Lessons from the wildfire: Rainbow Municipal Water rapidly pivots to all-remote staffing

April 7, 2020

The 8,300 residential and commercial customers of Rainbow Municipal Water District in Fallbrook, CA rely on the district for continuous, safe drinking water and wastewater services. Prior to the current pandemic, the district had already faced an impending disaster and threat to the district’s operations—the 2017 California wildfires. At that time, the general manager, Tom Kennedy, and his staff took the opportunity to look critically at their IT systems and determine what changes were needed to ensure service continuity in the face of similar threats. Kennedy talked with Infor about their decisions and the resulting organizational changes.

“The scrutiny after the wildfires led Rainbow to move our on-premise UNIX system to a true, cloud-based platform,” Kennedy says. “Today, Infor CloudSuite EAM, Infor Public Sector, and Infor CloudSuite Financials are integrated with our other mission-critical systems. The system was fully implemented in July 2019—shortly before we would need to face the challenges of COVID-19.”

As a statewide coronavirus shutdown appeared imminent in March 2020, Rainbow’s cloud-based system was already poised to enable a fully remote workforce. The district worked quickly to move employees to home offices within 48 hours without disruption in service or response times. Field personnel, already equipped with iPads and CloudSuite EAM mobile systems, were able to continue to diagnose, investigate, and resolve service issues without visiting Rainbow’s offices.

“Public sector organizations are traditionally conservative in new technology adoption,” says Kennedy. “Rainbow’s cloud migration strategy has created a foundation that helps us meet the complexity and uncertainty of the coronavirus challenge. Our continued partnership with Infor and shared commitment to a cloud-first architecture are key factors in that success.”

With their remote workforce in place, Rainbow Municipal Water District staff is productive and responsive, and their leadership and management are confidently looking toward the future. Additional housing in their community may add up to 2,000 new accounts to Rainbow’s 82-acre service area. They are also in a predesign stage for a more modernized central facility.

“The success of our rapid pivot to an at-home workforce may provide us an opportunity to take a fresh look at our staffing culture, as well as any future building configurations,” says Kennedy. “As we seek to recruit new employees, Rainbow may be able to offer remote work opportunities to people looking for less traditional work setups—and who also want to avoid traffic and long commute times.

“Despite the unknowns brought by our current global challenge, the district has been able to provide continuous and uninterrupted service of something essential to all of us: safe and reliable water and wastewater services,” Kennedy continues. “At the same time, we are fulfilling our commitment to the health of our employees and customers.”



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