Massachusetts shines IT spotlight on capital assets management

With all the attention state and local agencies have paid to launching and

expanding e-procurement systems, what's sometimes lost is the impact that

information technology can have on the management and planning stages of

procurement.

For information-intensive tasks such as keeping an up-to-date inventory

of assets, planning capital expenditures and appropriately scheduling maintenance,

a comprehensive IT solution can save time and money while streamlining and

automating complicated procedures.

With the launch this month of its Capital Asset Management Information

System, Massachusetts is poised to provide a positive example of the benefits

of focusing on procurement management and planning. The system is designed

to help the state's Division of Capital Asset Management keep track of more

than 5,000 buildings and 77 million square feet of office space the government

owns throughout the state.

CAMIS is the culmination of an effort that began in 1999, when the Massachusetts

legislature set aside funds for a comprehensive survey of the condition

of the state's capital assets and for the procurement of a software package

to manage the data collected by the survey.

"The legislature wanted to make sure that [DCAM] has the best possible

information available when identifying the state's priorities for spending

capital dollars," said Hope Davis, program manager for CAMIS.

Working from its Boston office, the engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff

Inc. is surveying all state-owned buildings, carefully evaluating and cataloging

major equipment and systems and noting deficiencies, capital needs and ordinary

maintenance schedules for assets such as mechanical and electrical rooms,

labs, food service areas, HVAC systems, and roofs and windows.

The software component of the CAMIS system, which replaces a custom

program written in R-Base that had been in use for about 12 years, was purchased

off the shelf from Irvine, Calif.-based Prism Computer Corp.

"Given our experience with the customized package, which did everything

we wanted it to do but didn't allow us to keep up with advances in the technology,

we felt we would be best served by buying an off-the-shelf package so we

could benefit from the vendor's ongoing support and technical upgrades,"

Davis said.

Using data from the survey, the CAMIS software will allow DCAM and the

Department of Environmental Management — the state's largest landowner —

to make more accurate planning and spending recommendations for maintenance

of the state's land and facilities.

"This system will help agencies to focus on preventive maintenance,"

said Kevin Flanigan, special assistant to the DCAM commissioner. "For agencies,

which are always strapped for funds, the prospect of replacing a capital

asset like a heating system or an elevator can be really daunting. That's

why it's so important to find ways to encourage preventive maintenance,

to extend the useful life of all of our capital equipment."

In addition to maintenance, the software also handles the scheduling

and costing of work orders, has some project planning capabilities and features

a graphical user interface — an important improvement over its predecessor,

Davis said. It should make data entry easier for the system's users.

Ease-of-use was a key component in the purchase of the Prism software,

given the diverse user population accessing the system from different facilities

throughout the state. The software will be housed in the state's computer

operations center. Users will have access via the state's wide-area network

or through a virtual private network, depending on their location, Davis

said.

"The old system was not very user friendly," she said. "There are user

agencies who fully appreciate the benefits and value of doing good preventive

maintenance, and the new system will help them to achieve those benefits."

Walsh is a freelance writer based in Peekskill, N.Y.

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