Where we were, where we are, and where we’re going
Our world has never been more connected than it is today.
According to Pew Research, 84% of Americans currently use the Internet. 84 percent. That's a powerful statistic—and it doesn't even tap into all the different platforms we use to access the Internet.
With smartphones, tablets, and other cutting-technology, the people who live in our towns and cities are more tech-savvy than ever. There’s a push for our local government organizations to be progressive and efficient in their use of technology. Now is the time to take operations to a new level.
In order to start building high-powered organizations, I believe it is important for us to look at three areas: where we were, where we are now, and where we are going next.
Where We Were
Paper forms in someone’s file cabinet, verbal commands, an Excel sheet on someone’s computer, and institutional knowledge—those people who have been a crucial part of your daily operation for years—all possess valuable information for us.
But here’s the problem: How do you assemble all of that valuable knowledge into a centralized access point? It is a tall order. And quite frankly, very few succeed at it.
That’s exactly where I found myself when I began to work for an Arizona municipality in 2007. It was a rapidly-growing community that had all of the above-mentioned silos of data. Two years into the job, I was tasked with using Cartegraph software to begin the process of housing all of our daily operations management into one system that was accessible to all. It was a daunting task—fraught with culture change, work flow changes, and inventory variances.
Once I began entering data into the system, however, I saw something begin to develop that really excited me: I saw how an entire city could be effectively and efficiently managed by having all asset, work, and inventory history in one easy-to-use system.
As data began to enter the system, I began to see our city as I had never seen it. I saw patterns emerge, money that could be saved, and proactive maintenance that could extend the life of our community’s assets. The excitement was building, but I had not yet achieved all that was possible with such a system. That is where I was in my journey. Where were you?
Where We Are
Every day, our technology gets faster and our connectivity gets stronger and more reliable. While there are pockets of remote areas that still have no Internet connection, the latest National Broadband Map shows Internet access that nearly blankets the U.S.
It’s a similar story for cellular connection. According to Open Signal, there are over 800,000 cell towers in the U.S. Their map indicates nearly complete coverage as well. I personally cannot remember the last time I had a phone call drop because of a poor connection. When I first got a cell phone, I experienced quite a few dropped calls and indications of “no service available” on my phone.
Today, we can use all of that connectivity and available data to make wise decisions that take our organization to the next level. Here’s one example. In 2013, I looked at the data I was accumulating and discovered something: Our work was divided 61% in the northern half of our city and 39% in the southern half. On top of that, our community had purchased a wastewater treatment plant in the far northwest sector of our city, which I projected would result in 81% of our work being north and 19% south. But our main operations building was in the southernmost part of our city. Seeing those numbers painted a simple picture and a clear decision: We needed to move the operation closer to the northern part of the city.
Using Cartegraph’s ability to produce total cost of labor, equipment, materials, and other costs gave me the numbers I needed to justify the move. In just a few years of saving the fuel, travel time, wear and tear on our equipment, and lost time for our staff, we could pay for the move north.
See how this works? Decisions were made based on actual data, from one system that was connected and producing vast amounts of useful data. This is where we are today as an industry. Exciting, isn’t it? But the future looks even more promising!
Where We are Going
So, what will our future look like, with this kind of connectivity and access to data? The high-performance organization that you create, regardless of its size, will leverage people, technology, and data to make smarter business decisions. These three are indispensable and will literally create our future. If all you have is people, you are back to my first point; where we were. If all you have is technology, with no people, you have a nice, shrink-wrapped package of unused potential. So, it takes all three. It takes the best people using the best technology that will create the best data that will usher us into a new era of effective and transparent government that runs better than ever before.
Software that is simple, intuitive, and easy to use will be used by people to produce tremendous data that will speak clearly to all of us. Efficiency, transparency, and accountability will accelerate exponentially as data is produced. That data has a voice: let it speak to you. Let that data assist you in creating better, smarter decisions. Our industry has this incredible opportunity right now! Now is the time to make the shift to a high performance organization.
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