Faced with the problems of constantly juggling information from a large number of incompatible systems and databases, John Tomlinson decided to streamline Northamptonshire County Council's property management by taking on a single integrated solution that would address their current and future needs.
A Comprehensive Solution
The project was led by John Tomlinson, Property Information and Business Manager for County Property Services within the Business Management Services directorate at Northamptonshire County Council. County Property Services is responsible for the management, maintenance and construction of all Council property, which includes schools, fire stations, libraries and social services premises-the buildings alone comprise over nine million square feet (840,000 square meters) of space.
Operating from County Hall, Northampton, John's principal role is the management of all County Property Services' information and business systems. As part of his streamlining plans, he wanted a system that would be suitable for managing property records (Terrier plans), statutory inspections (Asbestos, Radon), condition surveys, a helpdesk, order processing and financial management of property budgets.
Furthermore, it would need to integrate with CAD and GIS and have the capability to interface with the Council's financial software. In the longer term, any system selected would have to have Web links within it. Also, it would have to be easy to customise in order to deal with the requirements of the Department for Education & Skills' (DfES) Asset Management Plans (AMPs) for Schools - a statutory requirement. Eventually, ARCHIBUS from MASS Systems was selected as the preferred solution.
"The ease with which the software could be customised was impressive as was its compatibility with our existing data structure," says John. "Most importantly, it had dynamic links with the AutoCAD system; this was essential for us as we already had CAD plans of our buildings and sites."
The initial stages of implementing the new system included the transfer of the Council's property data from the previous software into ARCHIBUS and the linking of CAD plans. This was followed by the development of AMP Condition Survey and Suitability modules in ARCHIBUS that enabled detailed information about the condition and suitability of all Council property to be collected, recorded and monitored in a rolling five-year programme.
Asset Data in the Classroom
Condition surveys are a vital component in the production of Asset Management Plans for schools. John was keen that the new system should enable the Local Education Authority to meet the needs of the DfES for the production of these plans and worked in conjunction with Vesna Godwin, in the Council's Education and Community Learning directorate, to set out the requirements. In order to address the needs of the DfES, John and his colleagues worked in partnership with MASS Systems to develop the AMPs system based on ARCHIBUS. "The aim of Asset Management Plans," explains Vesna, "is to produce the information needed to make objective and transparent decisions about spending on school premises-decisions that will result in improved teaching environment and ensure efficient procurement and management of capital assets, using innovative, sustainable and energy efficient solutions. A good AMP has a key part to play in helping to raise educational standards."
Using the AMP framework and the supporting IT system, Northamptonshire County Council has prepared and submitted to the DfES returns in the required format on the condition and suitability of all 353 schools within the county. Basic premises data, including asset information and utilities costs, was collected and loaded into the AMPs system, from which reports were automatically produced to DfES format. "Any changes in reporting required by the DfES can be readily accommodated because of the flexibility of the system," says John. "It also links with our CAD plans, enabling us to query the database or drawing."
For the future, John feels it will be beneficial to provide schools with Intranet access to their AMP data so that they can initiate and update their own records and generate reports.
An Integrated Portfolio
As it is based on ARCHIBUS, the AMPs system will also integrate fully with other application modules within the core system to manage the entire property portfolio. The system at Northampton currently comprises modules for the management of space, assets and facilities helpdesk, with building maintenance, telecommunications and room booking to follow. It runs on a Novell 4 network serving more than 20 users across the Council's two headquarters buildings.
A further example of the customisation capabilities within ARCHIBUS is the development of an Adaptations system for the Social Care and Health Directorate. Based on the Directorate's specification, the system links with the facilities helpdesk to enable the management of disability improvements, such as stair lifts, in private homes that are funded by the Council. "The system keeps track of all alterations carried out in houses, their maintenance costs, condition and so on," says John. "It also handles order processing and commitment accounting relating to these alterations, so that we know at a glance how many orders have been placed and delivered and how much money is left in the budget."
ARCHIBUS is now established as the Council's corporate database of property information. "In choosing this system, we wanted to invest in a base product that had long-term sustainability," says John. "ARCHIBUS gives us the capability to manage all aspects relating to our property within a single system that is both user-friendly and can be interrogated easily."
Looking ahead, John has plans expand the use of his system still further. "We will be using it for monitoring asbestos and radon records," he says, "as well as for room booking, cable management and our IT inventory." With an impressive range of applications already in place and more to follow, John's ambition to streamline the Council's property systems is now well underway.
Northamptonshire County Council
Over 600 public properties
|ARCHIBUS Applications: |
Furniture & Equipment Management
Real Property & Lease Management
Building Operations Management
Overlay for AutoCAD® with Design Management
|3rd Party Applications: |
Help Desk from MASS Systems
|Impetus for Implementation: |
Need for centralized access to multiple business systems
|Benefits Gained: |
Easier satisfaction of government requirements, better financial tracking of assets; integrated property management
|Future Plans: |
Room booking and cable management
|ARCHIBUS Integration: |
|Business Partner: |
|Web Site: |
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