As part of its mission to enhance the safety and efficiency of Mississippi’s highways, the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) collects vast amounts of data about accident trends and roadwork projects. Because this data is spread across multiple sources, MDOT needed a solution that would empower its employees to find and share information more easily so they can identify trends, develop strategies, connect with colleagues, and reduce decision cycles. MDOT uses Microsoft FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint to help people find information across disparate sources, and it uses Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 to analyze traffic accidents and evaluate the agency’s safety initiatives. Now, MDOT can make more effective use of its employees’ knowledge and experience to develop policy and funding priorities that will enhance transportation safety in Mississippi.
The Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) plans, designs, and manages the construction and maintenance of the state’s transportation infrastructure, which includes more than 13,000 lane miles of state highways. MDOT carries out major civil engineering projects, manages complex environmental analyses, conducts transportation-safety research, and directs public-education campaigns.
The agency maintains a robust IT infrastructure to provide network support for the agency and its 100 field offices throughout the state. Decision makers at MDOT understood that the agency could help identify challenges and opportunities by tapping into the vast amounts of enterprise content that it collects. Some of the information was in structured reports, spreadsheets, and systems, but much of the information resided in unstructured documents, presentations, and communications. Analysts at MDOT found it difficult to correlate specific agency initiatives with improved transportation safety or efficiency from these disparate data sources.
||Information workers need business knowledge and facts to inform their strategy development and decision making. We wanted to tap into the value in our human assets and really use their on-the-ground knowledge.
Chief Technology Officer, Mississippi Department of Transportation
The agency used a content management solution, but the technology was outdated and inefficient, with limited functionality. This made it difficult for employees to find and analyze data, and it required significant time and effort from IT staff to produce reports. Because the agency lacked an efficient way to integrate information from different sources, it could not always support strategic decision making.
Employees relied on existing relationships and e-mail to find colleagues who had the expertise and information, such as a project report, a vendor contract, or a safety analysis, that could help drive success. People often spent hours or even days to find the information they were looking for.
In the Traffic Engineering Division, a few experts had become unofficial custodians for information related to accident statistics and other division responsibilities. Requests for information often distracted them from higher-value tasks, and it was difficult for other engineers to collect the data they needed. MDOT wanted to make it easier for people to find and share information, expertise, and best practices across programs and projects.
“Information workers need business knowledge and facts to inform their strategy development and decision making,” says John Simpson, Chief Technology Officer at the Mississippi Department of Transportation. “We wanted to tap into the value in our human assets and really use their on-the-ground knowledge.”
Most importantly, the agency wanted to more effectively analyze how well its programs affected transportation safety. That way, MDOT could drive policy and spending decisions that would have the most impact on reducing accidents.
By empowering employees to become more analytical, MDOT hoped to more easily identify trends, reduce decision cycles, and recognize and take advantage of opportunities to reduce costs. Ultimately, decision makers at MDOT understood that if employees could more easily find and share business knowledge, then the agency could more effectively enhance transportation efficiency and reduce accidents and fatalities on Mississippi’s highways.
After evaluating content management systems from IBM, EMC, Oracle, and OpenText, as well as search solutions from Endeca and Google, MDOT selected Microsoft FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint to provide agency stakeholders and analysts with tools to search across multiple data sources. The agency chose Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 to deliver the insight necessary to make informed decisions that will focus agency effort and spending where it can be most effective.
MDOT determined that SharePoint Server 2010 offered more value than the competing solutions because it offers the combination of robust search, data analysis, and collaboration tools that the agency needed to make more effective use of its business content. In addition, the agency could deploy and scale the SharePoint Server 2010 environment throughout the organization as its requirements and capacity evolved. Because MDOT could deploy the Microsoft solution without having to migrate all of its content and merge its different data sources at once, it would minimize disruptions in its operations.
Drive Policy with Better Data
MDOT used SharePoint Server 2010 and Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 data management software to develop a business intelligence portal that the Traffic Engineering Division can use to integrate information from various areas of the agency and other parts of State government to track accident statistics and correlate them to factors such as location, demographics, road design and maintenance, or MDOT safety-outreach programs.
Traffic safety engineers use technologies like Excel Services in SharePoint Server 2010 to create and share analytical workbooks and Visio Services in SharePoint Server 2010 to present data with diagrams, charts, and graphs. With PerformancePoint Services in SharePoint Server 2010, engineers can use interactive dashboards and graphic representations of data from different sources to analyze complex accident data, such as speed, road surface, vehicle types, or seat-belt usage. They can identify trends, generate and evaluate key performance indicators for the agency’s maintenance and safety programs, and develop new strategies.
For example, MDOT used the portal to illustrate that drivers veering off the right side of two-lane highways resulted in the largest number of fatal accidents in the state, and that this type of fatal accident had been decreasing over a two-year period, coinciding with the installation of “rumble strips” along many Mississippi highways. Rumble strips, when rolled over by a car’s tires, create a distinct vibration and rumble that alerts drivers that they are approaching the road edge.
While the safety advantages of rumble strips may seem intuitive, MDOT can tie specific agency initiatives to improve-ments in safety on the road by turning intuition into insights that can be acted on. When the agency presents this kind of information to the Mississippi Transportation Commission or the legislature, it can help drive more-informed, effective policy and funding priorities that will ultimately reduce accidents, injuries, and fatalities.
