November 2, 2020

Great GIS Integrations—And Great Expectations For More

Utilities with multiple vendors’ software solutions, seamlessly linked by Futura’s integrations and GIS solutions 

First Electric Cooperative: GIS teamwork and integration specialists exceeding expectations

During his 12 years at First Electric Cooperative, first as a GIS Analyst and now as the co-op’s GIS Supervisor, Tim McLeod has learned a lot about what makes for good integrations between GIS and other software solutions.

McLeod has also happily seen his best expectations exceeded. Repeatedly.

McLeod says, “The more experience you have with great GIS-related integrations, the more you see how specialized they can be, and the more deeply you appreciate how much good teamwork is required to implement them well.”

GIS-related software integrations are essential to First Electric’s excellence in providing cost-effective and reliable electric service to its 98,000 members across 18 counties in central and southeast Arkansas.

McLeod identifies himself as the person at his co-op who, in his words, “can speak very well to the GIS solutions and multi-vendor integrations we have from Futura.”

Integrations improving workflows across three different vendors’ solutions

Futura’s integrations involve GIS touchpoints and key data update processes with software solutions from three other vendors at First Electric—NISC, MilSoft, and Partner Software.

In McLeod’s view, “We are benefitting a lot by using Futura GIS and Futura for our mapping needs. One of the best things is how well Futura’s people and integrations work with all the software we have from other vendors. I also like how Futura is always developing new innovative tools.”

McLeod has seen one common denominator in his work on the front lines, underlying all the successes in streamlining workflows and ongoing improvements at his co-op: Futura.

Expectations exceeded: Updated map and asset data updates

At the start of his job at First Electric, McLeod made it his goal to speed up the updating process for their Outage Management System (OMS) maps, as the updates came way too slowly for this process with their prior mapping system before Futura GIS.

As McLeod explains, “When I first came in, with the mapping product back then, updates were done once every year and a half. I made it my goal to get a better system in place, one where we could update once a month instead. Nobody thought I could do it. But once we switched over to Futura, and the GIS and Export Module, we were able to get monthly updates going.”

Now, McLeod says, “Futura really has exceeded my highest expectations,” because the Futura GIS Map system updates the OMS maps once per week.

Enterprise all-in-one solutions vs. Best of Breed software: They decided to take what they liked and leave the rest

From his experiences with improved updates and workflows, McLeod is one of many leading utility members of the GIS community who can provide quality insights about smart integration strategies for achieving the ideal mix of enterprise (or “all-in-one” solutions) and so-called “best of breed” (more specialized) software.

McLeod and others provide reliable feedback about the lessons they’ve learned navigating the wide range of options for people interested in transforming their work with GIS solutions and integrations, without changing out incumbent vendors involved with other solutions.

McLeod is glad about their approach of taking what they liked and leaving the rest. “It has been great the way we are benefitting from Futura’s strong integration between the Futura GIS and NISC’s iVue and CIS. In addition, the integration from Futura between Partner Software and the Work Orders has been great. And with the more rapid updates to our maps and asset records from Futura, we have improved outage response times and scores, which is a huge service improvement benefit.”

Four Kings Rule: Teamwork, Excellence, Cost-Effectiveness, and Efficiency

By ensuring good workflows across diverse functions, GIS maximizes efficiency, and operational excellence for inspections, mapping, fieldwork, and other functions, while providing the cost-effectiveness every co-op wants.

But it took the co-op’s teamwork with Futura to tie it all together. McLeod says, “Everyone I’ve worked with at Futura, from Support to Programmers to Managers, has given me a ton of confidence in their problem-solving abilities.” Futura’s goal is to fix the problem, not fix the blame. As a result, Futura’s collaborations go beyond the direct efficiency benefits for people’s jobs, because the teamwork includes a ‘can-do’ spirit rather than finger-pointing when it comes to solving problems.