A Sea of Change:
Managing Business Continuity in a
As COVID-19 continues, businesses are faced with an unprecedented amount of change. Many organizations have business continuity plans in place that have allowed them to adapt quickly to this dynamic environment, including technology solutions that support continued collaboration among remote users. Others are faced with challenges, and many of our clients’ investments in business continuity are being put to the test. Workflow disruptions have occurred as they are adjusting operations to support a remote workforce.
VHB is partnering with our clients to understand these disruptions, share best practices, and create services and new applications to support ongoing operations. We are building, developing, and testing break-through strategies that create organizational efficiencies and enhance productivity to keep important processes and projects moving forward.
Increasing Organizational Effectiveness and Efficiencies
Challenges to organizational processes and programs often occur with remote teams who are reliant on data from multiple sources. A key concern is how to maintain the functionality of a remote team who oversees important programs, such as stormwater management. VHB designed a permit tracking system for a state agency that captures key data and monitors the critical path—tracking new permit applications, reviews, compliance, and approvals. This new application can be accessed through a web browser and allows multiple users, within and outside the agency, to simultaneously access new permit applications and monitor the applications’ movement through the approvals process.
This new system is streamlining workflow and making certain that a critical system and process can be maintained effectively with a remote workforce. Key information is uploaded via web forms and a wizard guides users through a sequence of dialog boxes, as well as a seven-step application process, to confirm the quality of the information. Once complete, queries can be run to summarize the applications’ status and permitting specialists can concentrate on the requirements necessary to advance the application to the next phase in the process.
The new technology has created operational efficiencies by reducing the amount of time spent inputting, retrieving and compiling information. Prior to the development of this system, the agency relied on a manual process and a Microsoft Access database that could not be run remotely through a Virtual Private Network (VPN). This technology has also increased transparency. Consultants can log into the system to track their application status in real-time. The organization has now shifted their focus to compliance to make certain that applicants are meeting environmental, state and federal regulations. Future build outs of this new tool will include platforms to improve communication to stakeholders on important regulations.
SThe New York State Historic Preservation Office (NY SHPO) partnered with VHB to create organizational efficiencies through the development of a web-based mobile data collection system to manage their myriad of programs from remote locations. This new state-of the-art application streamlined internal processes, improved communication with stakeholders, increased accessibility to data, and reduced the dependency on paper files and submissions. The new system, New York Cultural Resource Information System (CRIS), enables NY SHPO to effectively administer historic preservation programs, including the Statewide Historic Resources Survey, the New York State and National Register of Historic Places, the federal historic rehabilitation tax credit, and the state and federal environmental review.
CRIS is an interactive and mobile-friendly application that can be used in the field. The system leverages Esri’s Survey 123 to collect building data and uses Esri’s ArcGIS Online (AGO) platform for storage, management, and analysis of building surveys. The application is available to authorized consultants and partners who use the tool to collect and submit data, as well as interact digitally with SHPO staff. This application has streamlined workflow and enhanced productivity.
Submitting, storing, analyzing, and managing incoming building surveys is made faster, more efficient, and incredibly flexible with CRIS.
Driving Innovative Processes
Communities are struggling to advance critical investments—developments and infrastructure projects—that support economic vitality. Many projects are experiencing major delays in the development review process due to an inability to secure real-time traffic data necessary to assess transportation impacts. COVID-19 has resulted in states issuing mandatory stay-at-home orders and this, in turn, has impacted traffic flows and analyses. Since traffic data is crucial to the review and approvals process, VHB is leading the development of an innovative approach to analyzing traffic data to keep the permitting process moving forward and critical investments on track. We are investing in a technological solution which will enable the use of historical data sets to model future traffic flows. Currently, probe data sets are being tested and we are developing innovative methods to leverage the data to predict traffic counts where they don’t exist and model the effects of change on proposed improvements. For example, we will soon be able to simulate traffic counts and turning movements for a proposed real estate development and assess the impacts and mitigation measures, including signals, roadways, turn lanes or public realm improvements necessary for the development plan to be approved, enabling the project to move from permitting to design to construction.
Securing Assets & Maintaining Employee Safety
Our work environment is dynamic. Federal, state and local governments are contemplating the lift in Coronavirus restrictions and developing plans to reopen economies. To aid in this transition, VHB is developing a new application which will enable businesses to more effectively manage their assets and keep employees safe.
Our Business Continuance Tracker will provide managers with key information about their offices, across multiple geographies, and facilitate decision-making. Office managers and employees will login to their company’s portal and access dashboards, which communicate information on the number of employees working in the office, from home or off-site in the field. If employees are working in the field, it will walk them through a series of health and safety procedures to confirm they are following best practices. It will also track wellness, the health and safety of employees in a certain office, monitoring COVID-19 cases and/or employees and/or families that may be symptomatic.
Facilities dashboards will enable management teams to assess a location’s security and determine whether an office or site should remain closed or open. Different parts of the United States are experiencing varying levels of the COVID-19 disease and managers will be able assess risk exposure. The application pulls current data from the CDC – cases, data and surveillance on the Coronavirus, as well as data from counties and municipalities, enabling managers to monitor trends in different communities. Facilities will also be able to track office supplies, including personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep employees safe. Designed for ease of use, the Business Continuance Tracker is available as a mobile application that is accessible while working from home, in the field or within an office. Varying levels of security are built into the site to give managers and employees access to key data that provide a safe and secure environment for all employees.
VHB’s Business Continuance Tracker will provide key office and employee information to help facilitate decision-making around site security, safety, and health issues.
VHB’s Construction Health & Safety white paper examines how updating H&S Plans to include COVID-19 procedures helps protect our employees, job sites, and communities—and keeps projects moving.
To make certain our clients and teams have access to software applications that do not work well on an Internet or VPN, such as Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS), VHB is testing Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). VDI allows remote users to operate more efficiently and access applications and their files from any location across a variety of devices, including an iPhone, iPad, or a laptop computer. Since all the processing will be done on the host server, VDI will help minimize investments in hardware, software and bandwidth; make troubleshooting easier; and help secure and manage data seamlessly in a virtual environment.
How VHB Can Help
During this uncertain, and constantly evolving, time, VHB is helping our clients create organizational efficiencies, improving workflow, increasing productivity, and keeping operations moving. Our team will continue to provide periodic updates, share best practices, and engage our client community so we can stay connected and navigate changes together. Is your organization dealing with disruptions? We can help! Connect with Steve Anderson, GISP, Director of Applied Technologies.