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St. Pete digitally transforms infrastructure processes

Mark Parker

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Balaji Sreenivasan, founder and CEO of Aurigo, explained the many benefits a new partnership with St. Petersburg provides for the city and residents. Photo provided.

An innovative, cloud-based enterprise software provider recently announced a partnership with St. Petersburg to help manage the city’s largest capital improvement budget in history.

Founded 15 years ago, Austin-based Aurigo Software bills itself as America’s leading capital planning and construction management service. According to its website, the company oversees 40,000 capital projects representing $300 billion in value through its Masterworks Cloud product.

Masterworks is an integrated enterprise software suite for planning, building and managing large capital assets, infrastructure and facilities. Aurigo’s flagship platform automates every phase of the plan-build-maintain-operate lifecycle while bringing together internal and external stakeholders to promote transparency and public accountability.

“Basically, our vision is to build a better tomorrow,” said founder and CEO Balaji Sreenivasan.

“We help owners of large infrastructure programs plan with confidence and build with quality.”

Sreenivasan said outdated planning and building software leads to prioritization problems, inaccurate cash flows and construction delays. He added that most capital improvement issues result from a lack of data and integration support.

Masterworks, said Sreenivasan, streamlines a project’s entire lifecycle and helps owners – especially cities, counties and states – develop prioritization and capital funding strategies to execute projects on time and under budget.

“These are the two primary tenets of our entire business – we help them plan, and we help them build.”

Sreenivasan noted St. Petersburg’s evolution over the last several years, with a significant increase in developments, new residents and tourists. Like most similarly sized areas in the country also experiencing tremendous growth, he said the city’s outdated management systems from the late ‘90s and early 2000s cannot keep up with an influx of new funding.

In May, Mayor Ken Welch presented his first municipal budget that included $114.46 million in capital improvement projects (CIP). According to Aurigo’s release, St. Petersburg is delivering the largest capital budget in its history to upgrade water and wastewater systems, improve parking downtown and sustain the Complete Streets initiative.

In addition, federal funding is pouring into local projects following the passing of 2021’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Sreenivasan said places are now “getting monies that they never anticipated.”

“Their data archiving system – they’re using Microsoft Excel, they’re using standalone applications to manage capital funds and their projects,” he said.

“And all of a sudden, when you have a humongous amount of money flowing, you need more sophisticated systems and data retrieval access applications they can use to plan and build these sorts of projects.”

Sreenivasan said St. Petersburg chose Aurigo to support increased investments in infrastructure assets, revitalization projects and repairs earlier this year, following a request for proposal (RFP) process with five or six applicants. In addition to the aforementioned benefits, Aurigo claims its Masterworks Cloud software saves customers an average of 5% on CIP budgets.

That projects a savings of $5.72 million when applied to the city’s projected CIP budget.

According to Aurigo’s website, the Tampa Bay Water District – which serves nearly 2.5 million residents – also partners with the company to manage a $255 million capital budget. In addition to St. Pete, Aurigo announced new contracts with Colorado Springs and Pearland, Texas.

Sreenivasan explained that in the early 2000s, administrations would choose a different planning and management product for each application. This required training limited staff on a “mishmash” of unintegrated systems.

“So, a big problem that the City of St. Pete had was a duplication of data,” said Srinivasan. “The same data had to be entered in 10 different spots for the same user.”

Sreenivasan said he sees a similar growth trend between Austin and St. Petersburg.

Further explaining the platform’s benefits, Sreenivasan said fire and safety officials could seek construction site data to avoid those locations when responding to emergency calls. They would pull information from geographic information systems (GIS) with no correlation to the project’s current status.

He said that leads to inefficiencies and inaccurate data, while Masterworks provides a ubiquitous tool for every city department to work together. The platform integrates with existing applications, removing errors and updating information in the process.

Sreenivasan added that Masterworks also pushes data into a citizen portal so residents of St. Pete can also ascertain a project’s location and construction status.

“It gives them a single source of truth,” he said. “It’s all of that data being available, not just to a project manager, but to all stakeholders with that city.”

Through Masterworks, said Sreenivasan, the City of St. Pete could provide residents with that data through its website. He said most customers offer that information to people in real-time. He also mentioned the company’s public engagement tool, which the city has yet to purchase.

Sreenivasan said mandated town halls before a project became a “relic” post-pandemic, and younger residents prefer virtual interactions over face-to-face meetings. He said a new product, called Aurigo Engage, helps governments involve their constituents using social media.

The platform, said Sreenivasan, uses an artificial intelligence algorithm to scan comments and messages, collect data and provide sentiment analysis.

“Here’s a project, and here’s what people think about it,” he said. “It lets them (agencies) engage with them (residents) before moving into planning a budget or a project.”

Sreenivasan said the new tool comes up in every discussion with city officials, but the focus right now is automating previous planning and management systems. “Once the data backbone is built out, adding this is an extension of what they already have.”

St. Petersburg is in the process of implementing Masterworks, said Sreenivasan, and should have the system fully operational in a few months. He said Aurigo is working with city officials to configure the platform to meet their specific needs, as “every city is a little different.”

Sreenivasan relayed that Aurigo relocated its headquarters to Austin in 2012 when it was still “a sleepy little town in Texas” with a smattering of tech companies. He called the city’s growth over the last decade “phenomenal” and said he sees similar trends in places like Raleigh and St. Petersburg.

Sreenivasan, a University of Florida alumni, said he visits St. Pete at least once a year.

“And I definitely see St. Petersburg as one of those cities, where it’s a catchment area for businesses.”

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