“MDOT set up key performance measures for installing a certain amount of rumble strips each quarter,” says Simpson. “And the rumble strips findings made a much more effective presentation to legislators, helping us line up funding for a proposed program to install a minimum number of miles of rumble strips per year along all two-lane highways in Mississippi, which will continue to reduce fatalities.”
Find Data Across Multiple Sources
With FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint, MDOT employees and stakeholders can search for content and people across multiple sources both inside and outside of SharePoint Server 2010, such as databases, file shares, Web sites, and the agency’s previous Office SharePoint Server 2007 content. (Figure 1). For example, MDOT developed an intranet portal for the Mississippi Transportation Commission where commission staff and agency stakeholders can search for the information they need to drive meeting agendas or implement commission decisions.
|Figure 1 - MDOT built a search feature that enables all MDOT employees and stakeholders to search for |
content and people across multiple sources, both inside and outside of SharePoint Server 2010.
With FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint, MDOT was able to customize its solution to make it easy for employees to find the information they need. Using the advanced content processing capabilities in FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint, MDOT was able to incorporate its own unique vocabulary into the search experience. Employees now can refine their search results by project, county, meeting date, document type, and author. Additional custom refiners can easily be added as needed. MDOT also used the relevancy tuning capabilities in FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint to optimize the relevance model and create additional relevance profiles that employees can use to sort results according to their specific search needs.
Scale into the Future
MDOT also used SharePoint Server 2010 to develop a public-facing Web site that shares the results of the agency’s accident analyses and showcases MDOT safety initiatives. The agency has already begun the process of converting their current repository of over 13 million documents to SharePoint Server 2010 using the Remote BLOB Storage add-on for SQL Server 2008.
The agency intends to incorporate FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint throughout the enterprise network; in future phases of the deployment, MDOT will expand its business intelligence portal to other agency processes, such as construction, maintenance, and Right-of-Way parcel tracking. “The business intelligence portal will really deliver when we can use it across all our business functions,” says Simpson. “When we can seamlessly combine safety data with construction data and correlate different programs, we can really begin to layer them together to see trends.”
Employees at MDOT can now work together more effectively to share information and find the right resources and expertise, which has resulted in increased operational efficiency and reduced costs for the agency. Most importantly, by making it easier to organize, search, and analyze its enterprise content, MDOT can use its business knowledge to influence program and policy decisions that will help enhance transportation safety in Mississippi.
More Effective Decision Making, Better Collaboration
Without an efficient search tool, people at MDOT relied on existing relationships or data custodians to find information and knowledge, which often took too long or proved unsuccessful. Now, MDOT employees can discover and access the right documents, people, and expertise to help them make more informed decisions.
||With SharePoint Server 2010, we are becoming an analytical, self-aware organization with the agility to see around the corner and spot developing trends.
Chief Technology Officer, Mississippi Department of Transportation
“People have knowledge, and now when we perform a search, we can find it,” says Simpson. “With SharePoint Server 2010, we are becoming an analytical, self-aware organization with the agility to see around the corner and spot developing trends. We can also develop proactive strategies to exploit opportunities or mitigate risks.”
Instead of relying on a few experts to manage important data, MDOT has democratized access to information across the agency, making it easier for people to find specific information or documents and work together to replicate success. “An engineer at one end of the state working on a bridge project can search that bridge design and find another engineer who has worked on the same design,” says Simpson. “All of a sudden, those two are talking, and we are using our human resources far more effectively.”
Increased Efficiency, Reduced Costs
Traffic engineers and other MDOT employees can now search multiple data sources quickly and efficiently to find trends in accident statistics and reduce the time it takes to produce safety analyses. Engineers can quickly provide answers to queries from MDOT management, the Mississippi Transportation Commission, or the legislature to help accelerate decision cycles. On the Mississippi Transportation Commission intranet, project engineers and MDOT managers will have instant access to Commission decisions, minimizing delays in agency initiatives.
The agency will also find it easier to comply with federal reporting mandates and better prioritize a construction budget of U.S.$700 million. MDOT employees can use FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint to quickly find specific items that might have taken hours or days previously. “We are literally reducing decision cycles from days to minutes for hundreds of overlapping decisions a day,” says Simpson. “With SharePoint Server 2010, we can make better spending decisions and enhance program performance without a very large investment.”
Enhanced Transportation Safety
MDOT can use its new analytical capabilities to identify problems and develop effective safety-improvement strategies. By evaluating all the factors that contribute to accidents, MDOT can influence policies and target funding to address problems and develop initiatives that will help make Mississippi’s roads safer and more efficient—for instance, by accelerating the installation of rumble strips on highways. And by using its Web site to publish accident analyses and educate the public about highway safety, MDOT can promote safer driving and further reduce accident rates.
Simply put, MDOT is more effectively managing the state’s transportation infrastructure, which makes it easier for people to safely travel throughout Mississippi. “We can use SharePoint Server 2010 to see what types of accidents are happening and why,” says Simpson. “Our safety engineers can mine data to determine how road features or other factors may be influencing accident rates in different areas and come up with new safety strategies. We are using our business information to help us save lives.”
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