Small-scale consolidation of existing hardware, software and processes can also reap significant rewards, as Ian Slesser, programme manager for a recently implemented asset management project at Lincolnshire County Council, can attest.
The council first hatched plans to consolidate its roads engineering asset management and maintenance management systems in 2008, and is now using a single piece of integrated software based on Pitney Bowes Business Insight Confirm asset maintenance and management application.
The move is expected to save the council at least £1m over the next 10 years, and probably much more due to the various associated reductions in headcount, travel and mobile costs.
LCC manages 9,000km of roads and more than 121,000 “assets” – anything from bridges to road signs and street lighting – yet prior to 2008 it was using up to 30 different pieces of software to store relevant information, spread across multiple physical servers.
“Lincolnshire is a big county in geographical terms and we have quite diverse teams for highway management, which were split into subject areas,” says Slesser.
“One of the challenges they faced was being able to co-ordinate their work and see the same data across the entire organisation, both from an operational and reporting perspective.”
The types of software in use by the teams varied enormously in complexity – everything from enterprise-level databases to Excel spreadsheets, as well as additional paper processes storing information about safety barriers and other assets.
All that data is now stored in an SQL database linked to Oracle spatial data which allows users to search for assets using a visual map-driven interface.
“We had tabular data legacy systems with no spatial content at all, so turning that into spatial data required using a variety of [migration] tools, including other Pitney Bowes products,” says Slesser.
The result of all that consolidation and migration work is a single pot of data that allows up to 400 council employees to access all the information they want. And rather than serve as a pure asset management system, the software is also being used to manage external contracts, integrating with partner maintenance systems access via Citrix, for example, and SAP CRM systems for customer service integration.
“As we went on, the initial remit expanded, and rather than purely an asset management system, it was integrated with external partner maintenance systems thatº are accessed via Citrix, and we also brought in SAP/CRM for customer service integration,” says Slesser.
LCC expects to achieve significant financial savings from getting rid of multiple Oracle databases and licensing costs, then reducing the number of servers to run them so there is less hardware as well.
“A million pounds is actually a very conservative estimate. The majority of that will come from IT savings, but there are also significant cuts to be made from a recently announced reduction in headcount across the organisation and from the mobile product as well,” says Slesser.
And whereas LCC staff used to spend up to an hour at a time travelling between council offices to pick up information about their next jobs, they now get the same information remotely using their mobile phones.
“Now they just go to the next job [which is] forwarded to their Windows Mobile devices. Tasks and faults reported to the customer service centre are routed straight to them so they can go directly from one site to another,” says Slesser.
“Mobile coverage is still a bit of a challenge – even though Lincolnshire is pretty flat, coverage is still not brilliant in some areas – but the mobile software works offline and staff can just move somewhere else when they need to get a connection.”