Modern technology companies like Figma, Dropbox, Asana, Slack, and Zoom, connect the world together in a single shared digital workspaces, so that work gets done more efficiently and collaboratively.
The cloud makes it simple and seamless to connect with other team members without the need to interact with them physically. The screen of whatever device we are currently uses, offers us access into the workspace of our colleagues.
This type of technology would be incredibly useful in the utility industry. This is because the utility industry is unique in that a manager has to manage thousands of assets across thousands of locations, with typically a dozen or less people, that are spread apart by miles geographically.
This is exactly why we say that it takes a village to manage underground buried utility infrastructure. There are many people involved in the day to day operations of a utility from Office and Administrative staff, field and maintenance crews, locators, infrastructure and engineering teams, IT teams, managers and supervisors, contractors and different vendors, as well as members of regulatory compliance bodies.
Traditional legacy software like GIS, GPS, EAMS, and CMMS, wasn't designed for different workers to communicate and collaborate across departments within a utility. Because they are typically owned and operated by different leaders and people with different concerns. Utility GIS is typically managed by IT. The things that they are concerned with are very different than an operator.
Who's primary concern would be to empower his or her team with the correct information so that they can find assets quicker, make better informed decisions, and to avoid costly mistakes like having one of their maintenance crews perform one too many or one too few valve turns on a critical shutoff valve in the distribution system in the event of a main break.
What if utilities were able to use functionality like the Shared Channels functionality of slack. A shared channel is where internal and external organizations can collaborate without leaving a workspace. Members across teams can communicate across departments, and even outside of their organizations with the proper people in a single centralized place.
An example situation might be a Preliminary Engineering Report or Asset Management Plan that a utility is collaboratively creating alongside a certified Civil Engineers. The engineering firm will sit down with knowledgable employees at the utility to have them fill in information related to size, material, age, remaining useful life, cost to replace, Preventative & reactive maintenance history and criticality of failure.
From that they will create a Business Risk Exposure score which will help them and the utility create a plan for what infrastructure needs to be replaced when, and in what order.
Collaborative Utility software will certainly be valuable because a Shared Workspace will allow the utility and engineers to work back and forth in real-time with one another to avoid going back and forth, while drawing information on a paper map.
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