City West Water (CWW) is a Victorian Government owned utility providing water and sewerage services to residential and business customers in Melbourne’s central business district, inner suburbs and western suburbs.
It serves almost half a million properties and more than one million customers over an area of 700 square kilometres using 1.5 million assets – reservoirs, pipes, pumping stations, sewerage treatment plants, etc.
After a long running project to implement a works management system had failed to deliver a viable system the organisation was facing a tight deadline to come up with a working solution. It turned to Formbird to develop the system and was able to go from project inception to having a fully operational production system in just nine months.
“We had a long running project that had been ongoing for over three years, and there was impatience in the business to get thing done,” CWW CIO, Peter Hourihan, said
“We needed to deliver on the promise that we were going to replace the legacy system. We had scrutiny from the Government, scrutiny from the board and scrutiny from our executive.
“We started development with Formbird in December 2016 and we went live on 1 August 2017.”
The application developed with Formbird takes orders for scheduled, reactive or emergency maintenance that are input by CWW operations staff in its 24 x 7 operations control centre. The Formbird application then relays these work orders to ruggedised tablets used by field work crews, along with data from CWW’s geographic information system to identify the precise location of the asset.
The application then enables a work crew to input, via their tablet, details of the work they have undertaken: time spent, the asset they worked on, what they did and in what condition they left that asset. Pictures can be taken with the hand held device and be attached to the work order. The Formbird application then feeds this information into CWW’s asset register, held in its Oracle asset management system.
CWW started the development process by using a similar Formbird application then under development by another Victorian utility, Barwon Water.
“Barwon Water gave us a copy of their application, we evolved it and implemented it and gave it back to them so they could leapfrog development,” Hourihan said.
“It was a bit of a leap of faith because at that time the product did not really exist but there was enough there to convince me to take a chance.”
Once CWW had decided to go with the Formbird development platform, Hourihan said the Formbird company had provided two developers on-site for the duration of the development process.
“We had a long list of requirements that had been put together over the five years of the previous development project and we went through a fairly clinical prioritisation process to come up with what we regarded as a minimum viable product that would go live on day one.
“We took a semi agile approach to deliver core functionality as quickly as possible in the minimum number of phases.”
Hourihan said Formbird had proved to be an excellent prototyping tool. “If you are dong straightforward things you can transition into a production system very quickly. Creating input forms, modifying outputs and analytics is very fast.”
He said that, at no point had Formbird’s ability to implement desired functions been an issue.
“Formbird was never the barrier to getting things done. There was more debate about what functionality was required than there was about Formbird’s ability to deliver it.
“We rarely debated whether something was technically feasible. We often debated wether or not we should be doing anything at all.”
Where more traditional IT development work had been needed was in the Formbird application’s two major integrations: with CWW’s Oracle Asset Management system and its Open Spatial GIS system.
“The interface to Oracle was fairly straightforward,” Hourihan said. “We used TCS. They worked with Formbird to make that happen. There were over 20 integration points across the whole landscape.”
CWW’s works management application now has about 280 active users, 180 field staff and 100 users in offices across the business. Hourihan said introducing the new application had been straightforward.
“Users are always a bit cynical to start with, and ours had been given a lot of false promises. But once they saw the product, saw all the different user interfaces and started to understand the ease of navigation, the flexibility in terms of its look and feel and how easy it was to change, engagement was pretty straightforward.
“When it came to testing we got very large involvement from the business and when we went live we had to train upwards of 200 people and identify user champions. That proved to be pretty straightforward.
“Given that we went ‘big bang’ with its introduction and did not phase it in we had surprisingly few issues.”