The City of Austin Uses IBM Maximo Spatial Asset Management & GeoWorx Sync to Manage Aging and Growing Infrastructure

City of Austin, Texas

Recently named America’s fastest growing city by Forbes Magazine, with a 51% growth rate over the last decade, the City of Austin supports its nearly one million citizens with a myriad of services from Austin Water Utility (AWU), Austin Energy (AE), a storm water utility as well as Public Works Department (PWD), Austin Transportation Department (ATD) and Parks & Recreation Department (PARD). While Austin has a reputation for being a big city which retains a small town charm, its aging and strained infrastructure issues are definitely those of a big city.

Initially the City’s asset and work management capabilities were geared towards a small town, composed primarily of disparate Access databases, institutional knowledge and outdated maps to facilitate day to day operations. To modernize and move from a reactive to a proactive stance, a COTS asset management system, IBM Maximo, was implemented to replace the legacy databases, capture and share institutional knowledge and provide field access to the City’s mature geographic information system (GIS). The City’s goal was to minimize customization and achieve all desired functionality through the configuration of an off-the-shelf product and adjusting workflow processes. Additionally, a key requirement for this new system was spatial integration within the Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) to support the City’s distributed mobile workforce and provide field personnel with a modern spatially-enabled solution.

The Need

Re-evaluating a tightly coupled merged database model vs. a loosely coupled model where the Maximo and GIS databases remain independent while still providing full support of IBM Maximo Spatial.

The Solution

Implementation of GeoWorx Sync, taking advantage of a loosely coupled data synchronization approach. This allows the Maximo and GIS systems to operate independently using their own native data models while providing users full access to all of the GIS and Maximo data and functionality.

The Result

A less complex solution, offering considerable savings in terms of cost, effort, time & data access/integrity.

Initially… A Baseline Approach to IBM Maximo Spatial

In keeping with the City of Austin’s desire to implement a COTS solution and staying with a baseline product implementation approach, the City’s charter was to provision spatial capabilities and extend their baseline Maximo via IBM’s Maximo Spatial product. The City sought three types of key functionality:

  • Allow Maximo to utilize an Esri ArcGIS geodatabase for the provision of Maximo Assets, Locations, Service Addresses, Service Requests and Work Orders which correspond to features contained within an ArcGIS feature class or classes.
  • Provide an integrated map display within the Maximo web application to display Maximo assets spatially and provide an interface for user interaction using map tools for selection, query, digitization, etc.
  • Leverage existing GIS databases containing addressing information by exposing this information within Maximo as native service addresses and for geolocation capabilities within the map display.

Loosely Coupled Model with GeoWorx Sync

Using the “tightly coupled approach,” the asset and location datasets which are accessed by Maximo, Maximo Spatial, and ArcGIS are actually comprised of database views. These views join Maximo asset/location data with data from associated asset/location features in GIS based on a unique identifier. Maximo server architecture contains both a Maximo database and a GIS database and GIS data is created externally once and then maintained natively in Maximo thereafter. The key to integration of these two databases using Spatial is to expose the GIS feature classes as tabular views at the database level and then consuming these views within Maximo as native tables. When properly consumed, the table views can represent a collection of assets within Maximo or a list of valid addresses.

The tightly coupled approach reduces data redundancy because each data field resides either in Maximo or GIS, but not both.

However, maintenance and utilization of the cross-system views can quickly become complex and cumbersome on a number of fronts, especially as the number of features classes / asset classifications increases (taking as long as 8-10 hours to configure each class in Maximo), which is very common in the utility environment given the vast and diverse nature of the City’s physical infrastructure. Austin initially started with 10-15 feature classes. With the system now slated for deployment to numerous city departments, including Public Works, Fire, Police, EMS and Building Services, the number of feature classes is expected to rapidly increase, doubling over the next year.

How Quickly “Complexity Creep” Begins

As the City and its user community acquired more experience in the use of Maximo Spatial, and as the number of assets, locations, service address and feature classes grew (as they invariably do with explosive infrastructure growth and change that comes with a beyond thriving city like Austin), the tightly coupled, cross-system database view approach became difficult for the City to manage. After a significant period of system evaluation, the City determined that the loosely coupled data model, where Maximo and GIS data reside in their own respective databases, would result in decreased complexity and improved efficiency for managing asset / location data in GIS and Maximo.

