All Posts By

Justin Falconer

MuniSight AG: Creating a weed inspection

MuniSight AG provides a digital process for collecting and reporting on weed infestations. The video below demonstrates how to create a new weed inspection in an existing case.

Learn how to

  • find an existing case

  • attach photos and files to an inspection

  • frame your snapshot

  • generate an infestation report

Want to jump to a specific part of the inspection?

00:00 – Find an existing case

01:20 – Update the Owner and Property Information

02:35 – Add weeds to a case

02:55 – Add a new inspection

04:05 – Add abundance for the weeds

05:05 – Edit the infestation polygon

06:15 – Attach photos and files to an inspection

07:10 – Update Next Action

07:45 – Preview the Inspection Report

Feel free to reach out to MuniSight Support for further assistance on collecting weed infestations with MuniSight AG.

Welcome to the new Navigation Bar!

MuniSight is happy to introduce a new navigation bar on the week of June 11th, 2018.

The navigation bar has been introduced to help users navigate MuniSight, while also making room for future functionality that will soon be released.

Within the navigation bar, you will find the following tools:

  • Site selection – for users that have access to multiple MuniSight sites, use this tool to navigate between the different sites.

  • Administrative Tools – for System Administrators, use this tool to navigate to Manage Users, and to Managing Exception Reports.

  • Message Center – New functionality to help communicate the updates and changes to MuniSight’s software. Look here for updates on new releases and details on new features, product enhancements, and bug fixes.

  • Logout – use this tool to terminate your MuniSight session, and logout from the platform. Note that previous logout functionality does not change, and that simply closing out your browser window will also log any user out of MuniSight.

Our Support Team is happy to help with any questions that you may have, so please feel free to reach out, should you need any assistance with these changes.

Guest Post: Northern Alberta Municipality Enhances Municipal Operations with GIS

Jill Tapp and Ann Holden oversee Planning & Development for the Municipal District of Lesser Slave River. They share how this vast and diverse Municipal District has leveraged Munisight’s GIS technologies to the net benefit of its stakeholders.

To serve the growing needs of constituents, business owners and visitors alike across a land area of more than ten thousand square kilometers, the Municipal District (MD) of Lesser Slave River relies heavily on Geographical Information Systems (GIS). By leveraging the next-practices technologies and implementation services of GIS industry leader MuniSight, the MD’s Geographics program is more feature-rich, versatile and accessible than ever before.

“The systems we have in place help us deliver real value to all segments of Lesser Slave River, from municipal staff to a variety of public users like ratepayers, developers and business operators,” remarked Jill Tapp, Planning & Development Officer for the MD of Lesser Slave River. “Our Munisight-powered GIS program helps the MD plan and grow communities, manage land use applications, and – most importantly – safeguard the region.”

By using Munisight’s GIS technologies, the MD has made many time-consuming manual processes more efficient. A vast database of geospatial information is now accessible to staff in real time via a secure online portal. All geospatial assets – from roads, property lines, water infrastructure and agricultural data – are visible in multiple digital layers overtop of highly detailed maps. Access to this geospatial information helps workers perform vital municipal duties, while also making these mapped data sets available to business-minded stakeholders like land developers and realty agents.

“Enhanced speed and accuracy are key by-products of the MD’s Munisight GIS program,” added Ann Holden, the MD’s Planning and Development Assistant. “Information on what the land contains, such as significant historical sites, oil and gas infrastructure, or even weed infestations can be accessed with a click of a button. With geospatial data, municipal planners are now able to access information to prepare zoning and bylaw changes faster and with far greater precision. The GIS program is also helpful in the preparation of individualized maps when presentations are made to the Municipal Planning Commission or to Council. These enhanced tools equate to better streamlined workflows, more efficient processes, and a safer, better-run municipality.”

FCM: Municipal Guide to Cannabis Legalization

This month, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) released a report pertaining to the impact of upcoming Cannabis Legalization on Municipal Governments. Some highlights of the report are noted below, while the link to the full report can be found here (Municipal Guide to Cannabis Legalization).

