One of the key problems we face in the geospatial industry today is how to convey the value and application of the technology. How to get past “its just a map”. To have geospatial tech be viewed as “must have”.

Geospatial .. Problem or Solution first?

Last week I wrote two blog posts: Does GIS mean Gibberish? and Is GIS nice to have technology? I was struck by one comment (thanks Gary):

Prepping and now recovering from hurricane Irma .. has been an eye-opening example of this. As one of only two GIS staff …  I had to prod multiple managers to listen to what (geospatial) could do to help. Finally one took notice and called a staff meeting for her group to watch a custom demo I’d prepared. They impressed to say the least; but we had to break down the GIS lingo and terms into small pieces with many pictures and live demos to keep attention and get the main point across

I’m often thinking about how we can demonstrate the use of GIS in commercial or non-traditional sectors. How banks, insurance, supply chain, retail etc can apply geospatial tech to solve business problems or answer the where and the why.

Recovery from a hurricane would seem an obvious use of ‘map-centric web tools’ and yet that would seem not to be the case. Amazing. Disaster assessment and management, data collection, information sharing, citizen feedback on and on. Gary put together images and live focused demos to ‘paint the picture’ for managers.

This reminds me of the discussion in the article Has GIS hit a wall? In my view, an important reason why the industry is failing to fulfill its potential is because too many are focused on selling product and/or service. Instead of starting with the problem, too often conversations start with solutions.

Problem discovery and solution story evolution is so important. That takes agenda free preparation, listening, and probing. As Gary demonstrated, painting the picture – with images and demos – on applications of geospatial to solve problems (while avoiding jargon and tech talk) is how geospatial will cross the chasm.

Let me finish with one more blog comment (thanks Wade)

Our job, as geospatial professionals, is to communicate our understanding of customer needs and connect those needs with deployable and elegant solutions – solutions that bring in spatial aspects that make a difference to the client.

What do you think?

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Author: Matt Sheehan

Matt Sheehan is a Principal at WebMapSolutions. Matt evangelizes GIS and location intelligence around the world through keynotes, articles, tweets and his books. Follow him on Twitter:

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