Two years ago, when the Navajo County (Ariz.) Public Works s Department sought to replace its disjointed highway work-management system with software to manage assets, we didn't t just trade one single-use program for another.
While that would have been the “safe” solution, we went with enterprise information integration (EII) instead. Unlike an enterprise resource planning tool that requires one central database, EII integrates data from disparate databases, while also allowing us to clean n that existing data and remove redundant processes — at less than half the cost of a basic work-management system.
Data cleaning, or promoting data interoperability, is the process of deleting erroneous data, selecting data structures that snap together, and establishing common values and rules to help different departments communicate and share data.
The resulting system manages more than 350 datasets and is used to create 20,000 new records each month. That's quite a technical feat for a predominantly rural county of 10,000 square miles and 120,000 taxpayers.
Our older systems consisted of several dozen legacy applications. While the highway maintenance, e911, traffic counts, sign maintenance, and GIS divisions all use roads, each maintained its own database regarding its use of those roads. These divisions, along with planning and zoning, code enforcement, and the assessor, also maintained separate subdivision lists.
Of course, none of these lists matched and each was maintained separately. On top of that, the highway maintenance vehicle list was separate from fleet management; the labor list was different from personnel; and the highway materials list was separate from the contracts list, which is used to set costs and procure the material.
Our request for proposal outlined a work-management system to track labor, material, and equipment costs applied to highway projects as a function of highway name and subdivision. What we received from Terra Genesis Inc. went much further. It promised to tackle data interoperability first, and then address specific processes such as work management. Plus, the bid included software, data cleaning, and deployment, and was 35% lower than the next bid, which only included work-management software and no data improvement.
Since installation, the EII software has saved us $30,000 in annual maintenance and $40,000 in training and productivity costs, while also eliminating duplication of effort. But the real beauty is the ability to do things we could only dream about before. Now it's a snap to bill out fuel purchases and fleet maintenance costs to separate departments, compare permit fees across years, and view the escalating costs of highway materials. There is also an indefinable future savings, because with this tool we can build any envisioned new application without purchasing additional software.
CONNECTING THE DATA
Enterprise information integration promotes data cooperation between existing data in an open framework. Our system links information into an expandable tree called the “application index.” Highways, fleet, flood, community development, fuel, public health, general ledger, and GIS are all located in the index. Although data for these activities live in databases across the county, the system pulls it together into one information system — with no redundancies.
The cornerstone of our system is Terra Genesis' Genesis Enterprise Information Integrator (GENII), a Web-distributed, spatial-temporal, EII system designed to create a single view of disconnected information sources. Unlike a data warehouse or enterprise resource tool, data are not loaded into the software. Instead, the tool reaches out to existing data and molds to their structure and process. Once connected, the data and business process become a single read-write information enterprise. As such, the county keeps full control of the data and how it's structured and used.