Getting the legalization of Cannabis right, will depend on Government. The development, implementation, and enforcement of regulations pertaining to Cannabis will have a profound effect on how well, legalized non-medical, cannabis is introduced to Canadians. Getting this right will depend on all levels of government.

Municipal Governments will bear a significant amount of responsibility. While the Federal Government has made the Cannabis commitment, and Provincial Governments are responsible regulations pertaining to distribution amongst other things, Municipal Governments will bear most of the responsibility with the operational aspects of the changes. These operational aspects, such as Zoning, Business Regulations, Enforcement, etc. are expected to be quite significant. Municipal Governments must be prepared to address these challenges by ensuring that they have the resources and systems in place to manage the change.

The FCM’s full report can be found here.

AAMDC Spring 2018

 photo: Justin & Quinten at MuniSight’s tradeshow booth

MuniSight was happy to support the AAMDC Spring Conference as a participant. The event was held in Edmonton, AB on the week of March 19th, 2018.

Thank you to everyone who stopped by our booth to say hello! It was great to see many of our customers at the event!

Asset Management in Municipal Administrations

What is Asset Management?

Though it may seem like a simple question, the answer can be a bit complex. The term “Asset Management” is typically used as a catch-all to describe a variety of things, and is often used by software providers to describe their product. It is important for municipal governments to understand what Asset Management means in the municipal context, when deciding on if to adopt an asset management system.

First thing is first – Don’t focus on the term “Asset Management”. Focus on the functionality.

The definition of asset management changes from company to company, and from region to region, so above all else, it is important that you focus on what the proposed system does. For example, does the system track maintenance history on an asset, does it help with scheduling resources for maintenance activities, or does it assess the risk associated with the failure of that asset? Each one of these features offer drastically different types of value to a municipal administration.

Because the Asset Management term can be vague, it is important to understand what the needs and wants of your municipality are. Once you have this understanding, you can then try and match your needs to any system’s application, keeping in mind that the application’s functionality is more important than its name. With that being said, there are three general categories of asset management systems in the market today – work order management, fixed asset registry, and asset management planning systems.

Type 1: Work order management

This system type can be described as a “break/fix” asset management system – they track asset “breaks”, and help issue work orders against those assets so that maintenance crews can “fix” them. These solutions are most often used by the Public Works department of a municipality, help keep maintenance activities organized, and help forecast short-term (within 18 months) maintenance requirements. GIS systems are the foundation of these programs, as they provide location data, and can house information about the asset (road classification, etc).

Type 2: Fixed Asset Registry

Fixed Asset Registry systems are typically used by municipalities to have firm grip on which assets are in the municipality, by building a registry (list) of assets. A fixed Asset Registry is most heavily used in Finance and Accounting, when determining the book value of assets, by considering depreciation. Financial depreciation rates can be calculated in many ways, and they are generally not very good for forecasting asset failures or asset maintenance requirements.

Type 3: Asset Management Planning

Asset Management Planning is all about understanding the quality, and reliability, of a service that rate-payers receive from a municipal asset. You can regard this form of Asset Management as the 30,000-foot view.

When completing an Asset Management Plan, it is important to include the following considerations:

  • Asset inventory – what assets do we have?

  • Asset condition – what is the relative condition of these assets?

  • Level of service – are the assets providing enough service to the rate-payers, or are they any gaps?

  • Asset risk – are there any assets that are at risk of failing, and if so, what is the consequence of such a failure?

  • Policies – what policies do we need to put in place to ensure that our assets are managed properly?

Once again, GIS systems can be a great foundation for building out an Asset Management Planning system.

Getting started on Asset Management

For any municipality wanting to get started on Asset Management, it is important for them to be prepared with the necessary resources in place. Because Asset Management is a process that evolves over time, and not a project that is stagnant, making sure that the appropriate resources are in place to execute a project is essential.

Before embarking on establishing an Asset Management system, a municipality may want to consider getting the following resources in place:

  • Commitment establishing a system, from the Municipality’s Administration

  • Financial resources, for software systems or external consultants

  • Personnel resources:

    • Set-up team: to ensure that there is an internal team that has the authority, and the skills required, to steer the set-up of the system to completion

    • Operational team: to ensure that the system remains up-to-date, and operational, after it is set-up

Conclusion

Asset Management solutions can significantly help a municipality improve their operations, but it is important for Municipality to understand their own priorities and needs before selecting which form, or which combination of forms, of asset management best suit their needs. It is also important to note that all Asset Management systems are not one-and-done projects, but rather living-breathing processes that need to be continuously evolving.

