In this blog post we will reflect on our recent blog series: GIS/Map Providers Compared.

Our goal in pulling together this blog series was to contrast and compare the main GIS/map providers; their offerings and business models. My thanks again to the 7 organizations who provided feedback. The series has proven very popular. Some readers complained of “too much marketing talk”. In part I agree, but i think the series still provides valuable information gathered in one spot.

So what are my reflections?

GIS/Map Providers – who will be the winners?

First that we live in a far more competitive environment. Increased demand .. let me rephrase that .. the explosion of ‘where’ questions being asked, has spawned new companies and solutions. That is a good thing for users.

I started by looking at how well each of the companies expressed who and what they are. There is always a temptation to cast the net wide when you present yourself and your solution(s). We all know you cannot be everything to everybody.  Some did a better job than others in providing that narrower focus.

It was striking how many providers are extending open source solutions. We will write a more focused blog post devoted to open source in the near future. The open source geospatial community has been very active since I began my GIS career (I remember well conferences like Where 2.0). But open source always sat somewhat quietly in the background. OpenGeo brought many of the leading lights in open source together in one organization. Today open source is exploding (and that’s not just a geospatial phenomena). Its a fascinating development.

I’m tempted to dig a little deeper around the question of integration between GIS/mapping vendors. Maybe look for examples on how two vendor solutions have been brought together to solve a specific client problem. My sense is the integration focus is really on other non-geospatial platforms. So GIS/mapping with BI platforms for example. With integration in mind, I was interested to look for terms like light-weight and modular in the responses.

Bringing GIS to the commercial sector, dominated by platforms like Tableau, is a big focus of many GIS/mapping providers. Given that the traditional market (public sector etc) is somewhat saturated, this is a natural focus of many vendors. It remains a huge relatively untapped market. Its interesting to read how each company is approaching this new marketplace. As a company we’ve spent much time working with commercial clients. This is a very different space to the traditional market. Products, marketing and sales cannot follow old patterns. One is tempted to say those who ‘crack this nut’ will be the big winners.

We threw in partners as the last question. It seems most providers have partner programmes. But the quality of these programmes is key. There is little dispute that this is another important ingredient of future success. That means attracting top partners is crucial. Collaborating, with and nurturing the best partners will pay huge dividends. There has historically been a temptation to treat partners as only ‘another sales arm’. Driving business to partners will help drive more business to providers. Very much a win-win.

There you have it. I’ll finish as I started. We live in increasingly competitive times in the geospatial industry. There will be winners and losers. However things shake down, the ultimate winners will be the users. That can only be a good thing.

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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