A Look Inside the 2013 GIS Managers’ Open Summit

On Tuesday, July 9th, 2013, more than 130 GIS professionals came together in San Diego, California for the 4th annual GIS Managers’ Open Summit. The GIS Managers’ Open Summit is an “unconference“-style event designed to help GIS managers, business and technology strategists, and other decision makers attending the Esri User Conference to engage in conversations with their peers on topics that relate to business efficiencies, ROI, managing data, and much more.

The day opened with a brief motivational talk by the “father of GIS,” Roger Tomlinson, who emphasized the importance of the work that GIS managers do.  He was followed by Greg Babinski, president of URISA, who talked for a few minutes about the work that URISA is doing to establish a GIS Management Institute and develop a GIS Management Body of Knowledge.

Roger Tomlinson at the 2013 GIS Managers' Open Summit

Roger Tomlinson takes the stage at the 2013 GIS Managers’ Open Summit.

But most people didn’t come to the Summit to hear the scheduled speakers; they came to network, to learn from and share with their peers.  The Summit was primarily driven by an open schedule grid, which allowed all attendees the opportunity to suggest session topics onsite. Esri’s Dave Peters, author of the popular book Building a GIS, acted as master of ceremonies, keeping us all on schedule.  At the end of each table discussion, one person from each table came up on stage to give the larger group a brief overview of  their topic, the main issues discussed, and the big takeaways from the discussion.

"Unconference" agenda board at the 2013 GIS Managers' Open Summit

The GIS Managers’ Open Summit followed an “unconference” format, where attendees used this board to create their own agenda on-the-fly.

Many new connections were made, and knowledge and best practices were shared. The Summit has proven to be a great forum for peer to peer conversation between GIS managers at the Esri User Conference, but we are also looking at ways to extend the conversation.  Our goal is to grow this concept from an event held once a year at the User Conference into a larger community that reaches even more GIS managers, connecting them in a variety of different ways, 365 days a year.  If you have any suggestions on how we might facilitate this conversation, please share them with Dave or myself.

With the help of participants, we documented some of the takeaways from the table discussions, and we will be sharing those in the near future.  Meanwhile, you can browse through some of the topics that were discussed:

Attendee-generated topics from the 2013 GIS Managers' Open Summit.

Attendee-generated topics from the 2013 GIS Managers' Open Summit.

Attendee-generated topics from the 2013 GIS Managers' Open Summit.

Attendee-generated topics from the 2013 GIS Managers' Open Summit.

If you were not able to attend the 2013 GIS Managers’ Open Summit, we hope to see you there next year.  Until then, feel free to join the Managers in GIS group on LinkedIn.

Matt Artz

About Matt Artz

Matt Artz joined Esri in 1989. In his current role as GIS and Science Manager, he helps communicate the value of GIS as a tool for scientific research and understanding. He writes extensively about geospatial technologies, manages the GIS and Science blog, and is the editor of GIS.com. Prior to joining Esri he worked as an Environmental Scientist at a large science and engineering consulting company, on such diverse projects as highway noise modeling, archaeological impact assessment, and chemical weapons disposal. His educational background includes an M.S. degree in Environmental Policy and Planning and a B.S. degree in Anthropology and Geography.
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