MuniSight’s team is happy to help give guidance to any municipality that interested in implementing an Asset Management system.

How Connecting Data Leads to Better Reporting

Efficient data collection leads to better reporting.

Whenever you need to provide data to anyone, chances are you think of how to present data report without even looking at the source of the data.

But, if you work with data, you know that it flows like a stream. And, when we need to obtain data or need assistance doing so, it helps to know which part of that stream needs assistance.

Below, we’ve put together a few steps that make up the flow of data as a way for you to assess the quality of your own data collecting process and, in turn, improve your reporting to your municipality.

What Data Do You Have to Collect?

The first step involves identifying and defining your data elements or leads. So, identify what you need to collect for reporting purposes, and what you need for internal monitoring and planning – and why.

In this first step, then, you should identify data elements that are necessary for your reporting purposes, as well as those necessary for program purposes, like monitoring and evaluating so as to improve your overall capacity to meet your municipality and your constituent’s needs.

Where Will You Find the Data That You Need?

The next step is to identify the data sources, or where you can find what you need. Think about where the data you need resides, and even in how many different places. There may be some places that are easier to acquire data from than others.

Next, figure out what it takes to get the necessary data, when, where, and also how. This includes elements such as requesting the data, capturing it, recording it, and storing the data from your identified sources.

How to Collect Your Data

The whole point is to collect data to improve reporting, so you also need to consider how you will collect the data. In this step, you could:

  • Modify or develop the necessary data collection tools to make sure you’re collecting all your required targeted data.

  • Define and communicate how the data ought to be collected and submitted for reporting purposes. At this point, you could provide the tools for direct entry to a database.

  • Make sure that the data is stored appropriately so as to prevent untoward or inappropriate access or theft due to system breakdown.

  • Finally, implement and communicate your standards of confidentiality, security, and privacy to protect the data.

Quality Procedures and Validation of Data

During data collection, how can you tell if the data that you collect is good and that it accurately reflects what you want to report? You need to validate it.

During step four, you need to design and then implement procedures to examine the data in terms of:

  • Completeness

  • Confidentiality

  • Validity

  • Integrity

  • Timeliness

  • Reliability

By carrying out these procedures, you can also include communication and training along with system checks and data quality improvement measures.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, good data quality is the foundation of a good report. Ensuring that you are capturing the right information for your reporting needs is a crucial part of building insights on your municipal information.

Guest Post: Leveraging GIS technology for Asset Management Planning, at the City of Chestermere.

Seth Whitney is the GIS Coordinator at the City of Chestermere in Alberta, Canada, and explains how his municipality has used GIS to help further their asset management capabilities.

Understanding the current condition of assets, such as roads, is a crucial component of building a strong Asset Management Plan. The City of Chestermere built an inventory of relative road conditions, with the help of MuniSight’s software and technical services, based on GIS technology.

Prior to MuniSight, Chestermere’s roads function was using the US Army Corps of Engineers methodology to visually assess road deficiencies.  This was originally an effective but very manual process, which included having to fill out paper forms in the field and administrative staff entering the data into an excel spreadsheet. The original process was effective for a number of years, but became cumbersome and inaccurate due to the rapid development in the City of Chestermere, resulting in multiple data entry issues, lost forms and time wasted. The City needed a new process that could gain greater efficiency, and accuracy, by leveraging proven technologies.

The City’s Public Works department approached the GIS department to help them streamline their road condition assessment process. The GIS department created a roads condition assessment layer in MuniSight based on the paper form from Public Works, and with assistance from MuniSight’s technical team, was able to create a road assessment workflow that prompted inspectors to complete road condition information in a pop-up dialogue box in MuniSight. Inspectors were able to fill out 13 road deficiency types (i.e. rutting, transverse cracking, etc.) based on a score between excellent and poor.  Inspectors could simply enter the rating directly through Munisight using a laptop in the field or at the office.