Again keeping with the City of Austin’s desire to implement a baseline COTS solution and adjust work processes if necessary, the resourceful City team resorted to the use of “escalations” in order to push data from Maximo to GIS, as a method of synchronizing. Escalations were set to run every 10 minutes to detect data changes, which presented a significant negative impact on Maximo performance – highly noticeable by end users as well as system administrators.

The City’s team is committed to providing the best end-user experience, including the delivery and access to the Maximo screens/data based on the type or “classification” of the asset or location being viewed in Maximo. This not only streamlines the users’ work processes, saves time and labor costs, improves data quality, but also simplifies and shortens the training engagement required to successfully bring crews up to speed on vital tools required for their positions.

Using the tightly coupled approach, the City was unable to provide these classification-based views without significant re-configuration of the Maximo data display screens. This is because Maximo uses a separate Specifications table which contains data fields which are unique to each asset classification. The cross-system database views do not allow the GIS to see data in the Maximo Specification tables, which means that Maximo Specifications cannot be leveraged to their full extent. Specifications are the native Maximo methodology used to show different data to users based on the Asset/Location Classification. Without specifications available, the City was forced to use Conditional User Interfaces (UI) to deliver this key functionality…managing more than 20 different Conditional UI configurations relating to more than 20 different feature classes!

Austin’s methodology for editing complex geospatial features is also better aligned with the loosely coupled / synchronization approach. Austin relies on ArcGIS Desktop and specialized editing tools to maintain their data. To fully leverage these editing tools, the City decided that it was best to manage GIS data using the native ArcGIS data model without the added complexity of tightly coupled GIS/Maximo data models.

Maximo Service Address Functionality
Like many industry-leading municipalities, the City of Austin manages address data in their GIS system (over 400,000 addresses) and understands the value of Maximo Spatial’s Service Address functionality. However, it has been very difficult to push address data from GIS to Maximo Services Addresses. Address data must be manually (redundantly) entered using the Maximo front-end, or by using a custom object structure in combination with the Maximo Integration Framework. As a result, Service Address data in Maximo was not always up-to-date or in sync with the GIS address data. Via Service Address synchronization under a loosely coupled approach, the process is extremely easy, automated, and insures data is in sync between Maximo and GIS.

Reconsidering a Data Synchronization Approach
Given the decreased performance of Maximo due to escalations, the increased complexity that comes with administration of numerous Conditional UIs, and the difficulty in editing complex geospatial features and fully leveraging the Service Address functionality within Maximo Spatial, the City’s team ultimately regrouped to evaluate the benefits of implementing a loosely coupled/synchronization model. As within Austin’s COTS policy, the City immediately sought a supported product rather than performing complex software customizations or building a software solution in-house. After a thorough evaluation process, GeoWorx Sync, from Geonexus, was identified as a perfect fit and was implemented in 2013.

GeoWorx Sync: Delivering Benefits Tenfold
In a very short time, the City of Austin has realized a number of tangible benefits
moving to a synchronized model via the GeoWorx Sync tool including:

  • Discontinued use of escalations related to synchronization, greatly improving Maximo application performance
  • Discontinued use of ALL Conditional UI’s, decreasing the complexity for the system administrator and delivering the appropriate data views to the functional end user
  • Discontinued configuration and use of the Maximo Cron Task, also decreasing the complexity for the system administrator
  • Utilization of Maximo classifications and specifications as they were intended, to present classification-specific data to users
  • Ease of use adding more feature classes as new City departments are brought online
  • Leveraging full use of GIS/Maximo Service Address functionality

Using GeoWorx Sync and keeping their GIS and Maximo databases separate has also allowed Austin to upgrade their GIS editing environment to the latest version of ArcGIS while keeping their Maximo ArcGIS GeoDatabase and ArcGIS Server instances in the version required for Maximo Spatial.

Finally, the City is also looking to deploy Maximo Mobile, which relies heavily on classification and specifications to organize and display Maximo data. Under the tightly integrated approach, specifications are not used, therefore making managing Maximo Mobile much more tedious.

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