Austin improves CIP management with online tool
Austin, Texas, is implementing a citywide, Web-based project management system to assist employees in budgeting, planning and tracking capital improvement projects (CIPs). The system, called eCAPRIS (City of Austin Project Reporting and Information System), is largely complete. It provides tracking and reporting capabilities to a broad range of departments and has improved inter-departmental communication, project coordination and efficiency.
Two years ago, driven by the fast-paced annexation of nearby communities and local growth, Austin developed the first phase of eCAPRIS to track data — including schedules, costs, manpower, and design and construction documents — for water and wastewater capital projects. Recognizing the system’s potential application in other projects, Austin officials planned a system expansion to manage the complete cycle of CIPs citywide.
The expansion required the city to convert its original system, based on Microsoft Access, to a Web-based application that would integrate a variety of systems across the city while meeting business requirements for different departments. “Our [original] goal was to develop a project tracking and reporting system within the Water and Wastewater Utility to help project managers manage their projects, and a financial planning system to automate our spending plan development,” says Charles Schoening, CIP manager for the utility. “What we got was a citywide system that allows any employee access to CIP information and provides financial planning tools, contract information and a mapping utility.”
Headed by White Plains, N.Y.-based Malcolm Pirnie, the eCAPRIS development team began customizing the Web-based system last year. The first module of the expansion, the CIP Planning Page, went online early this year and allows employees to track and report funding, appropriations and spending for CIPs by location. “This has streamlined how we capture, gather and report data,” says Greg Canally, Austin’s CIP budget manager. “Now, rather than answer questions repeatedly, the project manager can enter the information once, and others who need information just check eCAPRIS. It has freed up our project managers to do just that — manage projects.”
Additional modules went live in April and May. They include:
an application that allows the city to track and report contract data related to MBE/WBE participation, bid solicitations, vendor certification, and insurance and subcontractor payments. It also allows the city to track and match minority contractors with available project opportunities.
an application for the Public Works Department that incorporates CIP measures and milestones. Staff members can monitor contract status and vendor payments daily, and they can track multiple project schedules, budgets and spending simultaneously.
a GIS interface that allows employees to define and analyze CIP project areas by location. “The GIS module has been a fantastic addition,” Canally says. “Having projects ‘mapped’ lets us report to the Planning Commission and Council on the number of projects and funding by area — watershed, neighborhood and so on. It also helps with interdepartmental planning; our staff can see what projects are planned or are ongoing in a certain area and coordinate where appropriate.”
Next, the city will develop a module to support tracking and reporting of resources, schedules and costs for the Public Works Department’s Inspection Division. Costs for the complete eCAPRIS expansion — including system conversion and module development — will total $1.2 million.
With more than 600 registered users, eCAPRIS is assisting Austin with management of more than 1,200 CIPs across 23 departments. Already, the city is seeing a positive impact on communication and project coordination, says Severine Halls, project management supervisor for the city’s Public Works Department. “eCAPRIS has allowed for improved coordination between the city’s decentralized project management groups,” she notes. “It also has created an opportunity to standardize our policies and procedures and to develop common terminology and business practices.”
Integrated with other city information systems, the system gives all departments easy, secure access to project data, and it allows them to update data from any computer on the city’s Intranet. “The benefits have been tremendous,” Schoening says. “We are saving hundreds of manhours just in responses to requests for information, and we’ve been able to streamline and standardize numerous processes that allow us to work more efficiently.”