I’ve spent much time lately thinking about that term service. That is, in simple terms:

The action of helping or doing work for someone.

Its only a word, as George Carlin famously said, but is service a rude word in GIS?

Let’s explore.

Is service a rude word in GIS?

GIS is today in many instances being sold as a platform. Many Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions have been released. These have driven down both the cost and ease of entry. A new Web GIS pattern has emerged. Access to a SaaS based GIS platform is often through a web interface. Careful thought has gone into designing these SaaS ‘front ends’ so they are easy to use. All good so far.

Where things start to fall down is when those new to Web GIS suddenly realise its complexity. As we discussed in our blog post: Learning GIS is Similar to Learning Photoshop? Somehow, there has developed a misconception that learning GIS is simple.

WRONG

Now we have covered some of this ground before so I’ll avoid repetition. But let me ask these questions:

  • Has service been given a back seat?
  • Has its importance been lessened, now a nice to have?
  • Is there a presumption that a GIS subscription comes with as much hand holding or help as needed, or worse still, that you don’t need help?

This is a very slippery slope. Both for the industry and users. We believe every GIS sale should come with a built in service package. Levels of service can vary, from deployment to a more in depth problem to solution engagement. Knowing the full capabilities of what you have signed up for and how it might help your organization and/or getting help understanding how to solve a specific business problem can be invaluable.

Too often we see customers drop GIS software solutions because what they (mistakenly) thought was simple turned out to be complex. Service providers demonstrate the value of GIS software by helping customers move forward, and solve their business problems, in a focused way. That has to be a win-win.

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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