 800 + 104 ÷ 1000, you won’t be able to help but smile at the doors the Cartegraph for iPad app opens for you.

The future of pavement maintenance & management.

Smart cars, self-healing pavement, and the roads of the future

James Willis
Emerging Technology Strategist | Cartegraph

When I was young, I had a book about the future. This book was already a couple of decades old by the time I got my hands on it, but it still captured my imagination. I recall a pictured scene of leisurely citizens wandering through glass-domed urban environments filled with green space, the assertion being that in the future as robots toiled, humans could relax, socialize, and play tennis in safe, clean cityscapes.

To a small child this vision of life without work didn’t really resonate in the way that it might for me today, but there was another aspect of this rendering, flying cars, that a six year-old could really embrace. Cars were already pretty exciting as they were, whizzing along perennially stuck to the ground, so adding the ability to swoop across the landscape sans road was something a I could really get onboard with.

Unfortunately, those flying cars are still the stuff of fiction. I looked, and looked, and looked, and it seems that roads are not going anywhere. They may get a little smarter, and the cars may start driving themselves, but roads are here to stay.

At least there’s hope for using our existing roads more efficiently. In case you haven’t heard, the transition to self-driving cars is already underway. Sooner than later, roadways will be humming with vehicles capable of reducing traffic and energy use through smart re-routing and “platooning” (synchronized cars driving very close together to among other things reduce wind resistance). Sound far-fetched? Just think about some of the technologies already in vehicles today:

  • Adaptive Cruise Control that not only brakes when approaching slower vehicles but will actually control speed in stop & go traffic.
  • Active Lane Assist that not only warns you when you are straying from your lane, but will gently correct the car back on course.
  • Pedestrian Detection Systems that apply the brakes if a wayward pedestrian or cyclist is detected in the path of the vehicle.
  • Self-Parking Vehicles that first identify a parking space big enough to fit the vehicle and then parks the car for you.*

If you start adding all these technologies together you start to realize that cars already do a lot of the driving themselves. Case in point:

The good news is that these “free-agent” vehicles currently being developed do not require all cars on the road to have the technology, allowing a phased approach to their introduction. An even bigger advantage is that there is less reliance on changes to infrastructure to support the transition.

The bad news from an infrastructure standpoint is that it will probably result in more traffic. As more traffic is able to make more efficient use of the road, and “drivers” are able to be more productive during their journeys, users will likely take-to the road more frequently.

In a best case scenario, more people move faster, but more likely is that the Law of Peak-Hour Traffic Congestion comes into effect. This law, proposed by Anthony Downs way back in 1962, states that during peak hours, congestion rises to meet capacity. Back then Downs was applying it to the futile practice of adding additional lanes to highways (i.e. more lanes means more traffic). But it could just as well apply to the potential throughput benefits of automated cars. In either case this means more vehicles per hour, and more stress on the pavement.

It would seem that every solution brings a problem, but every problem is just waiting for a solution. How about self-healing roads for self-driving cars? Sounds far-fetched, but it already exists -- porous asphalt with a steel additive that, when treated with heat every four years, can double the life of a road:

Even self-healing roads will start to deteriorate at some point. How about a network of sensors feeding back pavement condition information on a real-time basis so we could fix small problems before they became big ones? This seems like another opportunity to take advantage of all these vehicles on the road with wireless connectivity and massive computing power.

Rather than embedding sensors in the road and having to maintain additional infrastructure, why not equip vehicles with sensors that measure characteristics like grip and ride quality and communicate that data to a centralized system that analyzes all that aggregated data for you and automatically prescribes a best practice maintenance plan.

The City of Boston has already produced an iPhone app which reports potholes back to the city based on the motion of a vehicle. The technology is rudimentary, but the principle is solid, and as vehicle technology increases it is not far-fetched to imagine pavement condition sensors on city buses or even private vehicles.

So it looks like roads are here to stay, but that doesn’t mean they, and the vehicles that we “drive” won’t change.

A tough lesson about bridge maintenance & management.

Brad Schweikert
Marketing Communications Specialist | Cartegraph

Remember the Skagit River Bridge collapse?  You know — that unfortunate, nerve-wracking event that happened a few weeks ago.  I can’t blame you if you’ve forgotten already. The media certainly did. Which is a shame, since the incident shed much needed light on the fact that thousands of bridges across the country could be one freak accident away from collapse.

We know now that an oversized tractor-trailer load struck several of the bridge's trusses, triggering the collapse.  We also know that the bridge’s outdated design led the Washington Dept. of Tranportation to classify it as “fracture critical,” a polite term used to describe a bridge that’s ridiculously inadequate by modern safety standards. 

We all depend on a functioning infrastructure to live our daily lives. So a story like this is always timely. But the Skagit River bridge collapse is especially timely because it comes right on the heels of the ASCE 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure

A few weeks back, Brant Scheidecker discussed the dismal grades America received on the 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure. Our overall GPA?  D+.  Interestingly, our bridges received the highest mark of any infrastructural component: C+.

But Brant and the ASCE aren’t the only ones divvying out tough love. The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report for 2012-2013 ranks our country’s overall infrastructure 25thin the world. That puts us well behind renowned innovators (cough, sarcasm, cough) such as Finland, Luxembourg, Bahrain, and Oman, to name a few. 

Unfortunately, politicking favors glad-handing over common sense ideas. By all appearances, this latest incident has been met with a reluctant shrug from officials on both sides of the House, presumably so they can go back to undermining each other between elections.  That’s precisely why it’s up to YOU, the hard working men and women in local government, to PROPOSE A SOLUTION.

Seriously; who knows better than you?  You’re elbow deep in infrastructure failure. You’re adept at doing more with less. And I’m willing to bet you and your peers are the only ones truly qualified to initiate a meaningful dialogue about a subject everyone seems all too eager to avoid.   

What you have to say probably won’t be popular to those footing the bill. In fact, it may even offend them. But it will be a much needed dose of reality. I don’t know how an overhaul of this magnitude—somewhere in the neighborhood of $32 billion according to the ASCE—gets paid for, but I’m guessing rhymes with “axes.” 

Call me crazy, but I suspect that most of us would gladly shell out a little more dough each year to avoid being a commuter on the next bridge that goes down.

Wireless communication and the public sector.

James Willis
Emerging Technology Strategist | Cartegraph

We’ve all experienced it -- a dropped call at a crucial moment in a conversation with your boss, or a non-existent data connection as you’re trying to buy Justin Bieber concert tickets (for your daughter, of course). It happens.  And when it does it can be really frustrating. But have you noticed it happens a lot less than it did a few years ago?

Let’s take a look at some good news, some bad news and then some more good news!

 A couple of stats from the FCC’s 2013 annual report on the cellular market sheds light on the state of wireless communication.

  • 99.5% of the U.S. population has mobile wireless broadband coverage by at least 1 service provider.
  • 91% of U.S. road miles have mobile wireless broadband coverage by at least 1 service provider.

The Good News:

Pretty much everyone has wireless broadband coverage (considered to be 3G and above)  where they live, and as long as you are not straying too far from the highways and byways you are pretty much guaranteed a connection. If your experience differs it may be time to switch provider.

The Bad News:

Unfortunately if you are not one of the 99.5% covered by broadband wireless you’re getting (annoyingly pokey) Edge speeds, at best. At worst, you’re getting no signal at all. This is generally going to be true for the more remote and undulous regions of the country. Even when we look specifically at the rural parts of the country (which by the FCC definition is just 19% of the total population), we still hit an impressive 97.8% coverage. For those remaining 2.2% of the 19% that just can’t be reached by the radio waves beaming across our land, there is a bright side and it isn’t just the natural beauty that you are presumably faced with on a daily basis.

More Good News:

Things are improving. While providers do tend to focus on increasing data speeds for the population centers of the country, they are making incremental improvements in rural coverage. The federal government doesn’t believe this is happening fast enough and is stepping in with two programs that plan to have significant impact on those empty spots of missing connectivity.

