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Michael Williamson

Michael Williamson

Senior Strategic Solutions Consultant for Public Works at Docufree | CIP & CDIA+ Certified

Digital Public Works Records Builds Compliance, Access and Efficiency

Public Works Departments face a myriad of operational challenges. Projects can be both foreseeable (e.g. scheduled maintenance) and unpredictable (e.g. emergency repairs and replacements), making planning that much more difficult. Public Works Departments are also under constant pressure to deliver projects better, faster and cheaper which is forcing staff to look for smarter ways of operating. Access to accurate information, plans and drawings is critical to ensuring projects are started and completed in the most efficient and timely manner.


Municipalities’ acceptance and use of technology often lags behind the business world. Many Public Works Departments store thousands of paper documents for varying amounts of time (which is process to manage in and of itself) with a significant percentage of documents required to be kept indefinitely. Typical document types included large-format building and highway plans, sepia photos and prints, as well as blueprints both rolled and flat, so the digitization of those paper files often seems rather daunting. However, with the right  records-management technology provider, large-scale digitization projects such as these can be performed seamlessly—with very little involvement from Public Works staff.


Digitizing Records Addresses Many Public Works’ Challenges

Compliance is always an important issue for Public Works Departments. Managing the status of gas lines (if/where there are gas leaks due to old underground pipes) as well as water mains and the type of pipe used constantly needs to be addressed by Public Works Departments. Records need to be easily accessible and in good order, especially if they are referring to locations underground. Utility companies (and Public Works Departments) need to know the status of all the electrical, gas, water, roads, etc. running through the town, city, or county.

Having records available to the public frees up staff time and creates more efficient workflows. Digital records available within a Public Works Department or Engineering Office make it easier for the public to search plot plans, tax maps, etc. Also, when a municipality puts a project out to bid for replacing water lines, sewer lines, repaving roads, etc., then companies can access all the plans associated with a particular street and/or location. Making these plans available to the public and contractors digitally reduces the time staff have to take away from their normal day-to-day tasks to  manually pull the required information.


Town of Watertown Is on More Solid Footing with Digital Records

Part of the Greater Boston area, Watertown is a city settled in 1630, located in Middlesex County, Mass., and bordered by the Charles River. Like many towns in the Northeast, “Father Time” and the weather elements have not always been kind to Watertown’s infrastructure—as well as its paper records. An unfortunate roof collapse that caused water damage prompted the town’s Public Works Department to make the decision to aggressively move forward with digitizing its documents and implementing a new records-management platform.


The Department selected a proven cloud-based, public works records-management platform, adding in solutions to allow all records to be accessed remotely, onsite photo uploads, and an audit trail of who input each entry. The new platform also allows the Department’s staff members to easily scan in all their documents and/or maps, scan or upload photos, index those documents and then seamless manage the information, allowing for new-found search functionality.


According to Lori Moran, account clerk for the Town of Watertown, the Department is realizing a 50-percent time savings since the implementation of the new records-management platform, especially when it comes to dealing with after-hours emergencies.


“It has saved a huge amount of time having all our documents web-based and accessible at any time of the day or night and from anywhere. It’s just so much easier and a significantly more efficient use of our staff’s time,” Moran said.


Read the full case study to learn how Watertown’s Public Works Department’s new records-management solution uses a combination of innovative technologies, capabilities and customer service to create big benefits for the Town.


Technology Due Diligence Pays Off

Before any Public Works Department begins a digitization project, it should conduct the necessary due diligence. Vendors under consideration should have the infrastructure in place to perform large-scale scanning projects and have a track record of working with Public Works Departments in the past. Also, Public Works Departments should look for solution providers that offer multiple options for storing and managing records, along with other applications such as digital signature, version control and workflow automation.

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