Practical Pipeline Field Forms Using Survey123 – Use Case

January 7, 2018 — Clarke Wiley

System of record, tracking and traceability, easy ways getting my field data into GIS…these buzz words sound familiar? SSP Innovations continues to support pipeline operators across each of these arenas, but increasingly we are assisting with the disconnect between the field and the pipeline GIS. As described in SSP’s previous Practical Pipeline Field Forms I or Survey123 post, Esri’s off the shelf program for form creation/updates and field application for end data gathering provides a solution to these problems!

One of SSP’s vertically integrated gas clients, having both distribution and transmission assets, has a great ArcGIS Enterprise architecture and continually explores ways to further expand their GIS footprint within the organization. It’s a model we see more and more since operators look to see how they can maximize any existing investments (GIS included). The transmission integrity management (IM) group presented a project to do just that!

The integrity group had been utilizing Collector for ArcGIS to review/add HCA & Class structures in the field and started to look at Esri tools for additional field collection and direct field to GIS integration workflows. The IM team saw that they had a paper problem. No, not a paper shortage, but a problem with being too reliant on paper in a digital instantaneous age. The IM group wanted to go digital! SSP has helped many clients for one or two field forms, but this client presented a great opportunity for a full-scale replacement of their paper data collection workflows.

For each field activity, either the internal team or contractors were filling out paper or pdf forms in the field and then having to capture that data, generate a spatial location by the GPS point manually recorded in the field and then load it into the appropriate location in GIS system. Historically, it would take weeks or months to get data from the field back into the GIS system.

The client approached SSP to see if Survey123 could build an application to support all transmission pipeline/field collection workflows including: bell hole inspections & pipeline excavations, anomaly verifications, foreign line crossing reports, encroachment reports, environmental reports, maintenance activities and more. Anything that was currently collected in the field on paper and needed to get back into the system of record, ie GIS, was identified as a form in Survey123.

SSP started with an on-site workshop to review all forms that the client desired to be integrated with Survey123. The goal of the workshop is to review and get group buy-in for how the future digital form will look and feel. With all the different options within the application design tool, we could have simply taken the existing form and re-created it digitally, but instead we worked with the client to consolidate and streamline the look & feel. This is also a great time and opportunity to re-design all forms or update selections for the field users.

What should my selections be for each question? Have we seen new entries since the original form was created? Should we auto populate any data? What field or questions are required? Can we combine forms? What sections should be grouped? What answers drive more fields or sections to become available or stay hidden?

All of these questions and more were covered in our initial forms engagement and it set the tone for the rest of the project.

When we have worked with pipeline excavation forms, we typically see at least 6 pages, however, we’ve also seen well over a dozen. There are sections that range from general information about the dig site, pipeline characteristics, anomaly verification, soil/environmental characteristics, coating observations and more. This client’s excavation form followed a similar pattern, but in this case, the client wanted to also merge multiple other paper forms into the excavation form. This would allow the single Survey123 point, at the excavation, to incorporate multiple forms that had to be completed (one only if certain criteria was met in the main form). Not only does this streamline the effort, but it ensures that field contractors fill out the data. The onus is no longer on the field personnel to remember to fill out forms 2 or 3. They now can’t successfully submit the entire excavation form without supplying the secondary form’s information.


Even with the consolidation, we set out to create 7 new forms and workflows for the client in Survey123.

SSP went back, created the complex forms, data integration points and then had a couple back and forth updates with the client once the forms were available to the end users and they could test out the look & feel. We feel this is an important step in order to establish as the entire workflow for the end users and ensure that the client knows how the data is being stored, attachments managed, etc. Once we were set with the forms, we proceeded with deployment and some training.

SSP worked with the GIS team to review full deployment and management of the forms from that point forward. We always love to assist in any further updates or work, but the beauty of the solution is that it is .xlsx based and if a new question, selection or format needs to change…. the operator isn’t reliant on a 3rd party vendor. We are past the day and time where an ETL needs to be updated on the back end or a developer needs to get involved for form updates. These updates can be completed by the client, and this one already has started to do so!

So, what’s next? Once the IM team is comfortable with the forms, we will look to generate assignments based on the yearly planned digs, provide dashboard results and a constant view for the IM manager into field crew locations, inspection statuses and even time from start to finish of a job. With Workforce for ArcGIS and some configurations within ArcGIS Enterprise, these solutions are not far off in the distance.

Need help with a similar paper problem? Reach out to our great team!

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Clarke Wiley

Clarke Wiley is the Director of Pipeline at the Utility, Telecommunications and Pipeline GIS consulting company SSP Innovations in Centennial, Colorado and has been working in GIS pipeline software solutions, integrity management and data management for over 10 years.

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