The Connect America Fund (CAF) is designed to bring affordable broadband services to rural communities. The first phase of this program is funded with $300 million and the FCC has already determined 800 individual awards to fund the building of infrastructure which will bring broadband cellular coverage to an additional 83,500 rural road miles. 

Beyond Phase 1, the program will continue with an annual budget of up to $500 million which, according to the FCC, will be used to, “expand and sustain mobile voice and broadband services in communities in which service would be unavailable absent federal support.”

The next program makes CAF look like a couple of boy scouts with walkie-talkies:

FirstNet is a federal program aimed at establishing a public safety broadband network for use by first responders nationwide. The program has $7 billion in funding (yes billion). If you’re wondering how serious they are about total coverage, FirstNet chairman Samuel Ginn says this, “It must provide ubiquitous coverage, exceeding even that of the largest commercial networks, in order to meet the needs of the first responders who serve in rural, remote and tribal areas of our country.” And this, “It will be the only network to cover an entire nation of our size geographically, as opposed to coverage by population centers.” And this, too, “We expect to cover every square meter of land.”

This guy is serious about coverage, and what’s more, the technology that has been selected for FirstNet is LTE   (for those paying attention that is the same high speed technology being rolled out across the country by the major carriers). The best news is that although FirstNet is being built primarily for police, fire, and emergency medical, there is a strong suggestion that usage be extended to secondary users such as utility companies and public works departments.

So if your organization is struggling with connectivity, check your provider, things change and maybe your area is better served by a different carrier. Failing that, the federal government has plans to get wireless broadband coverage to you one way or another, through spacious skies and purple mountain majesties, from sea to shining sea.

How long until our public infrastructure fails?

The ASCE gives American infrastructure a "D" average

Brant Scheidecker
Business Analyst | Cartegraph

I personally haven’t received a report card in more years than I care to divulge, so when I saw that the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) had released the 2013 Report Card For America’s Infrastructure, I viewed it with a sense of dread.   Self-doubt from years of schooling somehow influenced my thoughts on America’s report card.

“How will it fare?  It tried really hard in the last quarter to turn things around; all the cramming and whatnot. I hope we can continue to pay its car insurance… I dread the thought of having to chauffer it around again.”

Turns out we may need to renew our livery license:

Roads: D+
Bridges: C+
Drinking Water: D
Public Parks & Recreation: C-
Roads: D
Wastewater: D

It doesn’t look that hot.  And I sure hope America’s C+ wasn’t the result of sitting next to Switzerland; ranked #1 for overall infrastructure in the world.

If we look at the assessment by the ASCE, we have to recognize that they aren’t exactly unbiased in their evaluation.  On the other hand, I personally haven’t heard from any of the organizations I’ve interacted with over the past year that they are flush with money for public works projects, or that everything is in such great shape in their communities that the public works staff volunteers their time on Mondays and Fridays at local humane shelters.  The cry of “we need to do more with less” is more commonly the case.

It will be interesting to see if America’s report card resonates at this year’s National Association of County Engineers (NACE)  Annual Conference.  I’d love to see City and County Engineers walking around with copies of America’s Report Card, asking each other “Have you seen this?  What are we going to do about America’s grades?!?”

What are your thoughts? Do you agree? How are things looking in the communities you represent or live in? 

If you will be at NACE conference this year, stop by and let us know! We’ll be there too, and would love to hear your answers to these questions, and as always are ready to provide the tools and expertise to assist you address the asset management issues your communities face.

Training and events for the municipal workforce.

Natalie Sacco
Event Planner | Cartegraph

April marks a big month for Cartegraph as we are getting ready to introduce a new approach to our events. If you’ve attended our events in the past, you know these are an excellent way to learn from not only Cartegraph experts, but get great tips and advice through networking with other users. With the changes we’ve made this year, we hope you’ll see even more opportunities to do this and more!

The one thing we kept hearing from you was that you want training and networking opportunities at our events. So we found a way to bring these opportunities even closer to you.

With our newest event – Regional Training – we’re bringing the training to you! With events in Dubuque, Iowa; Denver, Colorado; and Austin, Texas, we’re making it easier for you to get to the event which includes 1.5 days of training sessions, beginner and advanced tracks and 12 learning sessions. You’ll also be able to learn about what Cartegraph has been working on and see our OMS technology in action.

With the introduction of Regional Training events, we’ve been able to focus our User Groups even more on networking opportunities. Last year, we received great feedback from the new networking sessions, and this year we’ve created even more opportunities to connect, formal and informally. With our new Networking Breaks, we’re allowing even more time for organic discussions, and we’re continuing to hold the Discussion Groups so you can focus in on a specific topic and learn from others in your area. We’ll also be featuring a new Ask the Experts panel, which will give you access to the Cartegraph experts in attendance and get answers to all of your burning questions!

And as if that weren’t enough, we have a special treat in store for everyone attending some major industry trade shows this year. In addition to our booth on the trade show floor, we’ll also be hosting special hospitality events that give you the opportunity to network with each other and Cartegraph staff.

Stay tuned to your email for information on all of these events, as well as other important Cartegraph updates. We’ll see you in your town soon!

How technology is transforming local government.

Omar Chaudhry
Field Services Manager | Cartegraph

The snow’s melting. Temperatures are rising. Spring has officially started, and there’s more daylight every day! If all that weren’t enough, I’m just a week away from heading to Atlanta, GA for the Transforming Local Government (TLG) Conference! I’m really looking forward to meeting and speaking to so many progressive thinkers from local government (though the opportunity to visit my favorite Caribbean restaurant probably has something to do with my excitement, too).

Ever heard of Jennifer Pahlka? She’s the founder and Executive Director of Code for America.  She also happens to be a keynote speaker at this year’s TLG.  If you ask me, her 2012 TED Talk, "Coding a Better Government," is thought provoking, inspiring, and should be required viewing for government leaders and citizens alike. 

If you haven’t seen it, you need to. I’ll wait.

No really. I’ll wait...

Anyone else think she bears a striking resemblance to Elizabeth Shue?

When I saw this 2012 Talk, I was immediately charged and inspired to help local governments. And my career at Cartegraph gives me a unique opportunity to do just that.  

Instead of wondering how I can make a difference, I spend my days collaborating with local governments and industry experts across the country to solve the problems that directly affect government efficiency and productivity.

Having worked with government agencies for nearly a decade, one of the main things I’ve learned is that, although every organization has its fair share of issues, every organization has the SAME sets of issues. Whether it’s uphill budget battles, unhappy citizenry, issues managing daily operations or long term planning, it almost always boils down to a lack of good process and/or data, and the means to do something about it.

Small cities, big cities, counties, states, airports, water and sewer authorities, consulting firms… everybody wants the best tools and data possible so they so they can make informed decisions and allocate resources in the most efficient and productive manner possible.

Luckily, I work alongside some of the most talented thinkers, analysts, designers, and developers in the industry, and we’re working together to change all that.

Our contribution comes in the form of Cartegraph Operations Management System (OMS) technologies, a set of advanced tools, apps, and services that will change how you think about your challenges and how to solve them.

Come to think of it, OMS changes everything.

We dismissed the conventional and outdated wisdom that business applications can sacrifice ease-of-use, simplicity, and user experience to accommodate more and more feature bloat. OMS keeps the focus on efficiency and usability, and the result is a system that people want to use. And when people have a system they want to use, organizations will have the data they need to transform.

If you’re at TLG, be sure to stop by booth 215. We’ll give you an up-close look at our solution and tell you how our approach OMS transforms local government for the better.

How Citizen Request Apps are inspiring citizens.

Rebecca Smart
Citizen Y | Cartegraph

It’s spring election time.  I was carefully watching to see who the new batch of recipients would be for the next round of concerned citizen (complaint) letters.  Just one problem:  there are three open slots for the local city council and only one name on the ballot.  

