Last year, we shared with you our vision of geospatial performance as a way for GIS departments to support decision making in their organizations by making sure the right stakeholders have the geospatial data they need, when they need it. We also presented the five pillars GIS managers could leverage to make that happen.
In that article, we advised you to put more traditional investments in data acquisition and technology into perspective. We also recommended taking a close look at opportunities for optimizing your processes, coming up with new ways to respond to geospatial data requests, and seriously considering developing the skills of your GIS analysts.
If you’re interested in making a move toward greater geospatial performance, here are the five steps to get you there:
1. Take a step back
Although our clients embrace our geospatial performance concept and vision, their ever-growing workload is often a deterrent to putting it into practice, especially because, very often, team size and budget can’t keep up with the demand. Many managers are wondering how to free themselves up from operations and break the oppressive inertia of the status quo.
There is no miracle recipe for finding optimization opportunities and imagining new services for delivering geospatial data. What you have to do is take a bit of time to step back and get a bird’s eye view of the situation.
The good news is that you don’t need to do an exhaustive strategic analysis of your department and of your partners’ needs to achieve your goals. An operational and tactical approach based on a method using small, incremental steps can be a springboard that will take your organization to unimaginable heights. Our ignition kit uses a structured method to minimize the time required to kickstart your geospatial performance initiative and discover new improvement opportunities.
2. Learn about automation solutions and contexts
If you don’t already have people with solid programming and database script skills on your team, low-code is probably the way to go. FME is an excellent tool for that, especially if you have access to an expert who can help you unlock everything FME can do for you.
You’ll get more out of the process if you have a clearer idea of just how many contexts automation can be useful in. Did you know that automations can be manually triggered by users or configured as a scheduled task? They can also be run in response to an action such as dropping a file into a directory through webhooks or REST calls, which can come from GIS applications like ArcGIS Online, third-party applications like Microsoft SharePoint or any other line-of-business apps.
If you need help understanding what is in it for you, we offer discovery sessions with real-life cases, including integration and automation examples using FME and the ArcGIS suite. More than just the technical aspects, these sessions usually open our clients’ eyes to how they can apply these solutions to make real gains in their own organizations.
3. Zero in on issues and improvement opportunities
Having a better idea of the automation possibilities available to them gives a GIS leader a solid base to start thinking about the next steps. It helps to put together a summary of issues to address and of optimization opportunities, and then connect the dots between your list and what you’ve seen your peers do.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of things to watch out for:
- Manual, repetitive processes
- Perfectible and error-prone processes
- Maps and dashboards from multiple standardized inputs
- Processes to regularly export data to standardized formats and systems
- Extraction and processing of data from applications with an API
- Problems generated by unvalidated data
- Processes that require monitoring and notification alerts
- Any pending requests with the potential to generate results aligned with departmental missions and organizational priorities
You’ll come away from this exercise with a list of potential project ideas.
4. Assess potential improvement ideas
We are all working with limited resources, so sifting through your project ideas is a key step in the process. You’ll want to focus your financial investment and development efforts on initiatives with a high probability of success and impact for the organization. So at this stage, you should have a rough idea of the work each project requires and of the return on investment or the anticipated gains.
With several hundred projects under our belt, we have seen it all—great success stories and also a few flops. We put together this list of things to consider when weighing your options:
Where you’re at
- How much you know and understand about the process you’re trying to optimize and automate
- How good your incoming data is
- What skills the project requires, and how they align with your team’s skills
- What technology solutions need to be acquired or what existing solutions and methods need to be maximized
- How much development effort is required, and how adaptable the solution is
- How simple or complex it is to integrate the solution with your existing environment
- What kind of change management is required to help your users transition
- What kind of impact will the project have on your operations
- What kind of productivity gains can you expect
- What kind of gains in data quality you can expect
- What are the next high-impact steps
- How can this help organizational transparence
- How can this shine a light on your GIS department
5. Build a roadmap
Once you’ve assessed your project ideas, you are ready for the final step: choosing the projects you’ll be carrying out in the short term, the improvement ideas to put a pin in and get back to later, and the ideas you won’t be using after all. If you find yourself with too many, or too few, projects to prioritize, no need to panic!
We speak from experience when we tell you that you don’t necessarily have to schedule a long series of projects and build a plan that will drag out for far too long. A solid roadmap is mainly about delivering a small handful of initial projects (or even just one) with tangible results to save your team time and let them focus on value-added tasks or perhaps provide your stakeholders with an innovative solution.
Feeling a bit hesitant still? Why don’t you get your toes wet with a few quick-gain projects and take it from there? Geospatial performance is a marathon, not a sprint, and one foot after the other is how you get to the finish line.
You will see that taking that first successful step toward geospatial performance will open up new possibilities and get you started on a virtuous circle to increase the reach of GIS services and geospatial data within your organization. And while you’re at it, you will also position your GIS department as a key strategic partner.
Need a bit of help getting started on your geospatial performance journey?