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EnergyUnited Adds Immediate Value
with ArcGIS Online

EnergyUnited, an electric cooperative located in North Carolina, recently engaged with SSP Innovations to upgrade their existing Esri GIS and Schneider Electric ArcFM™ systems from Version 9 to 10. As part of this effort, EnergyUnited requested that SSP implement a new installation of Esri ArcGIS Server along with a rollout of ArcGIS Online.

The main goal was to provide the EnergyUnited staff with a full understanding of the solution's capabilities and best practices so they could continue to utilize the patterned technology moving forward.

The ArcGIS Server and ArcGIS Online project was an instant success and provides a great example of just how quickly this new technology can be rolled out. This case study will review the implementation plan which allowed EnergyUnited to go from zero to sixty with ArcGIS Online in just four business days. It should be noted that the EnergyUnited upgrade to v10 had previously been completed including ArcGIS Desktop and ArcSDE for Oracle 11G.

Day 1, Monday - IT Setup:

  • SSP met with the stakeholders to review the business goals for the implementation and was introduced to the IT team.
  • SSP began by installing and configuring ArcGIS Server on an intranet machine including the Oracle 64-bit client and the ArcFM™ Object Reader. ArcGIS Server was configured to utilize SSL (https) along with the internal ArcGIS security store for users and roles. Initial test REST services were then published, including one map service and one feature service.
  • SSP then worked with IT to deploy a new web server into the DMZ containing Microsoft IIS and the ArcGIS Web Adaptor, which allows the IIS web server to communicate with the internal ArcGIS Server REST services. An SSL certificate was installed on the machine and only SSL was configured to be available.

    The hardest part of this day was getting the firewalls configured for the correct access.

Day 2, Tuesday - GIS Map Services:

  • Creating WebMapsSSP met with representatives from GIS and engineering to explore the various initial map information products that were needed. A primary goal was to replace an old installation of ArcIMS, plus various other requirements including creating an AMI data layer, publishing Esri data to their MDMS, and creating some collection patterns.
  • SSP worked with the GIS group to create new optimized MXDs for ArcGIS Server publishing. This exercise included removing unneeded layers, reducing excessive symbolization, and looking for more efficient patterns for data deployment.

    The team found that some of the more static grid and centerline data could be extracted out into a file geodatabase, which was then re-projected to the native ArcGIS Online spatial reference of WGS 84, indexed and published directly to the server.

    The combination of all these efforts resulted in very fast and interactive map services. Map services were published for variations on Land, Electric, and the static layers mentioned above.

Day 3, Wednesday - ArcGIS Online:

  • SSP and the GIS team initialized EnergyUnited's ArcGIS Online organizational account. EnergyUnited had previously been testing with a free account, but SSP explained that they could create an organizational account using their ArcGIS desktop entitlements which provided an ArcGIS Online named user for each desktop license at the utility. 
  • It may seem like a trivial task, but branding the organizational account can be key to user acceptance. SSP worked with EnergyUnited to develop a home page that was consistent with their public website:Home Page
  • SSP then worked with the team to establish ArcGIS Online groups that represented the users of the information products that would be initially released. Example groups are available via Esri's ArcGIS for Electric solution templates, but we fine-tuned the below groups to align with the utility's needs:
    ArcGIS Online Groups

  • The initial map information products were created, added to ArcGIS Online, and shared with the appropriate groups. A default editable feature service was added to all of the maps to make them available in Collector for ArcGIS in addition to, ArcGIS for iOS/Android, and ArcGIS Explorer.

    Both WebMaps and web applications (based on Esri's published app templates) were published based on each group's needs. The maps included configured symbology, attribute pop-ups, scale suppression, etc.
    EnergyUnited Web App
  • SSP utilized the ArcGIS for Electric Asset Locator geoprocessing tool to create custom web searches for every asset and grid type maintained by the utility. This included poles, transformers, switches, fuses, streetlights, and many more.

    This was published through to ArcGIS Online and tested in both the web applications and the mobile apps. 
  • Finally, SSP touched on a few integration points. These included publishing an X/Y event layer generated from their MDMS system for missing meter pings, and making the ArcGIS REST services available to the MDMS to be utilized within their own mapping app.

    The only challenge we hit here was that the MDMS was not able to consume secured REST web services. This has since been filed with the MDMS company as an immediate enhancement request. 

Day 4, Thursday - Tweaking, Collection, and User Buy In:

  • By this point in the week the joint team had some great map products available on all the usual devices. We continued to tweak a few additional data sources to add additional map products for each group.
  • Next, SSP turned our attention toward creating a few collection patterns that would provide immediate value and - more importantly - would provide the pattern to the EnergyUnited team to allow them to add additional collectable layers on their own.

    We started off with a map correction/change feature along with a storm assessment layer.
  • Finally it was time to show off the new implementation to utility leadership.

    The response from EnergyUnited's Vice President of Engineering and Operations, David Schleicher, was just what we were hoping for. Schleicher had it on his iPhone and was using it to route a path in the field to a pole that very day.

    He stated "It's easy to get to and see the data. This app will allow us get the workforce wanting to pull the information instead of us having to push the data out to them. The best thing we can do is get it out to the people as soon as possible."
    Showing off the app

    Steve McCachern, Director of Engineering Services, also had immediate success with the application.

    He said, "My goal is to get the employees out in the field to buy into the ownership of the mapping system so they will work harder to keep it accurate. Once you get ArcGIS Online out into their hands and they see what it can do to help their day-to-day lives, they will only want more!"

This implementation at EnergyUnited is a perfect example of a "crash" rollout, providing maximum return on investment to a smaller utility that is ready to embrace the latest advances in GIS technology. SSP was excited to be part of the success, and we give credit to EnergyUnited's GIS Coordinator Daniel Flowers and the dedicated System Engineer Ben Godsell for working hand-in-hand with the SSP team to deploy the system so quickly.

There is plenty of opportunity to do more, and having SSP provide the four-day consultation has provided EnergyUnited with a solid initiation into the ArcGIS platform that will ensure they are successful in the near and far future.

Daniel Flowers sums it up best in his own words:

"This is going to open the door to new possibilities to advance our business processes. Whenever you hire a vendor you can generally expect to get about 70% of the value of their sales offering, but with SSP Innovations I feel like we got 130%. This was a fantastic week."

SSP Innovations conducted the upgrade to v10 over the course of several months in 2014. The ArcGIS Server and Online rollout was conducted in early November 2014.