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ArcGIS Utility Network Pays Off your Technical Debt – Part 2

Posted to Esri in the Digital Utility Group
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Bill Meehan's picture
Director, Utility Solutions Esri

William (Bill) Meehan is the Director of Utility Solutions for Esri. He is responsible for business development and marketing Esri’s geospatial technology to global electric and gas utilities.A...

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  • Aug 24, 2020
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Pay now or pay later. Paying now is changing the process – breaking old habits. It’s hard. It’s work. It may even require investment. Paying later means feeding the meter of waste. Wasted time, money, safety and even customer care. In my part 1 post, I discuss the meaning of technical debt as coined by the father of the Wiki, Ward Cunningham. While the term refers to software development, I extended it to include work inefficiencies.

How about this for technical debt – data latency? Kind of like, what goes on in the field, stays in the field. At least for a while. A field change could be replacing a switch with a new one. Or it could be building a whole addition to the network. The time it takes to get the information into the corporate GIS is data latency. If it takes seconds or even minutes that is low technical debt. If it takes days, weeks or months it is like paying the minimum payment on your credit cards.

Energy Acuity asked in a recent survey of utilities, “After the completion of construction/maintenance, how long does it usually take before your GIS data reflects the new construction/maintenance information?” 25% reported their update process exceeds 30 days. Nearly 10% of very large utility respondents reported their data latency exceeded 90 days.

The longer the data latency, the greater the technical debt.

What’s going on? It’s about clinging to old processes and technology. Engineering designs are created in the office on paper or in CAD or in something else. Sometimes in the GIS. Like in the old days, the designers make field construction sketches. Often on paper. They re-enter design data into the work management system for scheduling and ordering materials. Finally, the designers package up all the materials into big manila folders and send them to the field.

Too often, the field workers don’t quite build what the designers specified. So, they markup the design sketches and documents in red showing the deviations from the design. This set of marked up documents are called as-builts. The field workers send them back to the GIS technicians. The techs then update the GIS. From the moment the field workers put equipment into service, data latency is the time to:

  • Create the as-builts
  • Mail the design package to the GIS group
  • Sit in the pile of other documents
  • Update the GIS

If the designers created the sketch outside of GIS, then the GIS technicians must redraw the original design into the GIS from scratch. That just extends the process and adds to the technical debt.

The utility network and how it unlocks the capability of the ArcGIS platform eliminates the need for all these steps. Learn more about how the utility network and ArcGIS enhances the design and engineering process here.

How? The utility network is built on web services. That means that what happens in the design office is immediately available on any device. No need for big, thick, work order folders. Integration with work management systems is automatic. As-built changes are immediately available to GIS technicians or made directly from the field into the GIS. I know, I know, this might be risky. Even if the GIS technicians provide a measure of quality control, the time is still a fraction of the old process.

Out of date GIS data begets inaccurate designs which begets more as-builts. The utility network also has built-in design rules which prevent errors. This leads to cleaner designs and few as-built changes.

Think of the pile of as-built folders as the interest payments on the technical debt of an inefficient and error-prone process.

Enhancing safety is probably the most important reason to shrink data latency. People make mistakes when the information they think is correct is not,

Data latency creates technical debt. The technical interest payments include the wasted labor hours, time it takes to complete work and the possibility of operating errors and accidents. As utilities move toward a self-healing grid, they will need the network information to be up to data immediately - not 10 to 30 to 90 days out of date.

Esri’s utility network provides the means to pay off that technical debt of data latency. And avoid all those unnecessary technical interest payments. Pay now, not later.

For more information please download our free e-book. 

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