IQ Winter 2022/23

Empowering communities

How using a custom Planning Tool in a new way changes the game for municipalities wishing to design and construct critical infrastructure projects.

Many years ago, Garver’s Jerry Holder, PE, was appointed chairman of a bond committee and tasked with pairing down a sizable wish list to fit a modest budget. After several meetings — with the engineering department, the police chief, the parks and recreation director, the city administrator, and others — he was left with a big, unwieldy notebook packed with spreadsheets and data. He then had the arduous job of filtering through all that information to arrive at a reasonable number of projects.

“It was a difficult undertaking and hard for people to visualize,” he said.

Holder, Garver’s Director of Enterprise Solutions, realized then that there had to be an easier way — clients needed the ability to visualize their programs from both a schedule and budgetary standpoint. Municipalities needed a better way to manage programs designed to provide citizens with improved transportation systems, vibrant parks, libraries, and police stations.

Garver’s Project Controls Team — which helps infrastructure programs stay on track, on time, and on budget — has now developed a way for clients to do just that for capital improvement or bond program planning. Garver Project Controls Leader Matt Bezanson and his team came up with an inventive use of familiar software that tracks Capital Improvement Programs (CIPs) and bond programs to put clients in the driver’s seat. They accomplished this by tapping into the clients’ own data and allowing them to see instantly how changes could impact the entire program.

"The infrastructure industry in general is starving for innovation… I think there’s a lot of opportunity in being able to draw different insights from the data that exists."

Matt Bezanson

Project Controls Leader

“The infrastructure industry in general is starving for innovation in many different areas,” said Bezanson, who has almost two decades of experience in design and construction management of major public works projects. “There’s no lack of data that’s available, and there’s a lot of opportunity in being able to draw different insights from the data that exists.”

The traditional process for such programs could take months, while this tool hits fast forward on arriving at an optimized solution. Programs often require a challenging level of coordination to accurately estimate project costs, schedules, and funding sources. The innovative Planning Tool Garver developed helps clients build, modify, and optimize their own programs through a simple, straightforward interface.

“The beauty of it,” said Bezanson, “is it ties into all their existing databases, so you could have five different data sources, be that spreadsheets or whatever form of documentation available feeding into the tool. It pulls all the information they need into one place, so that everybody’s looking at the same thing.”

Project Controls BI Portal

In addition to being fully customizable, intuitive, and simple to manipulate, this platform requires minimal training and can be up and running in a short period of time. Clients can access this dashboard on their own time — such as when an idea pops into their head outside of the office — and they can use the tool to quickly understand the impact rather than coordinating discussions that could take up valuable time.

“Where this tool really starts to shine, is when it gives you the ability to do a lot of ‘what if’ scenarios,” Holder said. “This allows you to develop a well-thought-out plan you can take to administration that makes you look really good.”

Perhaps of greatest importance, this platform helps clients better understand what the data is telling them.

“In a nutshell,” said Garver Project Controls Business Analytics Team Leader Zach Ashburn, “it’s tapping into the data that you already have, and it’s pulling out the insights that you really want. It’s doing this through a simple online platform that’s easy to use — with live data and live feedback — so you can make quick decisions on real, reliable data.”

As funding has increased from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which will dedicate billions to transportation, aviation, and water projects over the next five years, so too has interest in these tools.

At the same time, however, purchasing power is being eroded by increasing inflation — meaning CIPs, bond programs, and other complex programs with many stakeholders will inevitably be affected. This tool helps simplify program planning during challenging times.

“We think this is a big step forward for innovation and our clients,” said Bezanson. “CIPs and bond programs are where the rubber meets the road for our clients too, and we want to help them get more bang for their buck.”

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