The term “self service platform” is a new one to me. I picked it up reading Why are organisations still buying Tableau when Power BI is perceived to be free?. The article is focused on BI platforms, but it made me think about the emergence of GIS platforms.
Is GIS becoming a self-service platform?
I have in previous posts made a distinction between mapping platforms and GIS platforms. Rather than focus on the favoured output of these platforms – the map – I have focused on the question in need of an answer. The complexity of the ‘where’ question. I have argued a mapping platform should be designed to answer simple questions: where are our retail outlets? Where is my next water valve inspection? Where are our current properties for sale? The map provides the context. A successful mapping platform should provide 3 core elements:
1) Ease of map publishing including a range of basemaps
2) The ability to easily and simply include your data in the map.
3) The ability to ask simple questions of the map. Today that usually means the inclusion of configurable web applications.
A GIS platform is designed to answer both simple and complex where questions. It is quite a different animal to a mapping platform. Sure the output is a map, but a GIS platform itself is more complex.
We are often asked the question, “What is the best software/platform to map our data and help answer our (where) questions?”. Our answer is always, “That depends on the complexity of your questions”. If you have a mix of simple and complex where questions, and have lots of location based data, a GIS is likely your best solution. If your questions are simple, a GIS might be more than you need. To use a car analogy why buy a race car if you never want to drive over 40 mph?
So back to this term self-service platform. I believe a mapping platform could be marketed in this way. No special skills required to set up and use. I don’t believe that is the case for a GIS. Why?
To get the most benefit out of a GIS, given the range of where questions a GIS is designed to answer, staff with geospatial expertise (either in-house or out-sourced) are always required. Maybe GIS is a self-service platform for those geospatially trained?
What do you think? Contact us on 801-733-0723.
Author: Matt Sheehan
Matt Sheehan is a Principal at WebMapSolutions. Matt evangelizes GIS and intelligent maps around the world through keynotes, articles, tweets and his books. Follow him on Twitter:
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