Turns out driving around town with the YourGOV app had the secondary effect of making me not only a more observant citizen, but a more engaged one.

I've been following the issues dealt with by the city council that, in turn, affect my potholes and property taxes. So what's a soccer mom with a Political Science degree to do?  Put up or shut up, that's what. 

That’s right, Iceman, Rebecca Smart:  Write-In Candidate for City Council.    

Don’t get me wrong:  this is not my first bid for elected office.  In fact, I have been politically active since the fourth grade.  I’ve just hardly ever won.  Painful memories of a zipper malfunction during my fourth grade classroom stump speech are overshadowed only by the cupcake vote-buying fiasco my fifth grade opponent pulled off.  Nixon had nothing on Nancy Jones. 

We all know politics is a dirty business.  Can it be effective?  Will citizen engagement at an elected level make a difference or just make me jaded?  More importantly, to whom will I complain if I am my own elected official?

So far, the biggest challenges have been blisters and cold hands.  Out on the slushy campaign trail, I’ve met a lot of people with big dogs and solid input on what they want out of their local government.  I’ve also learned that 90% of my neighbors wear jammie pants on Sunday afternoons. 

Citizen Y goes to Washington? Stayed tuned.

Is the public sector being duped?

Smart cities and managed expectations

Rob Lombardi
Videographer/Editor | Cartegraph

Smart is good. Few can argue with that. The “smart city,” a plan for what the future could be, came onto the scene with the best of intentions. I’m just not entirely sure what those intentions are.

It’s probably because the smart city was never really explained to me. It was referenced, hinted at, and made a footnote all over the place. The outlines were never drawn. My understanding devolved into a cryptic game of Mad Libs.

It left my mind to wander. I saw the smart city as soothsaying 1950’s science fiction. Kids eating spaceburgers and dogs wearing astronaut helmets. A lady ordering a cocktail dress through an in-home pneumatic tube. A place where technology caught up to our whimsical ideas of the future.

Articles were published about the possibilities, and before long I was a believer. In what? Well, I’m not so sure. Automated homes.  Smart grids. Eco-towers. Stuff that I can talk to people about and sound like a smarmy know-it-all.

Then came the marketing spin. IBM’s ‘Building a Better Planet’ is a standout. Did you know on sunny days, people eat more paninis? “By changing their menu for the day, profitability was up by 40%!” their Youtube video exclaims. IBM supplanted flying cars to make the smart city a beacon of bakery efficiency. In the future, no one will go without a hot sandwich after a long day in the data mines.

The smart city was also interpreted by small towns looking for a pat on the back. Cartegraph’s hometown of Dubuque seemed like one of them. After being chosen to be part of IBM’s Smart City initiative, Dubuque wore it like a kid with an AYSO medal. Everyone was excited of the arrival of IBM and what that may mean. I prepared myself for Neo Dubuque, a city of meat and potatoes transformed into a city of fancier, more future-y meat and potatoes. And maybe more Italian specialty sandwiches.

“They’re doing the same thing in Stockholm,” a friend of mine said. What, exactly? Well, he wasn’t so sure. He thought maybe something to do with water metering.

Water metering.

Water metering?

Water metering.

My Jetsons future was shattered. And it wasn’t because water metering isn’t important (or, let’s face it, downright sexy), it’s because the term smart city has been stretched and contorted to the whims of whoever sees fit to use it.

Who is exactly manning this rocket to future Earth? Maybe no one, I suppose. It’s part marketing gobbledygook, part ego booster, part genuine cause. How they all intermingle, I do not know. But it seems that the reality is a whole lot less exciting than the idea it aspires to be.

Smart is good. Any reasonable person would agree. Saving time, and resources, and the Earth, is good. But let’s not kid ourselves into believing the smart city is the city of tomorrow. It’s a loose term and an iterative step, not a giant leap, towards the future.

It’s probably a whole lot like the city of today, but with really good water metering. And spaceburgers. And who could say no to that?

Welcome to Municipal Operations Management!

We're glad you made it

Todd Henderson
Subject Matter Expert | Cartegraph

This series of blog posts, using the analogy of a cross-country trip to describe the implementation of Cartegraph as our operations management system for the Town of Marana, has been an introspective and eye-opening process. Alas, this will be the last post in this series.

I have used this column as a way to think through what we did, the lessons we learned, and what we may do differently, if given the chance. To say I have enjoyed it would be an understatement.So, knowing this is the final entry, let’s see how the finish line looks, as it relates to arriving and then living, at the location of full implementation.

On June 5, 2007, I was driving down I-10 from Phoenix to Tucson. My actual destination was the Town of Marana; a fast-growing, prosperous suburb on the Northwest side of Tucson. I was travelling there alone to scope out what life would be like there. My wife and children would be moving there in July, so I wanted to see it with my own eyes and get a feel for living in Marana. I will never forget seeing the big green sign that read “MARANA     4.”  My final destination, the place where I would start my new career with the Town, was only 4 short miles away.

I remember my heart accelerating when I saw that sign. This was going to be my new home!! Still excited 4 miles later, I took exit 236 and looked down at the temperature reading as I pulled into a convenience store to get a drink: 108 degrees! Welcome home… to the desert, Todd!

I had arrived at my new destination, but had no clue what life was going to be like. I was so anxious to GET here that I hadn’t given much thought to what it would be like to LIVE here. All I knew was that this was the place I wanted to live.

It is the same with creating a fully-implemented operations management system in Cartegraph. You just want so badly to arrive at your destination (whatever that looks like for you in your location) that you do not give much thought to actually living your life there. What is it like? Is it really worth all of the hassle and pain? The short answer is…YES! Though we have not yet attained everything we want, as it relates to our operations management system, we DO “live here” now. 

Within the Public Works and Utilities Departments, we have logged over 30,000 work orders, have inventoried each asset, and are attaching work orders to those assets. Our inventory counts are solid, work processes are smooth and we have successfully implemented all of our major projects. So, we do “live here” now. What’s it like? We love it!

There has been a definite shift in how our departments do business. Efficiency is up, costs are being managed and our Town Council recently adopted our Pavement Preservation Program, which is the offspring of Cartegraph’s pavement view module and the numbers it generates. This year, in Utilities alone, we have $126,000 worth of projects planned through our proactive maintenance approach. Though life is not perfect here, it is without question better than where we came from. Through hard work, a great team of supportive people, pushing through seemingly insurmountable cultural resistance to change and never giving up, we now live in the place of which we once only dreamed.

However, you know how it is in real life; the work never stops, even if you are living in your dream home. The yard still needs to be mowed, (or in the Sonoran Desert where I live, the rock yard needs to be weeded), the washer and dryer will need to be replaced eventually, the kids will still have issues, and the dog will still bite your neighbor or knock down their flowers, etc. In other words, there is still plenty to do as you live life at your ideal location.

So, in closing, if you have arrived…Welcome Home! If not, you WILL get there and it IS worth it. As the French philosopher Descartes once said, “An optimist may see a light where there is none, but why must the pessimist always run to blow it out?” From my cozy desert “home” in Marana, I sincerely wish you the best as you travel this road. Drive safely, and I will see you there.

A note from the Editor:

On behalf of Cartegraph, I'd like to thank Todd and the Town of Marana for sharing their experiences. I hope that you, the reader, have taken the wisdom of Todd's words and used it to inspire and guide your own organization.

Interested in writing about and sharing your own Cartegraph experiences? Email me at bradschweikert@cartegraph.com. I'd love to have you as a featured contributor.

College students are citizens, too.

Kayli Kunkel
Marketing and Experience Intern | Cartegraph

“Loud, constant clanging, in combination with Chewbacca noises, is coming from the pipe in the second floor hallway corner. I haven’t slept for three days.”

The complainer was livid. She had dark circles under her eyes and an aura of irritability.

