As AM/FM/GIS platforms have matured into their “next generation”, it is now much easier to
create a working prototype AM/FM/GIS system and realize significant benefits in just a few
months. Nothing generates more ideas and eventual corporate buy-in than real, working,
demonstrable applications. This presentation will describe the process of identi~ing, defining,
and developing fast return applications of an AM/FM/GIS system. A few case studies within the
electric, gas, and telecommunications industries will be discussed.
Essential to building a top notch AM/FM system is obtaining sufilcient tiding as early as
possible. In this age of competition, justifying large expenditures strictly on the basis of cost
benefit analyses, which are often very drawn out, is becoming increasingly more difficult. Cost
benefit analyses are not inexpensive. In the end, what you windup with is lots of paper, nice
slide show presentations, but very little benefit to actually demonstrate. As AM/FM/GIS
platforms have matured into a “next generation”, it has become increasingly easier to utilize
limited “investigation” budgets to actually create a working prototype AM/FM system that can
realize a significant return on investment in just a few months.
Where Should I Start?
Where one starts is to a large degree dependent upon where the main user sponsors reside in the
organization. On the one hand, efforts to build comprehensive, integrated GIS, driven mainly by
the information technology group, often fail. On the other hand, when individual user
departments have moved toward automation on their own, the goals have usually been too
narrow and the tools too specialized to allow for future integration and efficiency.
It is by now obvious that the more integrated and automated the technology processes within an
organization are, the more efficient, cost effective, and competitive the organization can be.
Visionaries among us realized this quickly and in many cases were given the opportunity to
embark on this venture. Unfortunately, the venture was premature. The tools were too primitive
and the organizations unready to meet the challenges. One thing that we learn very quickly in
large organizations is that it is very difficult to get everyone to agree on things. In the past, it
was necessary to bring several departments together and perform a long, detailed analysis before
attempting to develop any software. Struggles over symbology, dictionary definitions, and
departmental roles in the GIS would often paralyze the development, and result in splintering.
86.~ilecomprehensive approaches have ftiledor haveusually noteven beenseriously attempted
(smart), theneed fortechology wittinthe userdeptiments hasintensified. Thetendency has
been toward most of these departments spawning their own CADljob design systems, map
production systems, home grown analysis programs, and entirely independent outage
management systems (reality). This has resulted in increased automation for the individual
departments, but has not introduced any real organizational efficiencies. Redundant database
maintenance activities continue to persist, just as they always have.
The lesson here is that in order to achieve true success in automation, the drive toward GIS in the
company needs to come more from the users of the system - not the information technology
group, and not even the mapping department, but the engineering planners, designers, and
operations personnel. Without one of these departments driving the process, it will be prone to
failure. Fundamental to the early success of a GIS project is how responsive it is to its initial
charter. There is no point in trying to build an all encompassing system if the needs of the
primary users are not met. Likewise, when building a GIS from the ground up, the overall vision
for the organization should not be neglected.
Just do Ittm
From this point forward, I will proceed on the basic assumption that GIS technology is a
keystone for the organization. Most organizations do not have the time nor the money to spend
these days to try to justi~ it to the masses. Instead of spending the limited time and budget
available on an enormous and politically risky effort to justi~ large expenditures, it is better
instead to take advantage of the opportunity to prove something first. Limited cost-benefit
analyses are useful, but for the same costs, a working system can be developed and implemented
using the newer technology available today.
Here are the basic steps to building a usefid, working prototype in a short time:
Step 1. Briefly Identify Users and Applications and Pick One to Start
Step 2. Gather Basic Requirements
Step 3. Data Model with Awareness
Step 4. Prototyping: Designing on the Fly
Step 5. Implement the Imperfect Solution
Step 6. Take the Show on the Road
Briefly Identifi Users and Atmlications and Pick One to Start
It is not worth spending too much time and money identifying/justi@ing applications to the
organization. The general “big ticket” application areas of GIS are well known: planning, design,
and distribution automation. The primary applications within these main groups are network
analysis, job design and estimation, work management, outage analysis and dispatch, and
business geographic analysis.
Notice that automated mapping was not listed. Mapping and database maintenance, however, is
still a good entree application and therefore a good candidate for prototyping. The requirements
fortheoverdl system, however, should not bedriven offtieneeds of mapping. Instead, the
mapping function should be redefined as the corporate GIS database maintenance function.