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By Utility GIS Specialist and Solution Architect for 1Spatial, Phil Francis 

Utility Network is the next evolution in Esri’s GIS (geographical information system) for utilities, introducing a new model that replaces Esri’s Geometric Network model, with support ending in January 2026. Utility Network offers many new features, enabling utilities to maximise their data’s value through a smarter network.  

GIS Specialist and Solution Architect for 1Spatial, Phil Francis shares the top five things to consider before you start your Utility Network journey. 

1. It will be a journey 

Migrating to Utility Network is more than a standard GIS upgrade. Setting correct expectations at all organisational levels is crucial. Utility Network introduces a new model and changes how users view your network and GIS records. It also involves new products, solutions for maintaining records, improved business processes, and re-implementation of existing GIS integrations. 

Despite the complexity, the potential benefits are significant. Articulating these benefits ensures top-level buy-in, support, and budget for this transformative journey. 

2. Understand your target model 

Utility Network offers flexibility in how organisations can model their network. While starting from scratch is possible, it can be daunting. Esri’s ArcGIS Utility Network provides foundation Utility Network models for typical electric, gas, water, stormwater, waste, or telecommunications networks. These models are a good starting point, allowing quick setup with pre-populated data. 

Most utilities will need to customise these foundation models significantly. Decisions on asset modelling impact network visualisation and classification. Changes in asset groups and types may be necessary to match user expectations. Additionally, foundation models often have a North American bias in terminology and structure. 

Regional consortium data models, like those from Danish and Norwegian electric utilities, are emerging. As more AUS utilities consider Utility Network, similar initiatives may develop, offering an AUS equivalent of foundational models. 

3. Future working and challenging the status quo 

A significant benefit of Utility Network is its service-based structure, extending functionality to web and mobile clients. This enables field utility workers to access and update information on the go. Web and mobile clients ensure field operatives can edit data with assurance of validity and integrity. 

Instant updates from the field provide an up-to-the-minute network view, allowing efficient decisions and actions, ultimately improving service delivery. Planning for Utility Network requires openness to new business processes and a vision for mobile field force efficiency. Challenging existing practices will help utilities maximise Utility Network’s benefits to meet future challenges. 

4. Start small, fail quickly and scale through automation 

Utility Network implementation is iterative, allowing organisations to learn what works. While the goal is an enterprise-wide GIS, initial steps involve building and configuring the data model with ArcGIS Pro and file geodatabases. This is sufficient for trials and validation. 

As confidence grows, cloud-based ArcGIS Enterprise instances can be quickly and cost-effectively set up. Proof-of-concept exercises and model office prototypes are essential for feedback and support building. 

This iterative approach emphasises the need for automation tools to manage model building, configuration, data translation, migration and data cleansing. Tools like Safe Software’s FME and 1Integrate are invaluable for scalable, repeatable processes. 

5. Understand your current ‘now’ 

A thorough understanding of your current system is crucial. This includes your data model, data quality issues, business processes, and GIS integrations. 

A good grasp of your current network model, data quality and system documentation simplifies the migration to Utility Network, making it cheaper and easier. This understanding aids in better decision-making during the transition. 

For example, 1Spatial’s Data Readiness Assessments involve data profiling to identify legacy fields and unused attributes, ensuring only necessary attributes are modelled in the new system. This process helps identify challenges and prepare for them, sometimes revealing supplementary GIS data sources and new users or consumers of GIS data. 

In some cases, such discovery activities have even strengthened business cases by uncovering additional value. 

To learn more, watch 1Spatial’s on-demand three-part series on understanding the requirements to assist you in your migration. 

  1. Utility Network Migration | 1Spatial 
  2. Boost the confidence in your data: validate before you migrate | 1Spatial 
  3. Top tools to consider when moving to the ArcGIS Utility Network | 1Spatial 

©2024 Utility Magazine. All rights reserved

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