“This isn’t the first time I’ve said something,” she added snidely.

Ah, so that was the downfall of my new job: taking the heat for my university’s shortcomings. How could I know that accepting a seat behind my dorm’s reception desk would make me the face of behind-the-scenes campus management; the ear piece for student grumbles; and the steward of broken faucets and busted heating units?

The revelation occurred on one of my early days in the position, seemingly at the height of student complaint season. The process went like this: hear complaint. Record complaint. Reassure complainer that said issue would be resolved shortly. (Unofficial: have follow-up conversation with complainer when said issue isn’t resolved. Repeat process, with heightened aggravation.)

The wrath of the rogue Chewbacca pipe wasn’t the only resident gripe. Our dorm wasn’t in a state of disrepair, but lots of basic maintenance jobs had fallen through the cracks. And I mean deep down in the cracks.

On my campus, maintenance workers were like mythical creatures. You wanted to believe they existed, but you never saw them. Work requests were invented as pleas to summon one of these saviors. But what was the use? These requests were flimsy pieces of paper that floated from desk to desk and eventually, as far as I was concerned, ended up floating into oblivion. Finding a problem that made it from start to a resolution was like a rare treat.

Bathroom lights had burned out ages ago and showering in the dark wasn’t fun. The kitchen’s faucet threw daily tantrums, howling wildly and spraying hot water everywhere. All the televisions had been cable-less for weeks now. And I had a handful of my own grouses. Namely, the knob on my radiator was missing—stuck on full-blast heat, at that—and sleeping in a sauna was a little wearying.

Dorm life isn’t supposed to be glamorous, I know. But shouldn’t it be bearable?

A Twitter account emerged among students to sarcastically poke fun of these neglected campus problems. Although it was a big ha-ha on campus, it could have meant big, bad marketing for the university. Lesson: if the squeaky wheel doesn’t get the grease, it will find another outlet for its pains.

Post-Twitter fiasco, my school started paying more attention to student complaints. They tapped into social media, creating Facebook pages where students could submit requests. Campus did improve in some ways, with positive feedback for their efforts.

But social media isn’t the best solution for handling complaints. Posting a legitimate issue or request to a Facebook page doesn’t exactly seem...legitimate.

So the focus, now, lies in finding a better method to track these requests — and subsequently track improvements, or lack thereof. Without a more efficient system, requests will continue to get lost in the stratosphere of janitorial and maintenance problems.

Now is the time for the implementation of a system that most efficiently tracks requests. Most students have internet access or app-capable phones, and ALL students have observed campus issues that should be fixed. Put two and two together, and you have an app that connects students with campus management.

There’s already a bunch of great apps that allow citizens to report community issues and submit service requests using smartphones and web. Why not put that technology to work on campuses?  Colleges might be surprised at how much a simple app can engage students in keeping a campus functional and tidy.   

A change is past due, and you can bet I’ll be adding a footnote to future pipe-gripe work requests: give us an app already.

Local government on wheels.

Going the extra mile? Or too little, too late?

Brad Schweikert
Marketing Communications Specialist | Cartegraph

Okay, so the City of Boston, Mass has been getting a lot of great press for its new mobile municipal office, City Hall to Go. It’s a repurposed food truck that visits Boston neighborhoods, dishing out common city services such as pet licensing, voter registration, parking stickers, birth certificate requests, and more.  Here's a look at the menu:

Boston — as every major metropolitan area should — already allows citizens to conduct plenty of city business online. And Bostonians are still welcome to sacrifice their lunch hours for a trip down to City Hall. So as progressive as the idea sounds, it seems to me that City Hall to Go is really just a hipster-themed bonus option for late adopters.

Look, I’m not saying City Hall to Go is a bad idea. It’s friendly, stylish, and fun in a way that few local governments are. But it just seems so...1993.

We’re living in a world where people’s expectations grow more technologically advanced every day. The modern citizen wants simplicity, convenience, sustainability, and accuracy, not a gas guzzling PR effort and a new opportunity to stand in line.  

City Hall to Go has already hit the streets to collect feedback in neighborhoods all over Boston. I’m very curious to hear whether the idea becomes fixture or forgotten. An investigation of Boston’s website has me believing the money would be better spent creating a more interactive and functional way for people to do city business online. But it’s not my dime. Plus I'm just some hack behind a keyboard in Iowa. I'm pretty sure the folks at the City of Boston know their business far better than I. 

What do you think? Should local government be implementing more ways for citizens to do city business in person? Or is budget money better spent on expanding online services?

Click here to find out more about Boston's City Hall to Go. 

Partnering with citizens for better parks management.

Rebecca Smart
Citizen Y | Cartegraph

Act I 

Do you know the difference between a runner and a jogger?  Well, allow me to tell you.  A runner knows things that have nothing to do with distance, speed, or form.  Important stuff.  Like what happens when you take too many salt tabs before a long race on a hot day.  Or the side effects of caffeine energy chews on an empty stomach.  So runners also know secondary important stuff.  Like where it’s safe to pit stop in the woods.  What park bathroom you can enter without having to hold your breath, if, for instance, you’re going to be spending a few minutes in it. 

Running is all about the camaraderie (along with being able to have double desert).  Runners tend to look out for each other, so it was with this solidarity in mind that I found the YourGOV app to be needed in an unusual location:  the park bathroom. 

I’ll spare you the details. Let’s just say, sometimes you get the feeling there is just not enough bleach in the world to make a place right again.

I hated to do it knowing that somebody, somewhere was going to get the YourGOV report saying biological hazard had hit the park potty and some employee not due for a raise was going to be dispatched.  Whoever you are, my apologies.  But it had to be done.  It had to be done!  Oh, and it wasn’t me; let’s not take it out on the messenger. 

Act II

How’s that saying go?  “I have seen enough to know I have seen too much.”  And so it has proved in the local park scene. 

There’s a beautiful twin park nearby with a fascinating history.  The horse and buggy crowd from Chicago used to come up for some lake recreation in the late 1800s.  Well-heeled families with an eye toward preserving natural space for the future donated land that is part of the park system today.  Their vision is commendable. 

But their vision probably did not include the eyeful of what I saw while traipsing around the rolling, wooded hills along the lake.  Yowsa. 

Squirrels and such get to mate in the park woods.  Humans do not. It is a known problem.  The Parks folks have asked for help in stopping nuisance public displays of affection.

One park in particular has been host to many a merry go ‘round.  And I’m not talking about the playground.  The trees have been thinned and police are patrolling more frequently, but it’s a large park.

Though I didn’t stick around long enough to snap a photo, I found yet another use for the YourGOV app.  From the debris on the ground, I had apparently stumbled into a hot spot for trouble. 

Who knew there would be so many “Other Issue” opportunities?  

I really need to start staying home more. 

Advice from a Municipal Operations Manager.

Todd Henderson
Subject Matter Expert | Cartegraph

How many times have we been in a gas station or souvenir shop and seen those postcards titled, “Wish You Were Here,” with some inviting scene that is supposed to create a sense of envy in those to whom we send the card?

Receiving such a postcard from Florida, with a photo of the beautiful blue Gulf waters gently lapping at the white sand, palm trees swaying in the warm breeze, as the sun sets blaze orange in the western sky, is absolutely breath-taking. That is, unless you open it when you are standing in your parka and boots with a snow shovel in your hand, contemplating the joyous task of removing 12 inches of white powder that the meteorologist described a couple of days ago as “a possible flurry.” It is in those moments we want to send them a card from Alcatraz Island with the same message to them, with the addition of the word “permanently” added to the end of “Wish You Were Here."

The same can happen to us when we listen to the successes and triumphs of other municipalities or organizations that are enjoying the fruits of their labor and have a fully implemented a picture-perfect operations management system. It gets under our skin, makes us envious, creates self-doubt, and clouds the clear vision we have for our own system.

