I’m not very keen on motivational books or speeches. They seem an easy way for the writer/speaker to make lots of money from making obvious statements. But that is just me. This blog post is not one of those motivational monologues.

Every GIS Obstacle is an Opportunity

The image in the header of this post I saw today. It caught my attention. In part I’ll admit because the word ‘obstacle’ is emblazoned across a garbage bin. Quite brilliant. But:

We believe every obstacle is an opportunity
This statement is worth some thought. It’s something we face often, in varying degrees, with the organizations we help to solve problems with GIS. Overcoming GIS obstacles is really our mission. And as GIS becomes more popular, ever more obstacles keep popping up!

We can split organizations into two groups: those familiar with GIS and those new to the technology. Each have their own set of obstacles. Public sector and larger private orgs often have in-house GIS staff. Web GIS is the new paradigm. The key to success with Web GIS is understanding and implementing across work-groups this new distributed model, and set of solutions.

Much of our recent focus has been on those new to GIS. Particularly those in the private sector: banks, insurance and investment companies. Our experiences have been interesting when working with these organizations. A common pattern is emerging:

1) Initial engagement – Help us get started, and we will take it from there.
2) Follow up 1 – We aren’t sure how to solve our immediate problem, could you point us in the right direction.
3) Follow up 2 – We need more training to better understand how GIS can solve our problems.

The reason we are in business, and frankly why we all love what we do so much, is to solve problems using GIS. Solving problems often throws up obstacles for us to overcome; the focus of this blog post. But one key GIS obstacle we are encountering, and well illustrated in the pattern above, is the presumption that GIS is easy: get us started, point us in the right direction, give us some quick training.

The presumption that GIS is easy is an obstacle … and an opportunity
GIS is not easy. True publishing maps has become easier. But that is but one facet of GIS. Answering ‘where questions’, as we often say, is the primary reason organizations use GIS technology. And that often requires in-depth knowledge of GIS. Presuming GIS is easy is not the fault of those we work with. But once they jump in, they soon recognize the obstacles: what are we trying to solve? what do we want from GIS in terms of a solution? Do we have the right data? How do we best implement GIS to solve our problem? The list goes on. We have had some organizations come to us questioning the ROI of their GIS investment!

So why an opportunity? We have found holding the hands of organizations new to GIS, and guiding their path to a solution brings huge value. In some cases we serve as an external GIS department. Those new to GIS often need help. Once the value of GIS has been realised, and the obstacles of applying the technology overcome. The sky is truly the limit on the use of this wonderful technology across an organization to solve business problems.

Have questions? Contact us on 801-733-0723.


Matt Sheehan
Matt is a Principal at WebMapSolutions. Follow him on Twitter: @webmapsolutions

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