Watching a local government official struggle with paper maps and deeds in 1999 illustrated a pain point that led to the founding of Lincoln’s gWorks (formerly GIS Workshop). Now gWorks has acquired Omaha-based Data Technologies, Inc. The result is a company that will operate under the gWorks brand and provide a comprehensive suite of software solutions and professional services for local governments.
“Data Technologies fills the gaps that we have, and vice versa,” said Joseph Heieck, gWorks CEO. “Sometimes clients get apprehensive when one company acquires another, especially a competitor. But Data Technologies is purely complementary to gWorks.”
gWorks began as a Geographic information Systems (GIS) provider, and gradually expanded into other software services designed to make government officials’ jobs easier. With the acquisition, the combined companies offer more than 30 software solutions along with professional services to optimize operations.
“Besides GIS, we have asset management and inventory apps along with deep domain knowledge,” Heieck said. “We wanted to get into other areas like financial apps, permitting and licensing that Data Technologies provides. We looked at build vs. buy, and decided to buy.”
After years of expansion into markets like financial, real estate and private utilities, Heieck started returning focus to local governments––specifically those in rural areas––after buying the company in 2015.
“We’re working to be domain experts for counties, cities and natural resources districts,” he said. “Buying capability from Data Technologies allows us to serve these three verticals well.”
Small governmental units don’t typically have large budgets. How does gWorks convince their client base to invest in software solutions?
“We understand our market well and ensure our pricing is in line with the market,” Heieck said. “So we don’t offer software and services that small local governments can’t afford, and we don’t have unnecessary bells and whistles. Sometimes they may think they can’t afford an item, and that’s when we present an ROI case.”
The ROI may come from changes in workload, improved service or the ability to reallocate resources.
“Eighty-eight of Nebraska’s 93 counties use our GIS services, and because of that they see a 50 percent to 80 percent reduction in phone calls and walk-ins,” Heieck said. “GIS tools allow them to more quickly and fairly assess property, especially ag land. It also reduces their appraisal costs in the field.”
gWorks offers software on desktop, cloud and mobile platforms. They are constantly looking to innovate.
“We focus on innovation based on client feedback,” Heieck said. “We ‘re diligent that our software has what our clients are actually going to use day to day. Our MVP is a wire frame that’s interactive so people can play with it. Keep it simple.”
The company has a client base of nearly 1,200 across 32 states, mostly in the Midwest. Heieck hopes to eventually expand, but the immediate priority is serving current customers well.
“First we want the consolidation of our teams to go well and serve our current clients,” he said. “Then we’ll look beyond our current market. We’re bootstrapping, and we have to be smart about it. The number one value is focused on client success.”
Heieck grew up in Omaha, holds an MBA from Harvard and spent eight years in the Navy. His service left a lasting impression about the value of teamwork.
“Coming from the Navy, teamwork is paramount,” he said. “We will eventually consolidate our two offices so our team is together in one place.”
With a broader, more comprehensive set of software services and deeper domain knowledge gained from the acquisition, Heieck is bullish on the future.
“Our goal is to be the friendly voice on the phone for public officials whose interaction with citizens is not always positive,” he said. “It will be the same people answering the phone and the same software.”
“We’re really excited about this,” he added.
Rod Armstrong is Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for AIM in Lincoln, Nebraska. He is a regular contributor to Silicon Prairie News.