If we are not careful, we can get frustrated and lose our desire and drive to create a great system. Don't defeat yourself by hanging-up on obstacles or measuring your success against the "picture perfect" results of (insert-name-of-successful-organization-here)

Today, I would like to encourage you in your journey on this highway we are travelling. I have no “Wish You Were Here,” postcard to send you. Yes, we have enjoyed tremendous success in our implementation of Cartegraph, but we have also shed a lot of tears, fought a lot of battles and have the bruises and scars to prove it. Few success stories start out with perfection. As a matter of fact, usually the opposite is true.

Many are familiar with the story of Thomas Edison’s invention of the light bulb and the nearly endless failures he experienced along the way. With that in mind, I would like to offer a different definition of success as it relates to implementing an asset management system. Success is doing the right things for the right reasons, with the hope that the desired outcome is achieved. We often confuse the rewards of success with success itself. I am not a successful parent the day my child reaches adulthood as a productive and contributing member of society. That is the reward of success. If my child reaches adulthood as someone of whom everyone is proud, then I have been a successful parent for 21 years, not just on the day he turns 21. So, that means that I was a success every day that I spent time with him, played baseball with him, took him to the park, changed his diapers, read to him, etc.

We MUST look at what we are doing in asset management the same way; you are not a success the day that Cartegraph calls you to present what you have done to a large group or when your local paper writes a feature on your slick system that saves your organization time and money. You are a success when you are looking in the mirror, asking yourself, “How are we EVER going to overcome this resistance to change?” You see, success hinges on your desire to push through the obstacles in order to attain your goal. So, do I “Wish You Were Here”? Yes, I do, but not to make you envious or jealous. I want you to be here so you can experience the deeply satisfying feeling of overcoming every obstacle and experiencing the joy that comes from realizing that every bump and bruise is worth it!

Keep going. Keep being successful every day. Before you know it, you will be trading your parka for a pair of shorts and your snow boots for sandals. The harsh, cold winter of your difficulties will become the warm tropical breeze of your success.

A better way to filter your municipal operations data.

Brant Scheidecker
Business Analyst | Cartegraph

You know what I like to do? If your answer was “scrapbooking,” you were wrong. If your answer was “filter municipal operations data,” I would be handing you the stuffed panda off the top shelf right now. 

Yup, there are few pleasures in life that are more gratifying than sifting through mounds of data. What data, you ask? Well, Operations Management data, obviously, but Russian winter wheat harvest data: 1981-1992 and historical traffic pattern data for the Chicago suburbs are a close second. So you can see why it’s a great thing I work for a company that deals directly with Operations Management and provides me with a new and improved tool to filter that awesome data!

Enter Cartegraph OMS guided filters, a really slick way to let me sift through data within my OMS system until my heart breathes a sigh of contentment. With Cartegraph OMS, you’ll get three flavors of filtering:

Basic Guided Filter

Querying data is up there on your bucket list with oral surgery and trips to Wal-Mart; let’s get this over with. Cartegraph OMS lets you select what piece of data you want to filter on and the value you want to filter out, all within an easy-to-use user interface. To bring up all my Stop Signs in the City, I can do so with four clicks.

 

Advanced Guided Filter

You are complex, and your filtering needs are as well. Let me introduce you to OMS’s Advanced Guided filter, still with an easy-to-use UI, but with additional flexibility to create the most demanding filter sets. You tell me you need to know which Stop Signs were inspected between January 1, 2012 and March 25, 2012. Check.

Syntax View

You like T-SQL, filter expressions and programming in FORTRAN 77. We’ve got a mode for you. Fire up Syntax view and you have the full power of the keyboard and your own blazing raw intellect to make Cartegraph OMS dance to your liking.

Cartegraph OMS gives you the power to get at the data you need to do your job, and three sets of filter tools to do so. Screenshots left you unsatisfied? Go ahead and give one of our Sales Reps a call. They would much rather hear from you than me asking them how the American Airlines’ Frequent Flyer point system works.

So stay tuned. Being in the field is a cold affair in January, and I plan on staying close to my co-workers UL-certified space heater AND giving you more peeks of OMS in the weeks to come. We’ve got some cool stuff in store and we can’t wait to share it with you.

Campus Management and Public Works Management are eerily alike.

Kayli Kunkel
Marketing and Experience Intern | Cartegraph

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. While generally wise, this rule does not apply to college campuses.

A little over a year ago, I was a college prospect lost in a pile of admissions essays and application deadlines. I remember, on campus tour days, being ushered through preplanned routes. My tour guide rattled off building histories, class sizes and payment plans. This was the stuff I generally forgot. As prospects, we let our parents remember these tidbits to make a case for later. Even though they’re important, these facts aren’t our deal breakers.

What do we care about? “This building was erected in 1875…” makes a nice story, sure, but it goes in one ear and out the other. The real info we want is mostly what we’re seeing. We’re being a little selfish: we want to know what extras a school will throw in for us. We keep tabs on a well-kept commons area, a convenience store that is actually convenient, and the unique services offered. These amenities and aesthetics are what we mentally save for later.

We college prospects don’t mean to be shallow, but a campus’ efficiency and appearance really are huge elements in our decision. Don’t get me wrong: we want more to our education than the campus’ postcard appeal. But when it comes down to final enrollments and tit for tat, you can bet your bottom dollar we’re remembering any dilapidated buildings and untended greenery. We’ve long forgotten the set-in-stone founding principles of the school, but we’ve remembered what it can do for us: resources, conveniences and overall attractiveness.

The past few years have been a time of big, pretty campus management projects on my campus.  They’ve been cleaning up the area and focusing on other great things: accessibility to buildings, student resources and even details like nicer landscaping. They’re paying attention to disability services, student transportation and safety. This year, we also had record enrollment. Coincidence? Not even close.

My university has really tapped in to its “wow” factor, and it’s drawing in “wow” students. The establishment pays better attention to details, and it’s attracting more students who do the same.

As colleges herd prospective students through campuses before spring’s big application push, they need to keep in mind that applicants are conditioned to think critically. Don’t think they will be fooled with fast facts. They want high quality establishments and indications that colleges will make more improvements in their own student timelines. History doesn’t matter much if the present and future don’t satisfy.

So, the moral of the story is this: if you want us, appeal to us. Talk your college up, and we’ll get bored. But keep your campus in its prime, and it will speak wonders for itself. 

Your smartphone can stop graffiti and illegal dumping.

Rebecca Smart
Citizen Y | Cartegraph

Constructive Complaining

Here’s a really important thing I’ve noticed: complaining with a Smartphone is inherently better than just complaining. 

Now, I’m no expert… wait, that’s not true:  I am an expert at complaining.  I wrote my first letter-to-the-editor in the eighth grade.  But I am not just some “glass-half-empty” complainer.  My complaining has meaning (I’ve completed an informal poll among my family and friends and, when asked if my complaining was meaningful, they mostly answered “whatever,” which is a subset answer of “yes”).

Let’s just agree that the occasional notation on how to improve the world is both helpful and acceptable.  Constructive criticism, if you will.

Since putting a YourGOV-equipped Smartphone in my hand, I have found some ways to be extra helpful.  The following are imprecise summaries of YourGOV submittals to my favorite recipient, Public Works: 

Dear Public Works:  I’ve noticed that my fellow citizen down the road has an affinity for blowing all of his grass, leaves, and twigs into the street despite the crystal-clear ordinance banning such practices.  While I appreciate his decorative greening of my nearest storm drain, a pair of nesting geese began calling the clogged gutter drain home. This might indicate it’s time to give him a friendly reminder to knock it off.  Here’s a picture of my neighbor at work with his leaf-blower.  See the house numbers?  They are right above that finger he’s waving at me.  Howdy, neighbor! 