Based on an aggregate score, from the 13 different deficiency types, the City was able to view relative road conditions in MuniSight, enabling them to prioritize maintenance planning accordingly. The City’s Roads Manager could easily identify roads that needed to be prioritized for maintenance by reviewing the map in Munisight.  By leveraging Munisight’s technology & expertise, Chestermere was able to gain tremendous amount of efficiencies using GIS technology.

4 Ways to Learn More About Your Constituents

 Photo: Brant, AB, Canada

The key to learning more about your constituents is to be accessible

At its best, getting to know your constituents should be about dialogue, engagement, and interaction.

As a municipality, you have important information to share, so it’s important that your constituents can tune in and remain engaged.

Your constituents, even if it doesn’t feel like it from time to time, are watching you, and they do want to be kept in the loop. They want to know that you have a grasp of the community’s issues and needs. They want to know what you’re working on. They want to know that they can rely on you to finish anything you start.

But, how do you reach out, start that conversation, and get to know more about them?

Let Them Know You’re Ready to Engage

To find out what your constituents are thinking, let them know you’re ready and waiting to hear from them. In other words, make yourself accessible. Let them know you are, indeed, a real, live active person.

Let’s look at 4 ways you can do just that.

1. Pop on Social Media

From Twitter to YouTube, Tumblr, Facebook, the list is almost endless. Using social media lets you manage both your image and your platform at the same time. You can connect with your constituents, engage them, and encourage them to join the conversation.

Pop onto your social media platforms regularly to interact personally with your community. Let the people you serve hear from you directly and let them share what’s on their minds.

Social media serves well as a platform from which to announce any meetings where you want to engage the public, too, and you could even set up social media groups for each meeting so that those who aren’t able to attend, can still voice their opinion.

2. Landing Pages

With pretty much everyone hanging out online these days, a landing page is a must for your campaigns. You can choose to have a site created that is wholly informative, or one that is designed to collect your constituent’s information so that you can learn more about them from their data.

Research has been conducted by the likes of The Corporate Executive Board and Google, and Forrester about the importance of building strong emotional connections online with customers, and the same can certainly be applied to your constituents.

3. Text Messaging

Text messages are a great way to spread information and even have two-way conversations. At its most basic, broadcast messages are similar to broadcast email. That means you can send a message to every number subscribed to your list.

Getting your community to subscribe can be as easy as encouraging them to sign up on your website or landing page.

4. Interactive Email Campaigns

The mobile inbox is highly prevalent these days, and arguably one of the greatest shifts in today’s marketing efforts. Interactive emails allow you to reach your constituents in real time with messages that pack a powerful punch.

Focus on the Conversation

Whenever and however you reach out to your community, make it a two-way conversation. Be encouraging, intimate, and accessible. Be accountable. Most of all, make it easy for them to find you, be it on social media, through your landing page, via email, or on the phone.

Don’t forget to thank and inspire your community for having a conversation.

Image: Flickr

MuniSight welcomes Manitoban municipal governments!

MuniSight is excited to welcome several Manitoban municipalities to it’s community of municipal governments.

About Manitoba’s Municipal Governments

Manitoba currently has 37 urban municipalities, 98 rural municipalities, and 2 local government districts for a total of 137 municipal governments. Urban municipalities are identified as Cities, Towns, and Villages, while rural municipalities are identified quite simply as a Rural Municipality. This structure was mostly derived because of the Municipal Act of 1995. Prior to this structure, Manitoba operated with 197 municipal governments before an amalgamation took place, mostly in 1997, to consolidate smaller municipalities together. In 2015, Manitoba went through a similar exercise, where many municipal governments combined together once again.

Manitoba’s population is mostly centered in Cities (66%), followed by Rural Municipalities (24%), Towns (4.5%), and Villages (0.5%). Rural Municipalities occupy the most land area by far, with a cumulative share of 24% of the Province’s total land area, and have an average population of 3,050 inhabitants.

Once again, MuniSight would like to welcome those Manitoban municipalities who have joined our community, and we look forward to continuing our work in the Province.

Regards,

Quinten

Note: Census data was obtained from Statistics Canada.