The Water Corporation manages Western Australia’s water supply catchments, removes and treats wastewater, manages drainage networks and irrigation, and supplies drinking water to communities spread across 2.5 million sq/km (1.55 million sq/mi) of one of the driest countries on Earth. Owned by the Western Australian Government, the Water Corporation is one of Australia’s largest and most successful water service providers. The Water Corporation directly employs more than 3000 people, serves over two million Western Australians, and manages more than $13 billion in water supply, sewerage, and drainage infrastructure.
The Water Corporation (Water Corp) initially implemented their first Mobile Computing System (MCS1) for 520 field crews processing over 1200 plant maintenance orders per day that interfaced directly with SAP. The solution replaced a manual paper-based work management and field data capture process with a wireless electronic system of work allocation, dispatch, and data feedback for all crews in Water Corporation’s Customer Services Division.
A few years later, the Water Corporation faced several challenges with the current solution, including:
- Support for the solution had ceased
- Local support contract had also ended
- PDA devices capable of running older platform software were unobtainable
- Upgrades to both devices and the application had to be performed manually
After careful consideration of a number of options, the replacement of MCS1 with a new solution was identified as the preferred option. The decision was endorsed by senior managers and key stakeholders in the business. The outcome was Water Corp’s 2nd Generation Mobility Solution (MCS2), a Field Service and Employee Pay Claims solution.
The key objectives of the MCS2 project were to replace the existing Mobile Computing System (MCS1) and to establish a technical foundation for a Mobility Solution Platform for Water Corporation.
Solution key requirements
- Improved ease-of-use for end users was a key focus – this was paramount for user acceptance
- Mobile development platform to enable future mobile solutions
- Commercially available ‘off-the-shelf’ IT
- Robust infrastructure platform able to accommodate numerous device types (i.e., laptops, PDA, smartphones, etc)
- Platform able to accommodate multiple business user types, systems, and interfaces
- GPS asset feedback location capability
- Lite Spatial integration feedback
- Application changes, updates, and deployment to be centrally administered (wirelessly) and deployed over the air
- Configurable to accommodate current work processes, work instructions, and other documents
- Robust software with ability to assist remote users in real-time
- Ability to take, view, and attach photographs to work orders
- Like-for-like replacement of existing MCS1 functionality plus added enhancements
MCS2 now plays an integral role at the organization. The solution allows staff to perform their tasks out in the field in a much more efficient manner. Below are a number of enhancements delivered:
- Improved ease-of-use for end users
- Modern look and feel with large buttons for easy recognition and enabling field staff to use their fingers to operate rather than a stylus
- Improved stability and reliability of the end-to-end platform, including significantly improved administration and management capabilities
- Significant improvements to user support both locally and remotely
- Enhanced functionality:
- Document association with Work Orders (SWMS, JSA, WIs)
- Photograph capture
- GPS Integration – work/asset location and failure
- Delivery of a strategic mobile platform – multiple device support, multiple application, improved security and support
- Reporting, administration, extensibility and so on.
The underlying principles when defining the requirements was to provide a ‘like-for-like’ replacement of all the business functionality of the existing MCS1 application, incorporate a number of key functional enhancements and improve the overall flow and usability of the system. The existing MCS1 functionality in scope was:
- Manage crew membership
- Manage crew work orders
- Manage feedback
- Manage pay claims
- Work order creation
- Non-job time recording
The key functional and technical enhancements incorporated were:
- Improved use of the Lite Spatial tool to enable quicker, more accurate recording of asset feedback data
- Integration with GPS to enable users to locate assets more easily
- Ability to access generic and safe working instruction documents in the field from the mobile device
- Use of device cameras for the capture of photographs and association of these images with work orders or crews
- Leveraging the SkyMobile toolkit to enable simplification of the user interface, reducing the use of scrolling and provide more up to date information with less user wait time
- Improved ability to support and maintain the application with new generation tools and processes
There were a number of business benefits realised by the Water Corporation at the completion of the mobility phase of this project. Water Corp had a requirement for the solution to be deployed on a number of different device types including rugged devices, such as the Motorola MC75, smartphones, laptops, and desktop PCs. Sky’s flexible SAP mobility platform was able to deliver on this requirement as it can be deployed on virtually any device operating on any of the major platforms. The SkyMobile development platform also means that Water Corp now has the ability and in-house expertise to be able to further develop their own applications in the future.
The Sky solution also removed the issues associated with manual paper-based processes such as data entry and improved the timeliness and accuracy of information back to SAP. Employee buy-in was of the utmost importance in the rollout of the MCS2 project and with Water Corp covering such a large geographical area, it was important that all field crews in all regions were utilising the application to standardise business processes; something that was not as successful with MCS1 as each region had its own unique processes. And finally, scalability of the platform for future requirements meant that Water Corporation now has the ability to streamline many other business processes as they look to continue.
Change management was a major point of discussion from the projects inception. The Water Corporation sought to minimize employee resistance and gain their buy-in and support. Without this acceptance, it would have been extremely difficult to fully realise the potential gains inherent in this major change effort. Water Corporation was able to achieve this by involving staff from the business in workshops in the initial design phase. Working closely with Sky Technologies’ engineers and project managers, staff had input on everything from solution functionality to screen flows and the applications look and feel. This played a major role in facilitating uptake and ensured the project’s success by providing the end users with some ownership of the project.
This case study was prepared by Sky Technologies.