Dear Public Works:  I’ve made a new friend!  She moved in about half a mile away and, like me, she is a bit of a night owl.  I ran into her when I was out jogging with my dog at about 10 p.m. one night. I literally ran into her, wearing her black clothing and stocking cap.  She was looking pretty stealthy emerging from the forest that the school owns for its environmental education.  At first I thought she was Santa Claus because of the large bag she was carrying. She’s a giver, alright: in fact, she was giving away all of her grass clippings!  Isn’t that nice of her?  They are located right next to that sign that says “No Dumping.”  I’ve included her contact information in case you want to send her a “thank you” note. 

Dear Public Works: We’ve been through a lot together, haven’t we?  There was the time you picked up my branches even though I put them to the curb late and chased the chipper truck in my robe.  And I’ll never forget how you helped me haul away that dead deer carcass rotting away upwind from the swing set. I mow a little of your grass, you mow a little of mine. I wonder if we might partner on another project: let’s fix some curb!  I know, exciting stuff.  I’ll be waiting! 

 Helpful — it feels good.  

Oh, #$%&!
“Bleep!” 
“What did you say, sweetie?”
“Bleep!” 

“Right.  That’s what I thought you said.  Where did you learn that word, my little angel?  Oh, your big brother.  Ok, you play nicely while mommy goes to have a little talk with your brother.”  

I’ve cancelled cable, I’ve put the parent controls on every electronic device under the roof, I ripped out the good pages of the old National Geographics at grandpa’s house, and I send him on the bus with industrial-grade noise-blocking ear protectors.  What did I miss?  Where did he learn that word? 

The tunnel.  Of course!  There’s a tunnel in the park that goes under the railroad tracks to the recreational trail.  It’s old and creepy and awesome:  a perfect place for kids to hang out.  It gets hit with graffiti pretty regularly.  Railroad cars are often stored on the dead-end tracks above it; they too are full of some interesting art and literature. 

Apparently big brother has been studying it like he’s learning Shakespeare.  But guess what, kiddo?  Mom is a step ahead of you.  The library is now closed.

Tap, click, submit.  YourGOV has a handy little graffiti reporting tool.  Hope public works doesn’t think I’m sending them dirty messages when they see the photo I’ve submitted with it.  Although, you catch more flies with honey… if it gets someone with some graffiti-be-gone spray paint here faster, it’s all good. I’m not afraid of being asked what I’m doing hanging out in a damp tunnel. 

Uh-oh.  Grandma’s coming for a visit.  Somebody find that pacifier. 

Learn about Marana, Arizona’s approach to Municipal Operations Management.

Todd Henderson
Subject Matter Expert | Cartegraph

Our trip on the highway to the ultimate destination of enterprise-wide asset management has been eventful so far, to say the least. There have been potholes, detours and a flat tire. We have travelled the lonely road of culture change, taken a moment to rest and rejuvenate, fixed the flat tire of inventory control and enjoyed the road with our travelling companions.

There are often many events that happen rather quickly as we get our system in place, begin collecting public assets and start the difficult task of municipal work management and inventory control. When we take a trip in our vehicle, most of the activity is preparatory in nature: change the oil, check everything on the car, pack your clothes, be sure the mail is stopped, etc. It is a blur of activity. Once we get on the road, we just sit and drive and drive and drive. The road becomes like a treadmill under our tires.

In the same way, once we get everything in place and begin to operate our system, (barring any unforeseen tragedies, of course) life in our asset management world gets routine.

All of the initial accolades we received for implementing the system have died down and everyone becomes familiar with the excellent reporting and proactive maintenance schedules we have created. Then what?

Like a kid opening all of his presents on Christmas morning and then asking, “Is this all there is?” we can become frustrated and restless. We are just racking up the miles, the road becoming an endless strip of black treadmill as our mind drifts between where we left and where we are going. We scoot around in our seat as the hours go by; restlessly hoping time passes more quickly than it has the past few hours.

It is in moments like these that we must realize that this is a normal part of the journey. There WILL be stretches of emptiness and long periods of seeming inactivity. What we must take comfort in is that progress IS being made. We are getting there!! We are creating a history for all of our assets. We are developing a comprehensive library of work orders that will serve us well in the days, weeks, months and years ahead as the historical record of your system begins to form. Every mile we drive is a mile closer to our destination. Every work order entered, every asset collected and every piece of inventory monitored are all working together to help our workplace save money, be more efficient and raise the level of accountability.

So take heart, fellow traveler!! Keep doing what you are doing, even if no one seems to notice or care. Remember, you are doing this to create a great system that will live for years beyond your time there. You are the initiator of one of the greatest tools your business can have: a comprehensive, enterprise-wide, live and up-to-the-minute picture of everything they own. At the click of a button, your management team can track costs, create reports, manage inventory, submit documents to boards of directors, council members, etc. The only way any of that happens is because you made a decision; a decision that you would take this trip, racking up the miles to that ultimate destination we talked about earlier. Until you arrive at your destination and until my next entry……..keep driving!!

The people who make Municipal Operations Management work.

A Day in the Life of Marana, Arizona

Todd Henderson
Subject Matter Expert | Cartegraph

Last time, I interviewed my friend and fellow traveler, Brendan O’Connor. He is someone I can always count on to help me think through issues, create new modules and discuss the future of asset management as we take this trip together. However, I also have others that are travelling with me in a supportive role.

Teresa Skinner and Bernadette Romero enter all of Marana's Utilities Department data into Cartegraph. But, unlike the family trip where the wild hyenas in the back seat, (who are cleverly disguised as children) keep whining, “Are we there yet,” these two individuals are the exact opposite, providing a constant source of encouragement and help. 

Creating an asset management system is a lot like being a NASCAR driver; you may drive alone….but you do not race alone. In order to enjoy a successful implementation, you NEED a team.

No matter how passionate you are about creating a municipal asset management system for your enterprise, it is virtually impossible to do it all alone. You need gifted and talented people around you, helping you, encouraging you and being committed to the vision of enterprise-wide asset management.

Building a strong municipal asset management team is a combination of fortuitous circumstances and discovering an individual’s strengths and gifts. For us, the two ladies I mentioned were already in our department, serving as customer service representative and billing specialist. Thankfully, they embraced the challenge: entering 400-500 work orders per month while answering the phone, handling customer’s needs, running billing software, processing payments, etc. I have the pleasure of working with these two every day and have watched them take on these additional data-entry responsibilities, with nearly perfect accuracy.

Over the years, I have discovered a simple formula to use for people who will work with me. It is uncomplicated, but deadly accurate in determining a person’s potential and future effectiveness. If a person possesses all three of these qualities, they are virtually guaranteed success. If they fail to qualify on even one of these traits, I can guarantee that you can expect trouble at some point. They are as follows:

 1. Faithful

 Do they show up on time every day? Are they the type of person to commit to something and stick with it? Do they set a steady pace and keep going until they accomplish their goals? If the answer is yes, continue down the list. If the answer is no, stop, thank them, and wish them well, but DO NOT allow them on your team.

 2. Available

Are they willing to help with extra duties? Will they do whatever you ask of them, if it is explained properly and thoroughly? These are individuals who never say, “that’s not MY job!”. They are flexible and enjoy taking on a new challenge. “Availables” are people who hang around and ask, “Is there anything else I can do?” with a smile.

3. Teachable

This means having a good attitude and being hungry to learn. You can train people to do a lot of different things, but you can NOT teach a good attitude. If someone is teachable, I am not overly concerned about how skilled they are; skills can be taught. If they are not teachable, I don’t want to work with them. You may consider that harsh, but do you want to create a great system or go home with a great headache? It’s your choice.

Teresa and Bernadette are exemplary when it comes to being teachable. I have trained them for hours to be sure they understand why I want work orders and assets entered a certain way. Because of their willingness to learn the system, accept additional duties, and do all of it with a great attitude, our system has become exponentially better than it would have without them. This entry is dedicated to them. I may be the one speaking at Connect conferences and consulting with other municipalities who want to know what to do to get started, but the reason I am able to do that is because of my faithful, available and teachable fellow employees, Teresa and Bernadette. Thanks for all you do!

