Launch Slideshow

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Independent Operators

Independent Operators

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    Navajo County's information system is equipped with Terra Genesis Inc.'s GENII, an enterprise information integration tool that communicates with many different data systems. It pools disparate information into one enterprise system, while allowing information to remain in original databases. The tool adds data, security, and business logic layers, coupled with the source data to create a system of communicating applications. The system's data connectivity functions like a pyramid, from data maintenance at the base to queries in the middle and executive reports at the top. The system also provides data and maps to Navajo County's public-domain Internet site. Source: Navajo County/Public Works

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    Cost of delivered hot asphalt with tack oil

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    Points of flood analysis against FEMA maps and floodways

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    Fleet by inventory make

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    NCIS record creation reportThe above reports were generated by the Navajo County Information System.

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    The file room of Navajo County (Ariz.) Public Works. The county's two-year-old information system — based on enterprise information integration — provides a direct, electronic view into the data contained in this once-daunting back room.

The software also provides a set of rapid-development tools that helps users build applications of any type or design. This means my staff can run the system without calling on county information technology (IT) staff. Applications can be built quickly, and more complex applications can be built from simpler ones in building-block fashion.

The GENII/EII approach presented an implementation and methodology best described as backwards — build first — which caused substantial managerial concern until we understood how it worked. Typically, software development begins with Joint Application Development meetings where users list what they need. Then developers disappear behind closed doors to build the application. But GENII enables both the vendor and my staff to build applications quickly, so they can skip the rigorous planning needed with other software and jump ahead to building a prototype. Once built, the application and data can then be evolved to fit user needs, usually with the end-user watching.

Development follows the writer's adage: Write it — and then get it right. That's how we built 350 applications in 24 months: incrementally, with success measured by the number of interoperable datasets. Our assessor, for example, recently bought a new parcel management system built up from about 30 Oracle tables. Using GENII, my staff was able to connect to this new system to make its data fully available to our established 350 applications in less than 24 hours.

DATABASE RELATIONSHIPS

GENII uses methods considered unusual by most IT personnel. Rather than rely on relational database technology to relate data and on the World Wide Web for communications, GENII employs the Web for relationship management and relational database technology for common communications. Because our system models data relationships as a set of descriptions, an IT database administrator is not needed to wire up a data model. We build and maintain our own. This gives me a high degree of creative autonomy because I can directly implement my own IT needs.

Within public works, most everything is linked to either a piece of highway or to a parcel. The e911 database then relates parcels to roads through address. As data and relationships are added to the system, a physical map of the ensuing relationships may be drawn. Ours looks like a web spun by a spider on steroids, with 270 relationships and growing.

What this means is, I can point to a road on a map. From this line, I can be linked to the table of maintained roads for design features and traffic counts. I can see all work performed against that road, and for each work event view the mix of labor, material, and equipment. For each piece of equipment, I can derive its fuel purchases and mileage and then drill into its maintenance history. I can pull the type of oil used in its last pit stop and then see how many units of this oil the county has in stock. We refer to this as a “chained query.”

THE DATA PYRAMID

The magic of our GENII-outfitted information system is data connectivity, which is best described as a pyramid (see chart).

At the base, county staff maintains data using their custom EII applications. At the top is the “executive dashboard” where I can query any department using reports and maps. The “usage report” returns the number of applications, tables, fields, and records under the system's management. It also details the number of new records created by staff as grouped by application and month.

At the next pyramid level, each organizational leader has a custom reporting area that details the areas assigned to them, the number of records created each month by application, a list of users who have access, and a graphic that diagrams which county departments/divisions use their assigned data. There are also tools that check each data value against the county data standard for quality control.

Next down the pyramid is the “global query.” I can enter a parcel or parcel range, and the global query will pull every record referencing that parcel from every known county function. Likewise, I can enter a road number for a complete brief of all county-known information referencing that road. Global queries are embedded into applications; if a building permit references a parcel, pressing the parcel number will prime the global query and all known information retrieved. When a taxpayer applies for a septic permit, all the Building & Safety Division needs to do is run the global query to see if a flood review has been conducted.