One of our local government peers was recently looking to make the move to mobile and they reached out to get my thoughts and guidance. Our utilities team here in Bay County, Florida, implemented a new asset management system in August, and that change—like most changes—was met with some understandable hesitancy.
Adjusting to a new way of doing things can be scary, and this community wanted to learn from our experience. How did we get our crews on board with a new system and procedures? How did we reduce friction in the adoption? What went well? What would we do differently?
I knew exactly how they felt. Ahead of our software implementation with Cartegraph, we wondered how it would be accepted here too. Then again, we didn't have much to lose. In terms of paperwork and our day-to-day operations, things here were frankly awful. In the field and forgot your forms? Time to double back to the office and grab them. Task incomplete? It’s probably on a work order lost under a truck seat or floor mat.
"When you account for these efficiencies across our department—and across the calendar year—the savings in time, money, and everyday crew stress add up and multiply."
Luckily, I can look back on that period of time and laugh. I think of it as The Stone Age of Bay County Utilities. Since implementing the new work and asset management technology, we’ve caught up to the high-tech era and then some. The smart use of apps, ArcGIS maps, and mobile devices has allowed us to accomplish so many things that just weren't possible before—even though we now see how important they are to getting our jobs done right.
Today, we can track the condition of the 21,000 water and sewer assets most important to us: mains, meters, and manholes to pumps, valves, and hydrants. We can zero in on maintenance costs with the same precision and speed it takes to send a text. We track our labor, equipment, and materials better than ever before. When you account for these efficiencies across our department—and across the calendar year—the savings in time, money, and everyday crew stress add up and multiply.
We now know where we've been, where we want to be, and how to get there. Bay County's partnership with Cartegraph has us well on our way to setting a shining standard we can be proud of. We've gone from collecting crumpled up forms to iPads and smartphones filled with comprehensive, real-time data. And, that data will help us to develop benchmarks where we can look back at the year and review what we’ve done.
There's every reason to believe your municipality can benefit from our experience, especially when it comes to negotiating a smooth implementation that guarantees success. Here are some of Bay County's top tips and key takeaways I'd like to share:
1. Positivity not penalty
Your crews need to know that they won't be punished if they can't perform well at first with their devices in the field. Instead, celebrate small wins, encourage them to stick with it, and prepare for just how good things are going to turn out. Once they realize you're not playing Big Brother—maybe the reliable older brother is more like it—they'll be eager to get involved.
2. Think like an architect
It’s all about laying a strong foundation. Cut corners and you’re left with a compromised, sinking structure. But, you don’t have to go at it alone. Stepping up as a partner, Cartegraph gave us three trainings that separated out our wastewater, water treatment, and distribution techs. In smaller groups, our employees completed trial run-throughs on laptops, tablets, and cell phones. This personalized experience made all of us more comfortable with the change.
3. Access equals success
Make sure to have more of the right tech tools on hand than you think you’ll need. In Bay County, we ordered 20 iPads, thinking we'd have limited employee participation. Then to our surprise, everyone wanted to use them. There is a novelty aspect to this; everyone wants a new toy! It helps people adapt to the new way. Be ready for that positive response.
4. Personalize what you can
Simplify the onboarding process for your teams by clearing out the clutter. Cartegraph worked one-on-one with our crews to personalize their system dashboards, task views, and more. Not only did this help crews adopt the new workflows faster it also made them feel heard: that their ideas and experience were valued.
5. You deserve a learning curve
While we expect to spend a few years getting fully acclimated, our team knows and expects that the change will streamline their work and yield better results. You have to walk, crawl, then run, but if you plan for success and remain positive, you’ll be amazed at how quickly it all happens.
The bottom line? Adopting new operations management technology has been an eye-opening experience for the guys. And, open eyes allow us to see new opportunities to optimize, prioritize, and capitalize. Meanwhile, we're learning something new every day. Our crews remain pumped. We're convinced Bay County and its residents are better off for it, too. I encourage your municipality to take the leap; you’ll be better off, too.