When we began WebMapSolutions 10 years ago, we were a GIS technology company. The clients we worked with were far sighted, tech-savvy, early adopters. But that was then and this is now. In Confessions of a GIS Consulting Business, I mentioned the ‘why’ of any business. Like so many other companies, when we thought about our why, we realised it did not really exist. ‘Helping organizations apply GIS to solve problems’, was weak at best.
We have spent 6 months re-evaluating who and what we are as a company. Pondering on why we do what we do. Asking deeper questions of ourselves. As a result we have transformed. And the journey has been both long and challenging.
Why & How we Transformed our GIS Business
Its funny to look back and laugh at oneself. We were so naive when we started WebMapSolutions. No real business plan. We saw ourselves as forward thinking GIS innovators. Our great ideas, combined with building solid partnerships, we saw as our path to success. How wrong could we have been.
Sure we have always been innovative. As soon as the first iPad was released, mobile became a key area of focus. We were right in thinking mobile phones and tablets would transform our industry. Through our blog we provided thoughts, opinions, predictions and discussed the evolution of the geospatial industry. Indeed, our blog became the source of new business. We spent little on marketing and sales. So called ‘thought leadership’ (a term I loath) took us far. But alas, in other areas we were far less successful.
We knew content marketing (blogging), could only get us so far. Strategic relationships were also critical. We turned to one of the larger vendors in the industry. With great products, and wonderful staff we could see a bright future unfolding. Then we woke up.
The geospatial industry was (is) rapidly expanding. GIS was becoming a part of a much bigger whole. Existing GIS vendors were coming under pressure to change their offerings, expand into new markets, and were experiencing for the first time real competition. Change was in the air. Business decisions were made. We became caught up in these changes.
In 2017 our business began to suffer. Our blog remained well followed, but those approaching us for help began to decrease. Our partnerships had become one-sided. What should we do?
We needed to change. We needed to reinvent ourselves. To learn from our successes and failures, and take a new path. To grow from a caterpillar to a butterfly. What was missing was our why.
We asked ourselves: why were we in business? Not to make money (that was a result). Not to sell GIS. To solve problems using geotechnology? Absolutely. To educate and guide. Again yes. But that is not enough. Too general. Lacking focus. We started to look at ourselves. To explore our own fundamental values. Beyond the business. People and places we realised were both important to us. That meant our neighbours, both near and far, and our environment. Fragile, vulnerable, exploited, endangered were all words which resonated with us. Our why began slowly to become clear:
To safeguard people and places with geotechnology
We saw three fundamental elements to this why and how statement:
1) Discover – Finding problems quickly
2) Take Action – Reacting fast to problems
3) Solve – Finding a solution and providing feedback completes the cycle
There are many tools which can help in this journey from problem to solution. We realised geotechnology should be at the core. Geotechnology helps to answer the where:
- Where is the problem and what is the issue?
- Where do we send people and with what information?
- Where and what was the solution?
Disaster response (saving lives), ethical supply chain (protecting the environment and those who might be exploited), and maintaining power and water supplies (safeguarding those most vulnerable to loss of services) we saw as key areas of focus. We also realised, that with so many years of client engagements, we already had geotechnology solutions in place which we could use to help fulfill our mission.
So we begin the next phase of our journey. WebMapSolutions has transformed. No longer are we focused on our what and our how. We now have defined our why.
And that feels really good.