As a wave of older workers retire from public service careers, the loss of critical institutional knowledge in the water and wastewater sector is a well-known concern. Institutional knowledge or memory is the collection of unwritten, decentralized information related to an organization’s history, relationships, processes, and assets accumulated over time. Smaller organizations are more prone to the impacts of institutional knowledge loss because they have fewer workers. Organizations that fail to capture critical operational information face costly repercussions. Small water systems serving fewer than 10,000 residents comprise 97% of all U.S. water systems. For most of these organizations, the threat of institutional knowledge loss is great.
Cloud platforms and the move towards digital transformation can play an important role in safeguarding organizations against the impacts of institutional knowledge loss by maintaining critical system data in a centralized and secure environment.
Creating a More Resilient Water Community
The recent Water 2050 Report by the American Water Works Association (AWWA) lays out challenges the water community faces around sustainability, access, and affordability, many of which point to technology for solutions. “Success of the water community,” the report says, “will be dependent, in part, on the adoption and advancement of new technologies.” AWWA also predicts the need for updated skill sets and reimagined roles. “The irreplaceable knowledge of experienced water professionals must be captured and leveraged,” AWWA says, “to assure that efficiency does not compromise safety, resiliency, or sustainability.”
Elevating Data to the Cloud
Cloud platforms help capture and retain institutional knowledge to meet the demands of the future by managing data across a multi generational workforce. Cloud-based SCADA systems are emerging as a future-ready alternative to outdated “local only” control systems. Truly cloud-based SCADA systems, not simply cloud storage systems, contain a system’s full range of vital operational information, including control narratives, P&ID schematics, asset management data, compliance records, trend reports, user access records, as well as an historian for operating data. This is made possible through remote cloud servers hosted by a third-party provider, as opposed to an on premises server.
Traditional knowledge transfer methods like printed manuals can be inefficient and error-prone. With the cloud, water service providers can store documents, best practices, and procedures in a structured and accessible format.
Cloud infrastructure allows organizations to quickly access their information through simple search functions from any location. This cloud-based search can include third-party repositories, giving workers the largest amount of relevant data, a critical resource when employees leave or retire. Colleagues can quickly locate key information essential to their jobs and ensure critical information is accessible to the right people. This reduces the learning curve and minimizes disruptions for new workers.
Cloud-based SCADA software improves knowledge flow through tools that enhance collaboration among workers. Internal teams can share insights, solve problems, and document processes and experiences. Workers can interact, learn from each other, and seek guidance, capturing knowledge that might otherwise get missed.
Enhancing Security and Disaster Recovery
Preserving institutional knowledge doesn’t mean compromising security. Most leading cloud providers offer robust security features, including access controls, encryption, and authentication features. This ensures data is accessible only by designated employees.
Leveraging the inherent redundancy of cloud platforms to house core operations, as well as data, can strengthen an organization’s disaster recovery and business continuity strategies. Cloud platforms offer redundancy in the form of multiple databases housed on separate cloud servers. In the event of data loss or physical disaster, information in the cloud remains safe and can be quickly recovered, minimizing operational impact and downtime.
Reinventing SCADA Architecture
XiO believes the key to protecting institutional knowledge is through digital transformation by leveraging the power of the cloud. XiO’s ACUITY Hub operations management software organizes and displays data so water agency employees and managers can identify problems and take action quickly. XiO’s cloud-based system enables telework, provides security from cyber threats, and offers resilience during natural disasters.