By automating its collection of inspection data, Michigan cuts the cost of building roads and bridges.
Fieldmanager, a road construction management software suite developed and co-owned by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and Info Tech, a Gainesville, Fla., software company, eliminates a time-consuming and error-prone paper process for managing road construction projects. The improvement has helped MDOT triple its budget for construction projects while cutting its staff from 5,000 to 3,000 since FieldManager was launched in May 1999. An unusual financial partnership agreement gives Info Tech the right to sell the software but stipulates that licensing fees paid by other states are used to further develop FieldManager. The deal also grants Michigan's state and local transportation entities a perpetual license, mandates that MDOT approve any future software changes and pays MDOT royalties from sales to private users.
HEADQUARTERS: Lansing, Mich.
CORE BUSINESS: Construction.
BUSINESS UNIT: Construction and Technology Division.
FINANCIALS: $1.5 billion annual road and bridge construction budget.
THE WINNING SYSTEM
Cost: $5.1 million for development, two-thirds paid by MDOT and one-third by other customers and vendor Info Tech; $767,000 in annual maintenance costs.
Hardware: Intel servers; Intel-based Dell desktop systems running Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 or Windows 2000; Intel-based Dell notebook systems running Windows 95, Windows NT 4.0 or Windows 2000.
Software: Sybase SQL Anywhere database software; custom applications built using Sybase PowerBuilder; Info Tech GUI Object Model; Microsoft Developer Studio 97 software development tools.
Network: LANs with interoffice access via WAN, both running Novell Netware 4.2; dial-up access for field workers.
Michigan Department of Transportation CIO C. Douglass Couto uses a value methodology based on the Balanced Scorecard. Couto has adjusted this model to account for benefits that are hard to quantify financially but that are important to government agencies, such as reductions in clerical errors, an improved department image, legal compliance and better employee morale. "Some people have told me I can put a dollar value on everything, but I haven't found the model yet that does that," Couto says. The methodology helps Couto set priorities for his investments and ensures that high-value projects stay on track. "Once a project is approved, a project manager knows he's got management support and funding," he says.
Construction technician Bill Young remembers when he had to load his truck each day with paper forms before he drove around central Michigan inspecting road construction sites for the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT). He had so many boxes "there was no room to even move," recalls Young, sporting a plaid flannel shirt and the deep tan he's acquired working in the field for the past 12 years. Today, the only evidence of paperwork in his truck is a notebook computer mounted on the dash. "Now I'm like a one-man band," Young says. "It's just my laptop and me."
Young is one of hundreds of technicians and inspectors from 37 MDOT offices, 120 local transportation agencies and 71 private companies in Michigan using FieldManager, a suite of road construction management software developed and co-owned by MDOT and Info Tech, a Gainesville, Fla.-based software company. It's a groundbreaking system for a government agency and an industry that has changed little since 1909, when MDOT laid the first mile of concrete highway in the country.
Since the agency launched FieldManager in 1999, the system has enabled MDOT to eliminate a time-consuming, error-prone manual process for managing construction projects so that Michigan taxpayers get more, such as better roads and bridges, more quickly, for their money. FieldManager has also helped MDOT cope with an increase in its budget from $500 million to $1.5 billion a year since 1993, while cutting its staff from 5,000 to 3,000. An example of FieldManager's impact: The M-6, a new 20-mile "beltline" being constructed south of Grand Rapids, in western Michigan, will be completed three years early, in 2005.
"FieldManager is consistent with my goal of putting more of our state's transportation dollars into preserving our roads and less into administrative overhead," says MDOT Director Greg Rosine. Now others are following MDOT's lead. FieldManager has been licensed by seven states, two Indian tribes and 223 private companies. "I see MDOT as a leader within its industry," says Doug Barker, CIO and vice president of The Nature Conservancy and one of four judges who honoured MDOT with a 2002 Enterprise Value Award.
In the past, a field technician used to go to every work site with a printout of his required Inspector's Daily Report. He would fill it out by hand, tracking thousands of work items and materials for each project - everything from earth excavators to grout. At the end of the day he would hand the report in to the office. Assuming the handwriting was legible, the information on materials used, work completed and payments required would be copied and hand-tallied by as many as five people before the contractor got paid. MDOT needed an army of office workers to verify contractors' work, and inspectors often could handle only one project per season. Larger projects required as many as 20 inspectors onsite each day. Today, MDOT rarely sends more than one field technician to a site. He enters data into a laptop and uploads it to FieldManager, either from the road or back at the office. Office technicians use the information to automatically generate payment estimates. Meanwhile, inspectors and office workers can get up-to-date reports on their projects to settle contractor disputes, amend contracts, check the status of budgets and make other routine administrative queries.
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