2020 Impact Awards: Water Quality Sample Monitoring (WQSM) Project Team

This year, we received 33 team nominations totaling 222 individuals. Nominators took the time to tell us about their amazing SFPUC colleagues and partners. They thoughtfully shared with us why they nominated these impactful teams. Their written nominations also give us a view into other departments and areas we may not be familiar with. We hope reading the written nominations will inspire you as much as they did us.

Congratulations to all the team members of the Water Quality Sample Monitoring (WQSM) Project. This was a result of collaboration from Water Quality Division (Water Enterprise) and Information Technology Services or ITS (Business Services). Thank you for being innovators and having such a profound impact at SFPUC! 

Award: Organizational Excellence

ITS Team Members: Lawrence Chew, Raman Virk, Dejie Yang

Water Quality Team Members: Eric K. Chez, Ivy Estacio, Roselle Ferrer, Roberto Gonzales, Jin He, Richard B. Hernandez, Alex Liu, Weldon Ng, Kenneth Payne, Shailen Talati, Monica L. Zhang

Nominator: Andrew DeGraca

It’s my pleasure to commend and nominate the Water Quality Division (WQD) and Information Technology Service (ITS) Bureau cross-functional team that has demonstrated exemplary achievement by implementing a highly successful project that supports the SFPUC’s Mission to provide our customers with high quality water while aligning with SFPUC values and strategic goals of reliable service and assets with organizational excellence.

The team took proactive initiatives in conceiving creative ideas to replace the traditional manual data entry process that relied on tens of thousands of paper forms, phone calls and notes to an automated workflow process to accomplish daily sampling tasks. The concepts turned into reality in 2019 with extraordinary team efforts to spearhead the planning to production deployment of the customized web-based Water Quality Sample Monitoring (WQSM) regulatory software application project that meets complex site-specific sampling requirements. The WQSM is now a groundbreaking innovative SFPUC application that serves as a model to utilities across the country.

The WQSM has made a remarkable positive impact on SFPUC’s 24×7 sample monitoring program, which provides readily accessible real time WQ sampling data, and enables speedy response time to customer complaints or other remedial actions to supply high quality water. The WQSM desktop/mobile app provides the ability to manage the program throughout the SFPUC water system from Hetch Hetchy through the City of San Francisco, complying with drinking water regulations and optimizing the water treatment process operations. The Built-in LIMS (Laboratory Information Management System) interface and GPS capability in WQSM immensely help with automated scheduling of WQD staff and reliable navigation to any of the 300+ regulatory sample sites. These features make the WQSM a highly value-added asset that contributes to SFPUC strategic goals of providing reliable service and value to our customers.

Overall, the WQSM is very effective in providing high level of transparency, accuracy, reliability, efficiency and accountability of tens of thousands of annual WQ sample collections. It eliminates the need to generate and file over 100,000 annual legal paper records, which promotes SFPUC’s drive for paperless and cost-effectiveness. It gives directions for the staff to sampling sites for safe reliable error-free timely sample collection, chemical analysis and mobile field data entry. It also ensures that samples are not missed and are collected at the correct sites with functionalities such as built-in bar codes, samples traceability, alerts and notification with validation features, and automated reporting tools. These aspects contribute to SFPUC strategic goals of organizational excellence.

The WQSM implementation was possible with noteworthy contribution of the highly dedicated team, led by Shailen Talati, Project Manager, Kenneth Payne, Application business owner, and Raman Virk, ITS Project Lead. The team diligently worked to prepare the project scope, select an international software developer through a competitive bidding process, and collaborated with the developer to fill important gaps in understanding of the complex business requirements and user interface. Team members worked over time, shifted work schedules, and worked at odd hours to adapt to the developer’s 13-hour time zone difference for telecons and to ensure a smooth transition between different project phases. The team members took initiatives to review documents and provide comments to the developer as late as 11 PM or early morning outside the regular work hours to meet the deliverables deadlines and schedule. They exhibited stellar teamwork and were organized despite the transglobal dynamics, while operating with maximum efficiency and effectiveness.

Even though application development is outside the scope of WQD staff’s core expertise, they gracefully built upon the knowledge with eagerness to learn, supporting each other with mutual trust and respect, and consulting with ITS staff to analyze business needs in a true spirit of the team work. They displayed open communication skills and worked cohesively with an upbeat and positive attitude, which was unwavering in times when the work seemed overwhelming. They embraced working with a very diverse project team (professions, organizational level, ethnicities…). The team also demonstrated inclusiveness by collaborating with the stakeholders to solicit their feedback to make the application user-friendly and implemented additional features for continuous improvement that required astute negotiating skills with the developer.

The team exhibited commitment to serve with reliability and high productivity, and successfully overcame many challenges faced during the WQSM project life cycle. On top of the regular operational duties, each team member reached above and beyond to take up the challenge of successful WQSM implementation by displaying superb motivation, commitment and dedication while working tirelessly during all project phases. The team felt proud and valued for this project opportunity. Here are a few noteworthy quotes the team received from the WQSM users:

“WQSM is pretty cool! Makes life easier with the mobile app like having a computer in hand with entering and retrieving information when it syncs with LIMS and database and not carrying bulky binders around anymore.”

“WQSM app makes it very convenient to schedule sampling runs. Vacations, employee trainings, employee availability and run frequencies are already integrated into the application so I don’t need to look at 3 or 4 separate calendars when scheduling. The mobile app makes it easy to check the status of each run as the run status is updated in real time. I also like the notifications for out of range field parameters on the mobile application. Directions to the sites are also very useful to me.”