Now more than ever, data plays a role in every sector of asset-intensive companies, from ground-level maintenance operations through to critical business decisions. As Utilities companies strive to digitally transform the way their businesses operate, combining the power of GIS to manage spatial location and associated descriptive attributes with the capabilities of EAM systems to handle asset condition and maintenance work is critical for any asset-intensive organization.
As the age-old adage goes, the first step is often the hardest. This is no different when planning your GIS/EAM integration. From custom integrations and options offered from EAM systems to productized, off-the-shelf solutions, getting started can feel overwhelming. With over a decade of experience in enterprise integrations, we thought it would be helpful to discuss the top 5 factors to consider when planning your integration.
Once you have decided that a GIS/EAM integration is the right step for your organization, it is time to define the fundamentals. This step involves asking a lot of questions. First things first, you need to understand what GIS and EAM systems your organization utilizes and how they are architected. For example:
1. Is there a unique key that identifies assets across the GIS and EAM systems?
2. What is the system of record, or system of engagement?
3. How are hierarchies architected in each system?
4. How are assets classified between systems?
5. Which system owns asset attribution?
The last part of defining the fundamentals is establishing what your organization hopes to achieve by integrating, and how. First, decide which teams will own the integration project, and how they will work together. Then, set your sights on integration goals. Do you want your ground-level maintenance crews using the EAM to be able to communicate in real-time with office staff updating the GIS? Do you want transparent, accurate data to make buying decisions? Or, do you want to free-up IT resources to work on employee tickets rather than spending time fixing bugs in your systems? Defining these goals and use-cases now will streamline the integration process later.
Once you’ve defined the fundamentals and established what you hope to achieve by integrating your GIS and EAM systems, it is time to choose a method of integration. Two main options exist in the market: custom built integrations or off-the-shelf, plug-and-play solutions.
With custom built integrations, organizations typically hire or utilize in-house developers and IT resources to write custom code connecting EAM and GIS systems. This process requires extensive resources and can take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years depending on the complexity of the use-cases and data.
With no coding required, off-the-shelf software typically takes days to weeks to set-up and implement. Productized solutions also allow for knowledgeable users, with little to no development or IT experience, to speed up time to value by configuring and implementing the integration in a way that makes sense to them.
After deciding whether to buy or build, companies should consider how to implement efficiently. With an out-of-box solution like Geonexus, implementation starts in weeks, and is all about configuring the integration to your needs. With a clean-cut user interface, IT staff to product managers to business leads can configure with the knowledge that the integration is being validated along the way.
Without a user interface, as is the case with custom built integrations, you will need a resource who understands the custom code and is able to do backend code adjustments for any configuration changes you want made. A few questions you should ask yourself when considering the importance of a user interface for your integration are: How often will business needs change, requiring updates to the configuration? How important is feedback and validation during testing?
It’s all about transparency. If you can’t see what changes are happening or make updates to how changes are made, will you feel comfortable with the integrity of your data?
It isn’t enough that the two systems are talking to each other—they need to talk to you as well. Reporting is critical to any integration process. It allows you to visualize the health of the integration. Simply put, it lets you see if the integration is doing what it is supposed to be doing. This transparency leads to trust, and when you trust your integration, you trust the resulting data in both your GIS and EAM systems. When there is faith in the integrity of your data, critical business decisions can be made with confidence.
Watch out for integration options that offer a “black box” approach where edits and updates happen behind closed doors and offer no clarity on the integration process. Look for a solution that can detect change every time it is synchronized, and reports data inconsistencies between GIS and EAM, such as orphan and duplicate records, data discrepancies, and synchronization failures due to application logic violation. The reporting should be automatically generated by the integration solution, and be able to communicate to users to take action.
It is never too early to consider your enterprise roadmap, and how your integration plays into it. Just like your organization and workflows, GIS and EAM systems are not static—system providers frequently update and roll-out new, exciting features. Custom-built integrations are notorious for leaving organizations “version locked,” forcing them to stay on older versions of both systems so as to not break the existing integration between the two. Productized solutions, on the other hand, keep up with GIS and EAM updates, allowing you to upgrade your systems when you want without breaking the integration.
Maintenance and support are crucial to getting the most out of your integration. With custom-built integrations, companies typically need extensive resources to maintain the integration. This can create a burden on already over-worked IT staff and cause delays in handling other organizational issues. Plus, when the team-members who developed the custom integration move on from the organization, it may prove disastrous for updating and maintaining the integration.
With a productized solution, like the Geonexus Integration Platform, implementation specialists and support personnel are on call to help maintain the integrity of the integration and help users with any set-up or support issues. This relieves the burden from the organization’s IT staff and ensures there is no possibility of IP loss down the line.
Keeping these 5 factors in mind when deciding how to integrate your GIS and EAM systems will ensure better business decisions. The Geonexus Integration Platform’s off-the-shelf, plug-and-play solution has been helping asset-intensive organizations integrate enterprise systems across the globe for over a decade. Have more questions about integrating between GIS and your organization’s systems? We’re happy to help. Contact us online or send us an email.