Government software: Adoptability is always more important than features.

James Willis
Emerging Technology Strategist | Cartegraph

When I talk to people about what they want in a municipal operations management system, they invariably start by listing features. “It would be great if it did this.” Or “How about if it automatically did that.” But when you dig a little deeper, a greater need emerges. “You know what would be great? A system that I could actually get my employees to use.”

Around here, there’s a word we use to describe a technology’s ability to be integrated and accepted with minimal resistance from the people required to use it.That word is “adoptability,” and it’s at the core of everything we do when designing new Cartegraph technology.

Today’s municipal organizations are facing a real data dilemma. You have these powerful analytic tools and you want to make good decisions about how to spend your money, but any analysis you do is flawed because your underlying data is flawed. This is often phrased as ‘Garbage In, Garbage Out’. The data about the work you are doing is being entered sporadically and inconsistently, so any conclusions drawn from that partial picture are invalid.

This isn’t the type of issue that’s solved by a large enough sampling, either, because those gaps in information are often pretty consistent. For example, let’s say the members of your streets crew refuse to use those “slow, clunky” mobile devices you’ve given them. Instead, each member prefers to work according to his or her own system of notes or what-have-you. That means each time they come back to the shop or office, they’re filling the system with approximations, abbreviations, and  best recollections about what they did, how long it took them, and what materials they used to complete the tasks.

The data in an organization is like a pyramid — wider and more granular at the bottom, all the way to the top where the sum of that data is being used in aggregate to plan budgets and work for the future. But if your base stones are shoddy or missing, you’re best-case scenario is an unstable peak that can’t be trusted. Worst-case scenario?  The whole thing collapses.

Accurate and timely collection of data from the ground up is the key to a streamlined and efficient organization. Field workers have better information to make day-to-day decisions, supervisors have better information for mid-term planning, and directors have better information for long-term planning and budget analysis.

This meant building government software that users in all parts of an organization could use and would adopt. Some of the words that we used repeatedly to test our design were: easy, friendly, intuitive, familiar, expected, and fast. As we laid out the design piece by piece, we quickly knew whether we were getting off-track when we no longer felt we could apply these terms. I believe you can see the application of these principles in every facet of the system, from the inclusion of Google maps, to support for consumer tablets, to persistence in the web (stay tuned for a future post dedicated to the topic of persistence).

We have built a municipal operations management system that is so intuitive and familiar, it will allow the collection of the detailed municipal data an organization needs to operate, without being a burden on the people who need to focus on getting work done. A system that will be adopted.

Municipal Operations Management: New era, new perspective.

Jake Schneider
Chief Executive Officer, President | V.P. of Marketing | Cartegraph

I’ve been in this industry for 15 years and I’ve seen many notable things. But, right now, I can say with great confidence, that as a company and as an industry, we’re in the midst of the most exciting times I’ve ever experienced as a professional.

We’ve entered a new era for municipal operations management. Did you catch that? I said municipal operations management. Not asset management, not work management — well, yes, those, too — but from now on, you’ll be approaching the management of those operations from a whole new perspective.

The Idea: With an industry evolving, we have an opportunity.

Years ago, it became clear that technology was evolving so quickly, it wouldn’t be long before the entire public sector would absolutely need to evolve with it. So we began working on a system that would help government organizations evolve their operations in a way that would resonate well into the future.  

While we were busy working on our new system, the public sector began its transformation. More and more, we encountered agencies and organizations looking for technology to solve the types of problems the private sector has been tackling for years.  Customer service improvements, accountability, process management, efficiency, integration — these fundamental aspects of corporations and business are now expected of you.

We took this information and combined it with the most advanced methodologies and technologies we know. The result a revolutionary operations management system tailored to government.

It’s awesome. It’s a game changer.
And we know you’ll want to use it.

The Problem: No one knows what Cartegraph does.

I asked some customers and a few employees to describe, simply, what Cartegraph does. This “simple” question garnered no less than 25 different answers. Not exactly the well-defined consensus I was looking for.  

No business can possibly be everything to everyone. Yet, that’s how we were being described. I challenged a research firm — you know, the “pros” — to categorize our business.  Even they couldn't muster anything beyond a catch-all blend of several business categories.

“Our system is built to share municipal work, asset, resource, and request management data with other core government systems,” I said.  “Yet, you can't come up with a clear and concise way to describe what Cartegraph does for public sector organizations. Isn't this an obvious problem?” They thought I was on to something. And I was.

Continuing the conversation with our customers revealed another perspective. It turns out we’re more important than we've ever known. In fact, Cartegraph is so critical to day-to-day municipal operations that, in many organizations, it is part of emergency management protocol.  So, if the Cartegraph system goes down, it’s all hands on deck to get it back up and running — ASAP!

The Revelation: A new seat at the table.

Our Services team spends a lot of time integrating Cartegraph with other core systems such as GIS, CRM, and financial systems.  That led us to identify a gap, or an “empty seat,” at that enterprise table of systems.

In many respects, we were already occupying a seat. Cartegraph has always supported information and process needs by associating with other enterprise systems. But as hard as the system worked, and as important as it was to the management of day-to-day operations, we were never really invited to sit down at the table and stay.

The world is full of companies offering applications and solutions that claim to fulfill the day-to-day operations management needs of local government. They’ll install them. They’ll do their best to knit them together with your other systems. And they’ll leave you with a hodge-podge of systems and applications that may or may not get along. Some call it a WORK-ASSET-REQUEST-RESOURCE management system. I call it A-B-S-U-R-D.

So we decided to crash the “enterprise party.” We brought our own chair, too. In it, a business critical system that’s vital to the efficiency and success of day-to-day municipal operations. It’s on equal footing with other enterprise systems, not child to them. It’s a powerful engine for managing incoming requests, assigning and completing work, maintaining assets, and managing all your resources. Just as importantly, it’ll save you time and money.

It’s our new Operations Management System. We’re confident that once you fully realize what it brings to the table, you’ll never want us to leave. 

The Future: A new approach to day-to-day business.

Let me say it for you: the future looks pretty incredible. You've got a fresh perspective on the system you need to manage your day-to-day municipal operations.  You know exactly why and how it fits into your enterprise. You even know what to call it now (hint: impress your boss and friends by working Cartegraph Operations Management System into all your conversations).

For you, our Operations Management System introduces a future brightened by operational improvements in efficiency, accountability, customer service, and more. For us, this kicks-off a new era of delivering modern government technology to organizations that have waited a long time for a better approach to managing day-to-day municipal operations.

We’re excited. And we hope you are, too. 

A good map is worth a thousand words. A bad one is worth a single expletive.

Brant Scheidecker
Business Analyst | Cartegraph

These days, maps can be found in every walk of life.  Access to digital maps from desktop computers, smartphones, and even the gratuitous use by cable/ TV newsrooms allows individuals who previously may not have ever looked at a map to have a hands-on experience.  So now that maps are consumed by even the most uninformed of us on a myriad of topics, are there ways to ensure my map simply and easily communicates what I intend?

Just as there are in other media types, there are “good” maps and there are “bad” maps.  This distinction is sometimes quite stark,where other times it is very subjective.  “What, then, makes a good map?” you may ask. But it's a question that cannot be answered in a mere blog post. There are entire books written on the topic.  Color choices, element size and styling, level of detail, fonts, and scale are all elements factoring the relative “goodness” or “badness” of a map.  With that said, however, there are several non-aesthetic elements that are essential for accurate and easily interpretable map presentations.

I can’t take credit for the following list.  A college Teacher Assistant I had for a GIS class passed along the following acronym, and to his credit, has stuck with me to this day:  T.O.S.S.L.A.D.

Title:  Every map should have a title.  It allows the user to assess the purpose of the map quickly; allowing them to determine if it meets their needs.

