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Winter 2002/2003
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The Business of Government--The GIS/ERP Solution

The City of Richmond, California, Implements Enterprise Framework

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Using ArcIMS, the city developed a number of online GIS/ERP applications that today are used internally within the city via its Intranet and, in the near future, may lead to external Internet applications used by the public.

It's not enough for government to work better. Government must work leaner, smarter, faster--like a Business.

The new millennium has brought about striking changes to the City of Richmond, California, and the surrounding area economy. What was once primarily a manufacturing economy is transitioning to high tech and retail Businesses. With 100,000 residents, 1,200 employees, and a shifting economic landscape, Richmond government officials wanted to improve how it served citizens and Businesses with a profound, new solution for managing information.

The city decided to implement a full-scale, enterprise resource planning (ERP) system that promised radical changes in tools and Business processes. This new approach adhered to advanced technology and new methodologies for carrying out tasks. As part of the overall system, GIS is used as the hub for a wealth of spatial data sets and as a map interface to statistical and tabular data.

City Finance, Community Development, and Public Works were the core city departments targeted for the implementation with other city departments having access to the system. After a rigorous 18-month evaluation and benchmark process, Richmond selected SAP (Walldorf, Germany) as its ERP provider. As part of the overall implementation, Esri was selected as the GIS provider.

After a year-long implementation, the city quickly got started with its applications. Ariston Consulting & Technologies (San Diego, California) and Solbourne (Boulder, Colorado) provided implementation services beginning in April 2000. Applications include SAP ERP Financial, Human Resources, Payroll, and Plant Maintenance (Public Works Work Orders). For GIS, MapObjects was used to develop customized applications with GIS functionality embedded, ArcGIS was used for the enterprise GIS environment, and ArcIMS was used for the Web-based GIS.

"With the integration of ERP and GIS, the city of Richmond has been able to perform improved analysis associated to revenue items such as levies and taxes based on parameters previously unavailable to the city, e.g., land area by land use and zoning." says Anna Vega, assistant city manager.

"I like the challenges and opportunities for Richmond to better serve citizens and to work more efficiently," says Dai Ly, GIS manager, City of Richmond, who is the lead manager of the ERP and GIS implementation. "SAP gives us a method to automate, integrate, and streamline work flows. With computer mapping and geoprocessing, we have a better way to organize and use information in a geographic context. We've made the first step in what promises to be an enterprise GIS environment integrated with SAP ERP."

ERP Provides Digital Infrastructure; GIS Provides Spatial Data Hub

The city uses a scalable ERP digital infrastructure to fulfill its various needs: from planning future growth to providing tax and other information to Businesses looking to move into the area to better serve citizens with specific information requests. The enterprisewide solution integrates with GIS to automate spatial information management, providing a desktop method for viewing digital maps and related information.

"GIS and ERP have simplified the managing of new programs by allowing our staff to see assets spatially for documentation and control while at the same time managing their financial and maintenance components in SAP," says Vega.

Previously, the city had no GIS environment and requesting spatial data could be a cumbersome task. The maps were paper and static, so the most up-to-date information was not always included in the map. In addition, related tabular information was stored separately in both digital and paper formats.

"From economic planning to zoning, law enforcement, and property assessment, there is a wealth of applications where maps provide value to decision making," says Ly. "Creating a spatial database and opening up access to that data are where the city is heading. The first step was developing an integrated ERP/GIS application for spatial query and visualization."

The Use of GIS

Project Locator screen shot, click to see enlargementOne of the major benefits of the system is that real-time information, including spatial data sets, is now easily accessible to more departments than at any previous time. All map data is tied to all the SAP ERP applications.

The GIS system supports spatial map data for police and fire functions, including data related to crime patterns, crime mitigation, emergency response resources, and emergency response planning. GIS is also used in street, electrical, and wastewater systems using geography with geography as an integrated data point.

Citizens can go online (www.ci.richmond.ca.us) to report city infrastructure needs such as a downed streetlight or locations of damaged street infrastructure. Using GIS, government officials can quickly locate the area targeted for improvement and can easily generate a work order. The work order generation is fully automated.

"GIS and ERP have provided the city with an intuitive means for its customers, that is, citizens, employees, and Businesses, to both access information and to communicate with the city," says Vega. "The utilization of the Internet and other applications provides a common platform for sharing information among the various regional agencies."

Along with reporting areas for city improvements, citizens can also access land data coordinated with SAP ERP to request permits and licenses for construction, zoning, and other application areas.

Attracting new Business to the area is made easier. An abundance of tax, zoning, permit, and property assessment data is made open and accessible. Businesses looking to assess possible relocation sites in the Richmond area can get all their information easily. Through better support of economic development programs, such as managing inventories of available sites and buildings suited for industrial and commercial development, the city strengthens its service to Businesses. In the future, the city hopes to provide mapping of characteristics of the community and labor force.

Some Specifics

Using ArcIMS, the city developed a number of online GIS/ERP applications that today are used internally within the city via its Intranet. The Intranet Web application My Work Place allows users to see data related to a particular work request. Users simply log in to see all work and status information at their desktop or on their handheld field device. The Business License application allows internal users to go online and access zoning, permit, and property assessment data to seek new opportunities and apply for permits. The Capital Improvement Projects application allows data viewing capabilities for such capital improvement projects as street construction; users can view digital maps of projects and their locations as well as scheduling, budget, and other related information.

Visualize Work Manager, a customized application developed using MapObjects, provides users within the Richmond government viewing and querying capabilities for a wealth of GIS/ERP data managed in various government departments. Whether it's zoning, law enforcement, water/wastewater, or other departments, users across the enterprise can access spatial data as part of their ERP system. For instance, users can open their ERP system, access the Visualize Work Manager application, and then access special map data for engineering and planning functions, including data related to emergency response resources, and emergency response planning. The application is also used in street, electrical, and wastewater departments using geography as an integrated data point for a host of work and data management. Richmond employees can quickly locate the area targeted for improvement and can easily generate a work order.

Visualize Data Manager, an ArcGIS application, is used for data creation and maintenance. Public Works Department engineers and office administrators use the application to update approximately a dozen data layers such as street, parcel, traffic light, streetlight, and other data; part of the data maintenance also involves maintaining the object relationships between the spatial data in ArcGIS and the tabular data in SAP ERP.

The city has also used ArcPad software for field GIS data collection. Indeed, one of its most unique and groundbreaking ArcPad applications involved public volunteers working diligently with government employees to collect information on properties in several neighborhoods targeted for reforms.

The near future may lead to additional external Internet applications used by the public.

For more information contact Dai Ly, City of Richmond (tel.: 510-621-1297, e-mail: Dai_Ly@ci.richmond.ca.us).

See sidebar, "How Esri Technology Interfaces With SAP's ERP Software."

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