APWA InfoLink: Providing benefits and opportunities for members

Editor's Note: The following interview was conducted with Larry Lux, who last year was appointed to APWA's Board of Directors as the Director-at-Large, Public Works Management and Leadership.

Lux is President of Lux Advisors, Ltd., a municipal consulting firm with offices in Plainfield, Illinois. He has been involved in APWA activities for more than 35 years, and has participated on the Emergency Management Committee, Strategic Planning Committee, and Leadership and Management Committee. He is presently serving on the Steering Committee for APWA InfoLink, the subject of this interview.

What are the benefits of APWA InfoLink for our members?

APWA InfoLink will provide a number of benefits. It is going to be a great management tool for our members, not only to allow them to be more efficient, but to make their jobs easier as well. APWA InfoLink is the association's venture into the e-commerce business, and there is great potential if we can get it developed in the right direction. I'm confident that this program has great potential for the short and long term.

Another benefit of APWA InfoLink, and as a board member almost equally as important, is that it is a potential source of substantial revenue and can take some of the burden of support for the association off the backs of the membership. Right now, the overwhelming majority of the revenue for APWA comes from two sources: members' dues and Congress. Either one of these is volatile and subject to the influences of the marketplace and the political situation around the country.

APWA InfoLink presents the opportunity to have an ongoing revenue stream to help offset some of these revenue peaks and valleys that can happen with membership and Congress. We've enjoyed great success with membership and Congress, and I expect that we will continue to. But we also have to look for other ways to help support the organization so that we can provide better and more improved services to the membership on an ongoing, sustained basis. APWA InfoLink is the first thing that I've seen that gives us an opportunity to provide huge benefits to our members as well as an opportunity to increase our revenue. That's why I'm so excited about it.

As I've learned more about APWA InfoLink and the IZOIC corporation (www.izoic.com), our business partner in this venture, I am very impressed with what IZOIC is doing. The business partnership between APWA and IZOIC is a true joint venture, and as APWA InfoLink is successful, the more will come back to us in terms of programs, products, and services. I see that as a great opportunity that we can't afford to miss. We won't be successful unless our membership and leadership are deeply committed to it, and that is one of the things the Steering Committee is trying to accomplish.

I believe we all see the potential that the Internet offers us in our careers and in business. But very few of us-myself included-are really up to speed on how it can help us with our daily work. In learning about the IZOIC philosophy and concept, I have a better understanding of it. I'm not going to claim that I'm an expert, because I'm certainly not. But because I come from both a public works and a consulting background, I see where the products that can be developed by APWA and IZOIC for our members can be of great benefit to us immediately and in the future as we all get more comfortable with doing business on the Internet. Doing business electronically is going to be a big hurdle for a lot of us to get over, just because it is so technologically advanced for many of us old timers.

You're anxious, then, for members to get involved in defining and developing APWA InfoLink applications.

Absolutely. I don't miss an opportunity to talk about APWA InfoLink and the potential it has for the reasons I've mentioned. As a board member, it is my obligation to look out for the financial welfare of the association, and to make sure that the members get good value and benefit from their membership. This is one major element in achieving both of those goals.

Plus, one of the major goals of our Strategic Plan-which the membership made very clear to the board that they wanted-is for APWA to be the gateway for education and the exchange of knowledge. This certainly adds a sophisticated electronic element to our existing solid foundation.

Credit should be given to the Kansas City Metro Chapter for their contributions in conducting the pilot program that led to this project. They did a yeoman's job of it, provided a great deal of positive input, and made it possible for us to do some of the things that we've accomplished so far.

I've heard the terms "genesis group" and "strike team" in connection with APWA InfoLink. What are they?

Our first objective is to bring together what we have called a "genesis" group, consisting of leaders who have a high level of interest in the program. We will form the group based on the response that we had at last year's Congress, from individual contacts that have been made with APWA and IZOIC, and from IZOIC's existing customer base. These people will be recognized public works leaders and potential users from around the country.

The genesis group will give the Steering Committee and both APWA and IZOIC the information we need as to what products are going to have the best potential for rewards and benefits to the membership. Once that information has been identified, we are going to identify "strike teams" of experts in those particular areas. For the sake of argument, let's say that two items that are identified involve a nationwide productivity database and an on-line fleet management system. We will then seek out the leaders who are the recognized experts in those specific areas to work with us and to actually develop the program. These teams would also most likely be used as the beta test sites for describing public works processes that IZOIC's software developers will write and our members will test before they go to market.

So, recognized leaders in the genesis group will provide us the direction we need in developing the programs and prioritizing program development, and then the strike teams will help with the development of each specific priority item.

Were you pleased with the turnout at the APWA InfoLink booth at last year's Congress?

I was extremely excited about the success of the booth at Congress. I spent a good deal of time on the floor last year, not only at that booth but at other booths, and that was the booth with the most people flocking to it. The people from IZOIC were very excited at the level of knowledge that was out there as well as the volume of interest that was demonstrated at Congress. I would expect there to be twice as much interest at this year's Congress due to the word on the street and the amount of conversation that I heard afterwards.

Sooner or later I suspect that every member is going to see that there is some service or product available through APWA InfoLink that is of great value and worth investing their time, money, and effort into acquiring. Each product that is developed won't be for everybody, but the real appeal is that there will be applications that meet everyone's needs. Every community out there has different needs and different priorities. Most of the systems that are currently available are proprietary systems that are available only for purchase. The whole concept of APWA InfoLink is different. You don't have to buy the software; you can if you choose to. We are discussing the possibility of setting this up with a pricing structure that allows a per-contact basis to pay; in other words, almost setting up your own deal as to how you want to use and pay for the services. That would make it possible for even the smallest and the most financially restrictive community to have access to this huge series of programs at an affordable cost.

When I was a public works director of a small community, it would have been wonderful to have had something like this. Even though I didn't have a lot of money to spend, I could have found a way to buy or have access to information that would have made my job much easier and allowed me to serve my agency better.

How can members participate if they're interested?

Anyone who is interested in becoming a part of the genesis group or strike teams, or would like to share some of their knowledge with us, should contact either Peter King, APWA Executive Director, or myself. Soon, an APWA InfoLink Program Manager will be on board the APWA staff and will be the direct contact for APWA members for questions about APWA InfoLink.

Some of the alliances that IZOIC has developed with industry are fantastic, including alliances with Cinergy, 3M, AutoDesk, and Geographic Data Technology, Inc. (GDT). The IZOIC folks are the experts in the development of the products themselves. We have that part of the puzzle complete; our challenge now is to work on our part of the puzzle.

For information regarding the APWA InfoLink genesis group or strike teams, please contact Peter King, APWA Executive Director, at 202-408-9541 or pking@apwa.net; Dick Kuykendall, Vice President Strategic Marketing for IZOIC, Inc., at 303-378-9477 or rkuykendall@izoic.com; or Larry Lux, President of Lux Advisors, Ltd., at 815-886-6909 or llux@westerncom.net. All three are members of the APWA InfoLink Steering Committee.

For a tour of the APWA InfoLink site, go to www.apwa-infolink.com. Or, from the home page of APWA's newly-revised web site, click on "Resource Center."