Best Practices for Leveraging Your Investment in Cityworks and Munis

Michael Edwards By: Michael Edwards

As Cityworks has grown to be a true platform solution capable of integrating with other enterprise systems, experienced Cityworks users and business partners have identified best practices for ensuring the long-term success of a system integration. Tyler Munis is a financial software solution used by many local government agencies to manage financials, procurement, human resources, payroll, and revenue. Integrations with Munis allow Cityworks to access data such as employee labor rates and equipment and material costs, as well as send back to Munis the costs incurred on work orders or the permit revenue that has been collected.

For any integration to be successful, the third-party software provider—in this case, Munis—needs to be involved to confirm the technical approach and functional requirements of the integration. For example, does the third-party system support your workflow requirements? Does the project team need to modify workflows or the setup of the third-party system to support the integration? Third-party documentation is often inaccurate or outdated or there may be bugs in the third-party code that prohibit technical adaptations.

Involving the third-party provider can help an organization understand how to balance the costs, complexity, ease of use, support, and sustainability of an integration.

Timmons Group used this approach when they worked with the City of Auburn, Alabama, to update their existing Cityworks and Tyler integration using APIs. A previous integration with Tyler’s legacy system, Eden, relied primarily on flat-file transfers, or manual exports of datafiles from one system to another. We reviewed existing workflows, with an emphasis on functional requirements and business processes. The team then worked to identify where each system should be leveraged in the workflows to maximize the integration.

Integrations are most successful when they are treated either as subprojects within a Cityworks implementation or as a separate project after Cityworks go-live. Integration projects should contain five distinct phases.

  1. Plan: Define the functional requirements and design the integration
  2. Build: Write code, develop workflows, etc.
  3. Test: Integration and user acceptance testing
  4. Train: Empower the system administrator as well as end users
  5. Deploy: Place the integration into production environment


Auburn’s updated Munis and Cityworks integration is split into several sections of support: employees, materials, utility billing, and cashiering. Here is how the updated integration benefitted each support section.

 


 

EMPLOYEE RECORDS

In a previous integration to Eden, service requests were dispatched to Cityworks admins every time a human resources (HR) staff member updated an employee record. HR staff could amass hundreds of generated requests a year, particularly during busy seasons.

City staff can now add, remove, or update an employee record without creating additional requests that bog down their HR team. The new one-way integration from Munis to Cityworks automatically updates the Cityworks employee table, eliminating most service requests. When human interaction is needed, a subset of the output fields automatically determines whether a service request should be generated for additional follow-up. APIs can be leveraged on both sides by the Munis administrator or the Cityworks administrator, allowing changes made at any point in the process to automatically update both systems.

“Without this critical piece of the integration, there is simply no way we can support accurate and timely employee data in Cityworks without also growing support staff. This integration alone has saved the city thousands of Cityworks administration hours,” says Christopher Graff, deputy chief information officer for the City of Auburn.

 

MATERIALS

Tracking the costs, inventory, and use of raw materials for municipal projects is a critical component of Auburn’s operations management. Items like concrete mix, stone, and cold patch asphalt are all tracked through the city’s Munis system. Cityworks allows crews to record how much material is used in a project and how much inventory remains. Previously, city staff dedicated valuable work hours to manually update material data between the two systems.

We designed an API integration between Cityworks Storeroom and Tyler Munis that streamlines raw material tracking. Utility employees now use Cityworks AMS and Storeroom to maintain the cost of a material, the amount used in a project, and the remaining quantity after the inventory has been adjusted. The system updates nightly to keep both finance staff and utility crews appraised.

“Work stoppages and overtime used during inventory audits has greatly decreased. We’ve been able to lower inventory costs because we better manage what’s on hand and can efficiently order materials,” says Christopher.
 


 

UTILITY BILLING

Up-to-date finances are an important facet to any successfully operating municipality. The Auburn utility billing team needed a way to immediately update financial records with each filing. The previous configuration produced a 15-minute delay with each utility billing update. Although this delay may not seem significant, it created unnecessary information in a second staging table upon closing a work order and often resulted in orphan canceled billing records. The fields available to Cityworks were also too limited to be functional.

The new Cityworks and Munis integration allows for instantaneous data transfer, a function that is vital to reliable customer billing. The integration sends billing and meter information to Cityworks. When the Cityworks work order is closed, only applicable information is sent back to Munis, eliminating dual records and unnecessary data transfer.

“The instant communication between office and field—Munis and Cityworks—facilitates greater teamwork among staff. We see increased productivity from this, and this ultimately builds happy customers,” Christopher says.

 

CASHIERING

The final section of Auburn’s Cityworks and Munis integration did not have a legacy implementation. Instead, city staff manually transposed fees to Tyler Cashiering. We proposed a solution to create a web service that combines Tyler Cashiering and Cityworks permit management to support fee lookups, permit fee payments, and permit voiding. As a result, finance staff no longer need to manually monitor Cityworks fee-based transactions.

With the fee lookup, staff can search for a customer name, address, or phone number, and Cityworks will return a specific output such as fee amount or due date. The Tyler Cashiering side of the integration is responsible for both making the call to the web service and parsing the results. Fees are returned by the web service for permits that do not have a status of closed, denied, expired, void, or withdrawn.

Another critical value added to this new API integration is reporting. Prior to this process, most fees were categorized at a high level and with few details. The new integration allows for highly detailed permitting fee data to flow back to Munis, thus creating a richer data set to help the city make data-driven decisions around planning and operations.

To mark Cityworks permit fees as paid, we developed a web service that will acknowledge payment information and return the output as successful or failed. Tyler Cashiering makes a call to the web service that can parse results for each fee that requires payment. To mark Cityworks permits as voided, we developed a service that can delete a payment and all its associated records throughout Tyler Cashiering, keeping dual or unnecessary records out of the integration.

As the City of Auburn continues to grow in its business processes, Timmons Group will continue to help its employees, supervisors, and utility workers establish best practices that benefit the entirety of the municipality. Bringing third-party software providers to the table brought Auburn tremendous success. The world of geospatial technology and asset management continues to evolve quickly, and we welcome the challenge of building and implementing forthcoming best practices for our industry partners.

 

This article was published in the Cityworks Fall 2021 Magazine. View the electronic version here.

 

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