Communication is a problem because cities and utilities frequently don't share common software platforms that help coordinate these improvements.
You see it all too often. A street gets repaved as part of routine maintenance, and a few weeks later it gets torn up again for a utility project. It's frustrating for residents, businesses and public sector officials.
These unfortunate situations are a side effect of having many departments and utilities working in the same public right-of-way with different planning, funding, maintenance and construction schedules. Communication is a problem because cities and utilities frequently don't share common software platforms that help coordinate these improvements.
"In order to look at data across platforms, many cities have to generate multiple reports, correlate them and then somehow display that information when evaluating and planning for long-term capital improvements," says Ron Coker, vice president in the Burns & McDonnell Water Group. "These activities are time-consuming and labor intensive."
Consent and Advise
In response to this need, Burns & McDonnell has developed PublicWay™, a web-based tool that displays information from municipal systems and places it into a customizable, searchable Google Earth platform.
"We really try to provide an interface that requires minimal training and is based on the Google mantra of making it simple, rather than have us tell you how to do your job," says Wes Hardin, product manager in the Burns & McDonnell Business & Technology Services Group.
For the city of Kansas City, Mo., Burns & McDonnell is applying PublicWay™ in the early stages of implementing the city's two-decade-long, $4.5 billion overflow control program. The program, which includes an extraordinary number of capital projects, provides an ideal opportunity for the city to coordinate between its departments and private utilities to optimize and leverage the capital program to the community's maximum benefit.
PublicWay™ went live in May 2013. It is the latest evolution of the firm's OneTouchPM® tool, which has been used on $12 billion worth of projects for multiple clients.
How It Works
PublicWay™ pulls information at regular intervals from numerous sources, including work order systems, citizen call-in or action center systems, GIS systems, project management and scheduling software, design applications, planning systems and more. It translates the data from many different formats and displays it in near-real-time geospatially, where it becomes more intuitive to find correlations and conflicts.
Perhaps the most user-friendly aspect of PublicWay™ is that it doesn't require municipal staff to change their computer systems or the way they manage data.
"We keep the data where it's at and just pull it in," Hardin says. "You decide what you're going to share, and we provide the tool for you to upload it. We want to provide a system that is very seamless to the people doing the work."
That saves expense and flattens the learning curve. "It's very difficult to change the way people manage data," Coker says. "So we want to add a capability to say, ‘You can manage it the way you've always managed it, but now we can see it in the manner that supports better collaboration, planning and management.' "
The tool is designed for a wide range of users with diverse levels of technical knowledge. PublicWay™ features maps, graphs, charts and other analytic tools. The software also has the power to search over a time range.
"Anytime you can say we've looked out five years and coordinated our capital projects between city departments and private utilities to maximize the investment of public dollars — it's very powerful," Coker says.
For more information, contact Wes Hardin, 816-822-4361.