I wanted to share a very interesting response I received to our What we learned from a failed ArcGIS Implementation blog post:

ArcGIS education, data and management bottom line

“Your unfortunate experience with this client hit home. As GIS manager of local government agency that provides flood protection, wholesale water and wastewater treatment, I have had similar experiences dealing with departmental managers and senior management. About eight years ago, with the support of the General Manager, I was charged with the task of bring GIS into the organization. New to GIS, I hired a GIS consultant. The ArcGIS implementation plan you used was almost identical to what my consultant used and is still the method cited by ESRI. I well understand the need for an upper management “champion” to get the process rolling, (read $), but middle management buy in is essential and education and preparing for change is a big hurtle.

This consultant did a good job of getting us up with workstations and ArcGIS server. However, I quickly saw that before we could produce any meaningful map products we had a lot of data development to do. I spent over a year finding data that resided in personal MS Excel spreadsheets (if I was lucky), in word documents and on paper. Only one department had a couple Access database files. I had some database background but I still was not fully prepared for the level of effort required to build a solid database schema. Like your experience, I was frequently asked what was taking so long to get a facilities web atlas application up and running. Eventually, these what/where facility management map atlases became our early successes for the GIS section. It is taking a lot longer for upper management to see the value and capability of GIS analysis.

ESRI and hardware technology has put (GIS) mapping in the hands of “everyman” and generally that’s a good thing. However, many people won’t let ignorance get in the way of trying to hang data on a map. Initially, I was appalled at the idea of crowd sourced data, but it does have its place. GIS professionals are now faced with the task of vetting a lot more data in order to get a valuable data set. It’s up to the GIS professional to ensure the consumer understands the value of the source data and any derived analysis.

The take away, we have to educate beginning to end. This can be a challenge when dealing with management “bottom-liners” who want it all in a web map with a “dashboard” filtered from multiple desperate data sources, right now on their phone.”

The above is being played out in many other public and private organizations. As GIS professionals it is a key challenge. As I have discussed, and is beautifully described above, the importance of data is huge. The time and effort needed in working with, and preparing, data is often still poorly understood by managers and stake holders.

Let me close this post with one stand out sentence from the above:

“We have to educate (from) beginning to end”

If you have a similar experience you feel worth sharing, let me know [email protected]


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