While a lot of organizations like to boast about their latest technology project as a corporate implementation rather than an IT implementation, often this just ends up being lip service. Find out how one Ontario municipality took a different approach to implementing its city-wide financial and infrastructure management systems

Kitchener integrates GIS into work order system

When the City of Kitchener, Ont. decided to create integrated financial and asset management systems, the municipality gathered staff from every department to help with everything from the vendor selection stage all the way to the testing of the final product.

The city announced this week that it had completed its project to upgrade the two major legacy systems, and city staff has already pegged the projects as a success. One major aspect of the integrated asset management system is the work order management system. Mike Bolger, IT manager of business systems and services at the City of Kitchener, said the municipality was especially keen in developing a system to work with its existing geographic information system (GIS) platform.

“All the work we’re doing, it’s on assets that are located somewhere such as roads, sewers, and gas lines,” he said. The GIS-integrated work order component will allow city staff to see what they’re going to be working on as well as minimize the need for extra data entry.

“For example, if you’re going to dig up a sewer line, well there could be gas lines around it and everything else,” said Bolger, adding that city staff no longer use the GIS as an outside reference, but rather a direct component of the system.

This aspect of the project was mostly geared toward the operations and utilities department and the facilities management team, while the much more straightforward financial system is used throughout the municipality.

But while the new functionality was badly needed, the project gained most of its attention for the way the city’s IT staff decided to handle the implementation.

With a pair of systems that will impact pretty much every department in the city, Bolger and the IT team decided to take a different approach to the project, starting with how they chose the team of vendors.

“There were no IT people on the selection committee,” he said. “We had sessions where the vendors came in and did presentations to upwards of 40 staff, all with scoring sheets to do reviews and scores.”

Bolger said the only way for staff to get the product they want is to actually have staff at the blueprint stage.

“If you’re going to build a large system, even if you have a large IT team and consultants, I don’t think you’ll be successful unless the user groups are fully committed to the project,” said Bolger.

“So many times, a finance department wants to put in a system and they just hand it off to IT and say ‘you put it in for us,’” he added. “All they’re leaving you with is expectations and the odds are you aren’t going to meet those expectations.”

Along the way, the city had dozens of staff across departments testing the system and making sure it was behaving properly up until launch time.

IDS Scheer, SAP Canada Inc., ESRI Canada, and Riva Modeling Systems Inc. all helped provide different components to build the two systems.

Rob Corazzola, the national director for Canadian municipalities at SAP Canada, said the involvement of so many city stakeholders was an excellent approach — especially during the vendor selection stage.

“We welcome those kinds of presentations, even though from a preparation perspective it’s a lot of work for us,” he said, adding that the project will always come out better when the entire organization has a role at every stage of the game.

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