Exceeding Your Customers’ Expectations

Increase your customer base by putting actionable information into the hands of people that need it. 

As we’ve already mentioned in our Managing GIS series, the expectations of mapping have changed for both executives and your customers—the consumers of geographic information.  In a government agency, your customers are not just your colleagues, but also the public.  As GIS professionals, we have to adjust to this changing landscape, and in doing so we are provided with new opportunities to make ourselves indispensable by showing the full value that GIS can actually bring to the organization.  And one of the keys to doing this is to increase our customer base by exceeding their expectations.

Several years ago, I was in a meeting with a GIS manager and a CIO.  The Community Planning Director interrupted the meeting briefly and asked the GIS manager for an updated map of foreclosures in the county.  The GIS manager quickly agreed to do this, the director left, and our meeting continued.  It was absolutely all I could do not to stop the director before he left and ask him one important question:

“Why do you need the map?”             Continue reading

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Creating a Bright Future for All Kids through Digital Learning

Just 25 years ago, life was very different for US residents. Few people used e-mail, “the web” was about spiders, and “portable phones” generated more derision than envy. Schools had some Apple IIs, Macs, PCs, or labs, but no school had hundreds of kids with constant access. How things have changed. Now digital learning helps kids whenever, wherever—at least, some kids. In 2013, President Barack Obama launched ConnectED, challenging businesses to help get all US schools into digital learning with more devices, more connectivity, more digital content, and more training for teachers.

In late May 2014, the White House announced Esri’s contribution to ConnectED: ArcGIS Online organizational subscriptions for any K–12 school in the United States. With major support from Amazon Web Services, kids in any US school can make maps and analyze data using powerful, professional web-based GIS, connected anytime and anywhere—on a computer, tablet, or smartphone. Continue reading

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The Deadly Backlog: A Hole in the Safety Net

Interactive Maps Communicate Real-time Information to Plug the Holes

We have all heard the term safety net. It’s a system, a policy, a program, or device used to protect its owners just in case something bad happens. For example, people often refer to social security as a safety net for older people who don’t have a pension. The term comes to us from the circus, where large, roped nets are set up below trapeze artists. Without the nets, sweaty palms or small distractions could mean instant death. But with the net, they fall harmlessly and land with only a fright. However, most trapeze artists never want to fall. First of all, falling is a sign of failure. Second, when the term originated, the circus actors didn’t trust the integrity of the net, as circuses had and have notoriously bad maintenance. Safety nets have flaws. Trapeze artists know that. Some nets even have holes. Continue reading

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Making It Stick: Three Truths about Teaching with GIS

In their insightful book about the science of successful learning, Make It StickPeter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark A. McDaniel spell out some truths about learning.  In addition, they dispel some preconceived notions that many of us may have about learning that simply aren’t valid.  I believe that three of these truths are instructive as to how we as the GIS community should approach teaching and learning with GIS: learning is deeper and more durable when it’s effortful, learning requires a foundation of prior knowledge, and putting knowledge into a larger context helps learning.


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Understanding the Power of Spatial Analysis

Spatial analysis is built in to who we are, and is becoming a common language across organizations

You may not realize it, but you learned about spatial analysis at an early age—probably around the time you started walking. At around two years old, you started to become aware of where you were at any given moment. Soon after that, you started learning how to navigate—from room to room, from inside to outside, and learning how to get from home to school. And at some point, you developed the ability to recognize spatial patterns—a street changed from being safe to dangerous—neighborhoods had their own characteristics.

Spatial analysis is how we understand our world—mapping where things are, how they relate, what it all means, and what actions to take. That’s why whenever we look at maps, we inherently start turning them into instruments for making decisions. Continue reading

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Building a GIS: Implementation Strategy and Best Practices

[Note:  This is the fifth post in our new series about Managing GIS.]

Trying to build a GIS without completing a proper system architecture design can lead to system deployment failure. System architecture design is a process developed by Esri to promote successful GIS enterprise operations. This process builds on your existing information technology (IT) infrastructure and provides specific recommendations for hardware and network solutions based on existing and projected business (user) needs.

There are several critical deployment stages that support a successful implementation. Understanding the importance of each stage and the key objectives for success leads to more effective enterprise implementations. The figure below shows a series of typical system deployment stages for building and maintaining successful enterprise GIS operations. Continue reading

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Managing GIS is about Managing Change

Change is inevitable.  So embrace it, plan for it, and make the most of it.

[Note:  This is the fourth post in our new series about Managing GIS.]

“Nothing endures but change.”

That quote is credited to Heraclitus of Ephesus, an ancient Greek philosopher.  In the fifth century BC, the importance of change was evident.  And so it also is today.

For a more contemporary view of the importance of change, let’s turn to Jack Welch, Chairman and CEO of GE from 1981-2001.  During that time, the company’s market capitalization had a 30-fold increase of more than $400 billion.  He was named the “Manager of the Century” by Forbes magazine in 1999.  Continue reading

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Measure the Full Value of Your GIS Investment

Beyond ROI, Key Performance Indices and GIS Close Performance Gaps

[Note:  This is the third post in our new series about Managing GIS.]

A common question we get from our utility customers is, “What is the return on investment (ROI) for GIS?” The reason is most utilities need to justify the cost of building, upgrading, or enhancing their GIS (e.g., investing in a tablet-based damage-assessment app) or doing the same with their GIS data. That justification takes the form of a financial study that answers these questions: What is the payback period of GIS? What is its impact on balance and income sheets? What is the cash flow for the project?

Utility financial people call these hard-dollar savings. Hard-dollar savings are a common measuring stick by which to judge the merits of an investment. Continue reading

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What are Platform Configurations?

New tools help fast-track implementation of your GIS platform

In my last post I mentioned “platform configurations” as something that Esri provides as part of our industry-specific ArcGIS Solutions. A few folks asked me to clarify what I meant by this.

As the ArcGIS platform continues to evolve, you increasingly do not always need to build your own tools and apps—rather, you can use tools that we provide and just configure them for your own use.  These configurations of the core platform are available as templates to help you to quickly be more successful. Continue reading

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Unleashing the Power of Location in Your Data

Geography just might be the answer to putting big data into context and making it work for everyone

We are all aware that technological advances have increased the size of the data we can capture and manage. I remember reading that approximately 90 percent of all the data in the world today has been created in just that last few years. And more than 75 percent of that data is unstructured, coming from social media, smart phones, text messages, and other sources.

Obviously, the Internet has a lot to do with this explosion of raw data. New industries have been created to help us manage big data, to process it, and to make it consumable. But the real return on investment for organizations is to make big data useful. Continue reading

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