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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Catching Up with Time

Mapping time has perhaps never been as well supported

There’s a perception that GIS and cartography have always struggled to adequately deal with and represent time. The notion that a phenomena that varies temporally is difficult to model perhaps gives rise to the idea that static layers are unable to capture such variability. If this ever were the case, it’s not so any more. Our ability to handle large temporal datasets in GIS is now well supported. Adding time and date fields to data in ArcGIS allows you to configure and work with the temporal dimension including animating the map and controlling playback. Many online map services have a temporal aspect and it’s important to be able to reveal and make sense of this. Functionality is available across the ArcGIS platform to support temporal analysis and visualization. Continue reading

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Jack Dangermond Speaks about GIS and Resilience at UN Climate Summit

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon invited world leaders from government, business, and society to the UN Climate Summit 2014 to stimulate action on climate change. He asked them to bring big ideas and messages that could help reduce emissions, strengthen climate resilience, and mobilize political will to hopefully pave the way for a meaningful global agreement in 2015. 

I was deeply honored to be invited to speak about GIS and resilience last week at the UN Climate Summit 2014. Following is a summary of my talk there. 


Thank you your excellencies and prime ministers, ladies and gentlemen, guests. Thank you very much for allowing me to share a little bit about my work, and also the work that we are working on with the UNISDR, and a number of other organizations here. Continue reading

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Engaging with Executives: A How-To for GIS Professionals

Three Simple Steps to GIS Management Success

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

When I first started working at Esri nearly a decade ago, my meetings with clients were almost exclusively with GIS managers and GIS technicians.  Today, at many of these same clients, my meetings are more likely to be with CIOs, agency and department directors, and other executives.  That’s not because I’m more important than I was a decade ago, it’s because GIS is more important than it was a decade ago. And I think two big shifts in the GIS industry have resulted in this change.

First, GIS really started to gain traction in government agencies and the private sector in the 1990’s and early 2000’s.  Organizations wanted it, but didn’t always put a lot of thought into where it best fit within the organization as a whole.  Often, it would fall under whatever department seemed the most able or willing to house it.  Over time, IT professionals saw the value of GIS in terms of how it could benefit the organization, whether it meant geo-enabling an existing business system, providing spatial insight to other departments, or as a way to share data with the public. That’s when the game changed. GIS evolved from essentially a niche technology to a mission-critical business system, and as a result we’ve seen IT departments increasingly embracing what was previously seen as an “outlier” technology. Continue reading

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What is “Transformative” Research?

The Gartner Group Hype Cycle on Emerging Technologies for 2013 (courtesy of Gartner Inc..

Next-generation techniques are already changing the way we do science. Recently the National Academy of Sciences convened a Workshop on Identifying Transformative Research in the Geographical Sciences. Given that so many of the challenges that we currently face are place-based … Continue reading

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