Geographic information system (GIS) mapping software has grown from workgroup and departmental deployment to pervasive, organization-wide technology for analysis and decision making. This evolutionary process will only continue to grow and be accelerated by modern GIS web development framework such as Esri ArcGIS Server. Local governments have traditionally used GIS to produce and analyze maps, but now with the increase in GIS knowledge and skills, this important technology investment is being applied to managing public assets. GIS is the perfect platform for local governments to design and create an integrated GIS-centric public asset management system using spatial relationships as a way to manage, coordinate, and analyze all public assets and work activities.
Defining Asset Management
Asset management is a broad term covering systems for monitoring and maintaining the value of assets. In the financial market sector, the term is often used as a shortened version for financial asset management which applies to the management of securities. To accountants, fixed assets are items which can be valued (capitalized and depreciated) and posted to a ledger. For local government, asset management specifically applies to managing tangible assets, like computers, water and wastewater systems, streets and sidewalks, trees and parks, electric power systems, buildings, and treatment plants.
Jurisdictions use asset management to maximize the value of their infrastructure assets by using life cycle costs to improve performance and extend asset life. Infrastructure asset management improves financial decision making when taking into consideration all of the interdependencies of the tangible assets.
In addition to managing infrastructure assets, local governments provide services in conjunction with properties and businesses. Planning and enforcement responsibilities within their jurisdiction include permits, licenses, planning and engineering activities, and code enforcement cases. These land-based, location-specific activities have been very difficult to manage and coordinate with other business processes. Because they have a specific location, cost, and life cycle, they essentially act as assets to the organization. Combining infrastructure asset management with land-focused asset management enables an organization to establish an enterprise asset management (EAM) model.
An asset management plan begins by setting asset management goals and assessing what is needed to accomplish them. For example, a goal may be to ensure water mains serving critical facilities, such as hospitals, do not fail, so a condition assessment of the water mains serving each hospital could be performed. The assessment may lead to a decision to schedule regular inspections of these water mains. This cyclical condition monitoring drives rehabilitation or replacement decisions, and may even justify designing and building redundant water mains to serve the hospitals. GIS is the perfect platform from which to design and create this type of integrated asset management system, taking full advantage of the spatial structure as a way to manage and analyze linkages between all local government public assets and associated work activities.
The GIS-Centric Approach to Asset Management
One of the first tasks for any asset management undertaking is an inventory of existing assets and the creation of an asset registry. Esri’s ArcGIS provides a location-aware open-data structure, common framework, and data management tools, making it ideal for designing and creating asset management solutions that rely on the geodatabase as the asset registry. The GIS-centric approach leverages the investment in Esri’s GIS and designates the ArcGIS geodatabase as the asset registry and repository, providing a common framework for many disparate systems that are useful in overall asset management planning and policy making.
GIS-Centric Software Solutions
Core to any asset management plan is managing and tracking historical, scheduled, and reactive work activities. Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) software provides these tools but has grown beyond tracking and managing work activities to include inspection and monitoring tools for condition assessment, thereby becoming an asset management solution. However, not all asset management needs are provided by one software system. Because of the common framework and the openness of the geodatabase as the asset registry, many software solutions are available to support an asset management program. Consider the water main example above. A comprehensive asset management plan can benefit by incorporating other GIS-centric software systems such as water modeling, field inspection, automatic vehicle location (AVL), underground utility location software, and asset life cycle management and budgeting software. It is critical these additional software solutions work in conjunction with the CMMS.
Developing a GIS-Centric Public Asset Management System
GIS-centric public asset management is a system design approach for managing public assets that leverages the investment local governments continue to make in GIS and provides a common framework for sharing useful data from disparate systems. Permits, licenses, code enforcement, land-use development and planning, and other land-focused work activities occupy location just as in-the-ground or above-ground tangible assets do. All these public assets are interconnected and share proximity. As yet, there is not a widely accepted term to encompass this subset of land-focused asset management, even though these public assets affect other tangible assets and work activities and are critically important sources of revenue and points of citizen interaction.
Infrastructure asset management and land-focused asset management are frequently interdependent rather than separate activities. For example, a proposed new subdivision may affect water pressure requiring a water system upgrade. A proposed restaurant may affect the wastewater system requiring additional monitoring and maintenance activities. A code enforcement violation may be resolved by generating a maintenance work order with a chargeback to the violator. A road cut and excavation may require securing a special permit. A permit may lead to the scheduling of an inspection. Requests for service from the public may spawn all of the above. Even planting a tree may require a special permit.
Technology that enables citizen-sourced information gathering (or crowdsourcing) is also changing how governments collect and manage spatial data to improve customer service interactions. The challenge facing local government is the boundaries between infrastructure and land-focused asset management are converging. GIS capabilities that analyze spatial relationships among public assets provide important insights for overall prioritization of monitoring, maintenance, and decision making for both infrastructure and land-focused assets.
CMMS asset management solutions are an important part of an overall EAM program but focused on physical assets. Local governments have important land-focused assets that occupy location just like physical assets (such as permits, licenses, and code enforcement). These assets represent much of the revenue that funds an organization. A truly EAM program for local government will make plans to apply asset management approaches to land-focused assets as well as infrastructure assets.
Local governments allocate considerable resources toward developing and maintaining the GIS database as the authoritative dataset. The success and growth of GIS tends to lead an organization towards a desire to leverage the GIS for more than producing maps or performing analysis. GIS locationaware data structures and development environment provides a common framework from which to design and create asset management solutions.
The convergence between infrastructure asset management and landfocused asset management is leading local governments to seek for solutions to accomplish all their public asset management plans and goals. They recognize GIS reveals many details about the asset, nearby similar assets, and disparate assets, affecting short-term and long-term monitoring and management plans, and hence decision making. A modern GIS web development framework, such as Esri’s ArcGIS Server, is the perfect platform from which to design and create integrated GIS-centric public asset management systems for both infrastructure and land-focused assets, and as a common framework to incorporate other applications to meet the organization’s GIS-centric public asset management program.