Origin: A fancy name for a compass  or North arrow.  This allows the user to determine the maps reference to the earth.  While most maps these days have North being straight up, occasionally you will encounter a map that has a skewed orientation, perhaps to better fit it on the physical medium its presented on (i.e. paper), or simply because it’s easier to interact with the map in that orientation.

Scale:  Ensure there is a scale bar on the map.  This allows the user to determine relative measurers of distance.  Is this road I am looking at 1 mile long? 10 miles long? 1 foot long? Knowing map scale is essential in map interpretation.

Source:  This is a two-fold element: It allows the map maker to provide the map viewer an idea where the data the map is representing is from; a necessity in determining the accuracy of a map.  It also allows the map maker a way to cite the source of their data, avoiding all those pesky cries of plagiarism and the ensuing lawsuits.  You have better uses for your time, like ensuring the rest of the T.O.S.S.L.A.D. elements are on your maps.

Legend:  Not the myth, but the area where a user can determine what a particular color or symbol represents on the map.  Without a legend, a user cannot successfully interpret what your map is trying to represent, “Does the red skull and crossbones over my favorite restaurant mean what I think it means?

Author:  Hey, take credit for your creation.  It also lends credibility to a map document, especially if you are Dr. Noel Manfrrangensennn, PhD, JSK, ASEP, KOPA, and not Billy Addams, 2nd Grader, Middle Elementary School.

Date:  When was this cartographic masterpiece made? If your map was created in 1962 and shows commuter levels in Chicago – it might not be such a valid source for the traffic data you are looking for today, unless you are feeling nostalgic.

There you have it.  Ensure that every map you create incorporates T.O.S.S.L.A.D., and you are on your way to cartographic genius.  Now we just need to work on your penchant to use hot pink and yellow for your font colors.

Partners in Municipal Operations Management.

Todd Henderson
Subject Matter Expert | Cartegraph

Last time, I ended my entry by telling you that I am not travelling this municipal operations management highway alone. Thankfully, I have a fellow traveler who is a gifted and talented individual who does exactly what I do, right over the wall in the Public Works Department.

Brendan O’Connor is not just a co-worker, he is my friend. We have offices next to each other. We eat lunch together. We go in the field together for projects. And we've become Cartegraph experts together. We have not purchased matching sweaters and ridden a tandem bike to work yet, but suffice it to say, we spend a lot of time working on municipal operations management together to make sure we create the best system possible.

My job is to manage all enterprise-funded assets and Brendan manages all of the general fund assets. We also do extensive cross-training with each other to ensure redundancy within our system. If your organization can do this, I highly recommend this paradigm for asset management.

I sat down with Brendan to discuss how Public Works assets are managed in Cartegraph and the challenges they faced in implementing government software capable of managing both asset and work management.

How did you start and what asset did you collect first?
Our Public Services General Manager tasked me to get on the same playing field as our regional pavement preservation committee. Thankfully, everyone in the region uses Cartegraph for their pavement management, so the implementation was smoother. I cross-trained with Tucson’s pavement management team, learning inspection protocols and asset management techniques, which took about a year to complete. Approximately 3 months after starting pavement, we initiated the work management piece in Work director, within the Operations and Maintenance Department.

What challenges did you face in the implementation?
Our challenges were virtually identical to yours, Todd. We had the same issues with individual field staff and managers thinking it was a way for upper management to track every move that was made, creating a big-brother scenario. The other issue we faced was the diversity within multiple divisions (signs, signals, landscape, heavy equipment, etc), creating a uniform reporting system, which was quite a challenge.

How did you overcome those challenges? What was the practical solution?
The simple answer is “this is how life is going to be from now on”. If anyone had an issue with this, we told them to take it to the highest level possible and if you can get them to tell us to stop, we will. Obviously, that never happened. Without the backing of our Public Services General Manager, this project would have never happened.

So, where are you at now and what is ahead?
As far as public asset management, we have pavement, signs and signals in the system 100%. We are currently putting in ADA Ramps and creating and implementing asset and work management modules for our Facilities Division. Our Operations and Maintenance Division has been managing its work in Cartegraph for two years now, and can not imagine life without it, so it has been VERY successful. One of our managers, who was initially a strong opponent of the system, has now become its biggest champion. THAT is rewarding.

As you can see from the above interview, Brendan has faced the same challenges as I have. Thankfully, both of us have overcome them. This road we travel is not always smooth or easy. There are detours, potholes, roads under construction, flat tires and lonely times of wondering if the journey is worth it. However, having someone travel with you on this journey makes it easier and much more rewarding. You can talk about issues together, think through different ways to implement ideas and learn from one another.

Until the next entry, remember that you are not alone on this journey. You have a lot of fellow travelers, even if they are not in the same car. If you need encouragement or help, feel free to contact myself or Brendan. We understand what it’s like. Enjoy the journey!! I know I am!

Evolving with Municipal Operations Management technology isn’t always easy.

Todd Henderson
Subject Matter Expert | Cartegraph

After safely pulling to the side of the road, we open the trunk to retrieve the jack and the spare tire. Some blowouts can cause a lot of damage. Thankfully this one did not, though it caused more than a little panic when it happened. As the wrench does its work, our mind drifts to what caused the blowout. Was it debris in the road? Was it a faulty tire? Looking at the tire, there appears to be excessive wear that had not been noticed. An examination of the other 3 tires reveals that all of them are just fine. So, just ONE bad tire can stop your progress? Yes, unfortunately, it can. You need all of your tires to be in good condition in order to make your journey a success. The same was true of our municipal asset management experience. We had one bad tire that we had not noticed until it blew out: inventory control.

Cartegraph includes wonderful material management capabilities and we used them to painstaking inventory of the parts in our Utilities Department warehouse. Carefully, we came up with an ID system and then counted every single part by hand to ensure our initial inventory was perfectly accurate. A brand new tire, as it were.

Unfortunately, tires do not stay new. The intoxicating smell of new rubber and the little rubber whiskers are soon a distant memory as we rack up the miles, not paying as close of attention to the tires as we should.

Just when our work management was looking good, our inventory count revealed some serious flaws in our communication. We were off nearly 20%. This was a real blowout, not a slow leak. Pieces of rubber, as well as my ego, were tossed around the highway for everyone to see. How did this happen and what do we do to get a new tire and get back on the road?

Thankfully, we recognized the problem and took the steps to solve it. For us, it was a faulty method of communication. Our problem was that when new materials came in, there was not an air-tight process and communication flow to ensure every piece was stocked, numbered and updated in the materials module. Once we corrected the error through a data-flow diagram, we made sure everyone involved knew the precise process for bringing inventory in to the warehouse, tracking it and updating it in the system. The new tire is installed and we are ready to go! Was it a good tire? Yes, one year later our inventory variance was less than 1%.

This episode in our history points out a critically important truth: purchasing a software program does not create an enterprise-wide asset management system any more than purchasing a toolbox fixes your car. YOU must make the software work for you. The goal is to proactively manage your system. If you want to be a pro, get active. Make it work for you.

Far too often, someone sees the tremendous potential of a software program like Cartegraph and assumes that because they purchase it and install it, the task of asset management is complete. Nothing could be further from the truth. The reason our management team loves what we do in Marana is because we have entered over 23,000 work orders in 3 years, attach those work orders to assets, collect GPS points for the assets, inspect the assets and generate reports that reflect all of that work. Without the software, we have no way to assemble the data. Without the work we do, the software is useless. BOTH are needed to create a great system.

As I mentioned in my first blog entry, I am not travelling alone on this journey. Brendan O’Connor, my good friend and colleague in the Public Works Division, is driving with me. Next time, we will hear Brendan’s thoughts on how they gathered pavement, signs, signals, ADA Ramps, etc. and the challenges and victories in their department. Now that we are back on the highway, I am reminded how much I enjoy this journey. It is challenging at times, but the trip is totally worth it.

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