Running Highland Village’s Parks and Recreation Department used to include a lot of guesswork and anecdotes. However, now decisions start with solid data since the town implemented Freeance Mobile for Cityworks, says Sunny Lindsey, GIS applications and development administrator. In December, Parks Department managers and crew leaders started using Freeance Mobile on Samsung 10–inch tablets for everything from scheduling restroom cleanings to recording the locations of ball fields.
Lindsey says the goal of the project was to make operations more efficient by helping managers better understand how financial and labor resources were being used. “It started out just for documentation, and now we’re trying to segue it into more of a management tool,” Lindsay says. “Instead of just capturing what we’ve already done, we’re looking to use Cityworks and Freeance together to . . . actually project how much work they will be doing throughout the week.” Lindsey says it is too early in the process to see concrete cost savings, which she believes “will come in time.” As for now, Lindsey thinks it was “a documenting issue. If the Parks Department wanted to come back to the city council and say, ‘We need another person; we’re slammed all the time,’ there wasn’t adequate documentation saying where the labor costs were being spent. For example, there’s a water line in the Corps Park. And the Parks Department has been complaining for years that the water line needs to be replaced because they are constantly repairing it. Now we can actually say if we’ve spent more money fixing it than we would have replacing it.”
Assistant city manager Ken Heerman said the use of Freeance Mobile for Cityworks has brought a new level of professionalism to the way the Parks Department is run. “I see this project as a turning point for parks management,” Heerman says. “They are beginning to see their tasks and jobs in terms of priorities and preplanning instead of the more common reactionary mode.”
Lindsey said the city’s resource management efforts endured some false starts before finding Freeance Mobile. Attempts to use Excel spreadsheets and, later, Cityworks on Netbook computers both failed. “With the Netbooks, you’re looking at your Cityworks Server and there’s a lot to scroll through,” she states. “The Netbooks have a very small screen. . . . [Users] were spending more time writing up the work orders than actually doing the work. It was only through [Freeance Mobile] that I was able to call this project a success.”
For Lindsey, it is easy to create and modify Freeance Mobile work order templates using Windows Form Designer; and it was just as easy to train the managers and crew leaders on how to use Freeance Mobile. “You had some that were younger that were used to smartphones and tablet devices and they took to learning it very quickly,” Lindsey said. “You had others who weren’t as familiar with computers or that type of technology. And they took a little bit longer.”
To help new users get used to the new tablets, Lindsey said each user was assigned their own tablet a week before Freeance Mobile was loaded. Finally, there was a day of training dedicated to Freeance Mobile using an easy-to-set-up test database. “We had the training on a Thursday or a Friday, and then we went live with it the following Wednesday. I pulled a report 24 hours later, and there were four or five work orders available,’’ she says.
In the field, crew leader Joey Hardin says the new technology has changed the way his team looks at their work. “This has forced me to think about our projects in terms of labor and cost, and I am now thinking of ways to find savings,” he adds.
Lindsey says the Public Works Department is looking forward to trading their Netbooks for tablets that will include Freeance Mobile this summer. “Finance and city management have been really pleased in knowing that we rely heavily on the equipment, labor, and materials components of Freeance. Having to actually document the hours, labor, and equipment has really put hard numbers into it.”
By Patrick Foose, Marketing Producer, Freeance
Freeance® Mobile is the complete solution for smartphones and tablets. Easily open, close and edit Cityworks® work orders, service requests and inspections in the field.