Underground Networking: The Harmony between Data Confidence and Trusted Relationships

May 10, 2019

Imagine that you are in a community with a serious lack of confidence in your underground utility network data. There are numerous instances of pipe lines being located up to 20 feet off, manholes located on top of buildings, outdated utility features, and improvement projects that are not represented in the data. Furthermore, it has been years since the last reproduction of the paper utility mapbooks that are vital for Public Works and field crews to perform their jobs.  

The Village of Buffalo Grove had been living this story for several years, and in 2018 they decided enough was enough! The paper mapbook that Public Works staff utilize daily while conducting various maintenance efforts had traditionally contained misrepresented utility information, which also impacted the use of their asset management system, called Cartegraph. Not having quality resources can lead to added time in daily workflows, cause distrust in the information, and introduce higher risks for incidents in the field. This story is about how a partnership between MGP and communities in the GIS Consortium can lead to improving the data quality and creating trusted working relationships within the organization.  

Caitlin Pennington and Grant Dixon rotated into Buffalo Grove in the s of 2018, and the project of improving the sanitary sewer system paper mapbook was identified as an immediate, high priority task for them to accomplish. At first, Caitlin and Grant spent a considerable amount of time making sure that the data was up-to-date and properly located by continuously communicating with Engineering, who would provide page-by-page mark ups. The next step was reestablishing the aesthetics of the paper mapbooks so that all of the pertinent data needed by the Village would be clear and accessible on the maps. By constantly communicating and working diligently, Caitlin and Grant have been able to transform their relationships with the Village of Buffalo Grove to be congenial as well as trusted. The success has brought confidence about the data, improvement to the workflow, and has highlighted the importance of data quality to the entire organization. The next step for the Village of Buffalo Grove is to complete the mapbook for storm sewer, which began in even worse shape than the sanitary sewer data. 

Newly established relationships coupled with an environment of poor data quality can be difficult to turn around. Successful project completion and agreement on system-wide processes are some of the tools that can be used to mend that distrust. In this story, the greatest need was improved data quality with regards to the underground network of utilities. Through personable consultingan above and beyond work ethic, and savvy decisionmaking, Caitlin and Grant have successfully collaborated with Engineering and Public Works at the Village of Buffalo Grove to remake their mapbooks for the sanitary sewer system, all in less than a year! The problem set before Caitlin, Grant, and the Village of Buffalo Grove is certainly not unheard of across many communities. Understanding the gaps in data, devising a plan, and striving towards that goal can have an immense impact on an organization. Whether it is a short-term or long-term goal, MGP is here to leverage shared services and partner with your community. Building strong relationships and identifying areas of concern in your organization allows us to innovate and achieve success together. 

Author: David Kofron, GIS Analyst