Computer systems have brought obvious benefits to companies around the world, nowhere more than in water, wastewater, and river management authorities. GIS has revolutionised the way all utilities address their mapping requirements. Companies are using network and river modelling for both strategic and capital planning, and increasingly to address operational issues. The concept of the integrated asset information system is gaining ground, using the strengths of IT applications to undertake the complex task of maintaining a full, accurate and up-to-date inventory and description of all infrastructure assets. A typical engineering department in a water utility will also use a number of other systems, both purchased and developed in-house.
Yet we are still far away from having a single IT system that addresses all water management needs. Instead, integration of specialist systems is the key, and that continues to prove a major challenge. Careful procurement can address and mitigate problems of systems integration, but only to the extent that the applications themselves allow. The compromise that is often required is to select the software that is second best in core functionality in order to achieve an acceptable level of improve compatibility.
All software companies have to take a view on the best way to approach compatibility of their own systems and the environment in which they will be used. The approach by some vendors of modelling and asset management systems is to select a specific third party GIS or mapping technology and build their system within that product. This approach gives the vendor easy access to map management features.
However, the downside is that the user can find that the performance of the modelling or asset management system is severely compromised. GIS is excellent at meeting the mapping requirements of water authorities, but is not the ideal vehicle for hydraulic modelling or asset data management.
So Wallingford Software takes a different approach. InfoWorks and InfoNet interface closely with all the leading GIS products, while maintaining a level of independence from them. In developing its own technology Wallingford Software is better able to optimise the performance and usability of its products than would be possible by depending on third party technology. This also gives the user the ideal environment for maximising the functionality of their modelling and asset information systems, while offering the choice of the GIS/Mapping product that best suits their organisation. The same approach is taken to database management systems – both InfoWorks and InfoNet interface to the leading RDBMSs. InfoWorks and InfoNet of course incorporate all the GIS functionality that will be familiar to all GIS users.
The result of this approach is that it gives the users the maximum flexibility to select, for each of their corporate systems, the product that best meets the needs for the whole organisation, rather than being forced to select a product through the restrictions of the other pieces of the software systems jigsaw.