Why the Utility Network?

Having been part of the first production go-live of the Esri Utility Network at a major N.E. gas utility, I get asked many times about the justifications or reasons for the early adoption.

The ongoing joke with our client is that they were either going to be first or last! What caused us to decide to take the risk of implementing the first version of Esri’s next generation of software? It was all about the compelling event we had in front of us. With the start of a 4 year long program designed to set the foundation for and transform the way the gas business was going to operate for the next generation, we had to evaluate our options and decide if we wanted to modernize the GIS platform.  We had to decide between Esri’s proven legacy technology that was first rolled out in the late 90’s (I love you ArcMap!) or decide to deploy the new modern platform that Esri will invest in, improve and enhance over the next 20+ years. Did we want to convert from non-Esri systems to the geometric network and then again to the Utility Network?  This would require retraining the workforce again, and rewriting all the integrations to EAM, CIS, mobile work management, Modeling Tools, etc. — 5-10 years from now.

So what’s your compelling event?

  • Has your utility gone through a merger or acquisition?
  • Are you upgrading or replacing a major business system (EAM, WMS, CIS, ADMS, etc.), or integrating with GIS for the first time?
  • Undergoing a major data quality improvement project?

While it is risky being the on the front end of the Utility Network adoption curve, it provides the following business and IT value:

It’s the Future!  Esri has made significant investment in the new platform and while they will continue to support the version you are on for many years, their current and future investments will be on ArcGIS Pro and the Utility Network.

Modern web architecture — allowing you to share your authoritative asset data to anyone that needs it, whether they are in the office or the field (on any device) and across business systems such as EAM, Outage Management, etc.

Cross-Platform support — same functionally that is available on the desktop is also supported on the web and mobile devices (soon), reducing development costs. Previously you would need to configure or build these separately.

More accurate representation of assets — the Utility Network more accurately models real world assets in more detail. This includes structures like complex regulator stations, pump houses, and substations.

Improved data quality — the Utility Network rule-base reflect real world conditions, which require more stringent connectivity rules, resulting in improved data quality. For example, in the geometric network model enforced snapping and basic cardinality, but with Utility Network rules the level of detail increase to include things like preventing a plastic fitting on a steel pipe, or placing a service without a fitting junction.

While most early adopters will have faced a compelling event, there are still many business and IT benefits for the migration to the Utility Network. Start planning now so you are prepared to move on your own schedule, or ready for your organization’s next compelling event.

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