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A Road Map for the Integration of Utility Data and Information Systems

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As more organizations try to meet the continual demand to do more with fewer resources, integration of data and information systems is becoming critical. Significant investment is required for capturing, storing, and manipulating large quantities of utility information. By defining a road map to follow for the integration process, multi-year programs can be successfully and cost-effectively implemented.

Two of the most data-intensive programs include computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) and geographic information systems (GIS). Often, each of these programs is developed independently of the other, but both often contain the same asset and condition data. Many organizations are investigating the potential to integrate these systems, which would result in greater efficiency of resources, improved data collection processes, and reduced data redundancy and data maintenance requirements.

This paper discusses the major phases of a project that included asset inventory and a multiyear condition assessment program for sanitary sewers and storm drains. It details considerations essential in completing the integration process. These include strategic information planning, needs assessment, software acquisition or upgrading, data sources, data acquisition, software implementation, and training and support.

The process of software procurement to meet organizational needs includes determining software evaluation methodology, identifying software candidates, and selecting a vendor based on their ability to meet the evaluation criteria. Integration and implementation considerations include developing an integration methodology, implementing software integration, assessing existing utility system data, developing a systemwide plan for data collection, and development of a quality control plan for data validation and quality control procedures.

As more inventory and condition assessment data are gathered, agencies are looking for effective processes and tools for managing data entry and storage, and access. By identifying options and methodologies for integration, significant efficiencies can be realized. Issues that need to be addressed include attributes to be collected (standardized field forms that are compatible with the existing software); inspection methods to use (physical inspection, losed-circuit television inspection, or sewer scanning evaluation technology); tools available for direct entry of data in the field (data loggers, direct-entry modules) to minimize data errors; quality control procedures; and standards for inspection and evaluation (health and safety, traffic control, inspection specifications, defect coding manuals). Economic evaluations will determine the cost-effectiveness of using agency staff versus contracting work out and include consideration of existing equipment, replacement practices, and resources.

After the software program and processes are delivered, training and support, critical to the success of the project, are provided. How much training is required and at what point in the process is it required?

The tools, processes, and training that form the road map for system integration allow agencies to assume control of the project at any point to successfully continue the management of multi-year programs. This paper presents lessons learned from all phases of the project and highlights recommendations for the successful integration of inventory and condition data into CMMS and GIS.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2001-01-01

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