2015 GIS Managers’ Open Summit: Presentations and Round Table Discussion Notes

By Dave Peters, principal technical architect, and Matt Artz, content strategist, Esri

On Tuesday, July 21, 2015, more than 300 GIS professionals came together in San Diego, California for the 5th 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, GIS management strategies, and much more.

More than 87 percent of 2015 GIS Managers’ Open Summit attendees found it valuable or very valuable.

There are two sides of GIS—the technology side, which the Esri UC is all about; and the business side, which is what the GIS Managers’ Open Summit is all about.  We have found that most GIS Managers are lacking on the business side of GIS.  The focus of this year’s GIS Managers’ Open Summit presentations and discussion topics was on building a better understanding of the business side of GIS.

  1. A modern vision of enterprise GIS
    By Adam Carnow and Keith Cooke, Esri
  2. Tapping the strategic potential of GIS
    By Gary Maguire, Manager of Business and Location Intelligence Services, South Australia Department for Communities and Social Inclusion
  3. How to raise the significance of your GIS
    By Wade Kloos, GIS Director, Utah Department of Natural Resources
  4. Management support of GIS
    By Brian Zumwalt, GIS Manager, Pinellas County Florida

Each presentation was followed by 20 minute round table discussions on a range of topics selected by the attendees.  Like last year, we asked attendees at each table to fill out a card briefly summarizing what they talked about, and what their big takeaways were from their discussion.

For the benefit of those who could not attend the table discussions and the larger GIS community, we collected all of the summary cards and compiled the information which you can see here:

Developing a Vision and Delivering through Leadership (Strategic Planning)

  • What were the main issues you discussed?
  1. Creating an enterprise GIS Vision.
  2. Strategic planning – how to leverage GIS for business success. Process for building a Strategy.
  3. How to get Management support. Leadership engagement and support is critical. Need leadership involvement – learn how to keep leadership engaged.
  4. Change management. Making sure you support business needs.
  5. Keep data up to date. Data updates and maintenance (quality data) key to success.
  6. Need to geo enable core systems – benefits to existing business workflows.
  7. Keeping everyone on board and engaged. User resistance – specifically GIS Analyst fear of losing job.
  • What were the big takeaways from your discussion?
  1. Do we need a separate “GIS” database or should we work with the core systems directly?
  2. We should train and direct IT developers to use GIS in their solutions.
  3. As the GIS Manager, have confidence – confidence is key.
  4. Have a committee and keep them engaged – buy them off with cookies.
  5. Building a vision. Vision/objectives – document and distribute your strategic planning goals.
  6. Management support is critical. Garner support from leadership – engage with management.
  7. People are important. Develop relationships. Get an advocate in the peer group of resisters.

Understanding How GIS Contributes

  • What were the main issues you discussed?
  1. Value of Dashboards for business information integration.
  2. Promoting growth of GIS in an organization
  • What were the big takeaways from your discussion?
  1. Help people “understand the value of GIS”
  2. Data quality is important for delivering actionable information.
  3. Use metrics to track ownership and success – advertise value of the GIS.

System Planning and Governance (no feedback)

Evolving Traditional Approaches (Change Management)

  • What were the main issues you discussed?
  1. How do we get people to change – improve operations?
  2. How do we enhance traditional workflows?
  3. How do we improve staff performance?
  4. What is the IT role in promoting change?
  • What were the big takeaways from your discussion?
  1. Implement an ROI approach – identify benefits for change.
  2. Get management buy-in – Management approves and directs change.
  3. Try small targeted apps to empower working people – focused Web Apps can reduce training overhead and simplify user workflows (more productive operations)

Developing Engaging Apps (GIS Sustainability)

  • What were the main issues you discussed?
  1. Mobile apps – supporting a variety of laptops, tablets, and devices.
  2. The role of maintaining data security.
  3. COTS vs customization – Web map/Web app maintenance and sustainability.
  4. How to integrate navigation into solutions. Everyone cares about navigation.
  5. What is the most useful public apps?
  6. Apps for Collaboration within the organization.
  7. Maintaining one user app vs multiple focused single user apps.
  8. Apps that let people know what is going on – keep people engaged.
  • What were the big takeaways from your discussion?
  1. The value of a networked (collaborating and sharing) workplace environment. Tools for workflow collaboration improve business efficiency.
  2. Variety of on premise Portal and ArcGIS online cloud security deployment patterns.
  3. Commitment to maintain app for the long term. The value of Web maps and configurable apps for maintenance and sustainability.
  4. Importance of data management. No app is engaging without great data.
  5. Focused apps communicate best – Don’t drown public with information and data.

Staff Development (no feedback)

Executive Engagement Strategies

  • What were the main issues you discussed?
  1. Methods for getting executive attention.
  2. Importance of executive education. Build executive knowledge of GIS benefits to the organization.
  3. ROI examples – sharing GIS value.
  4. Education (how does GIS improve business operations)
  • What were the big takeaways from your discussion?
  1. We need public relations (PR). Promote GIS as a community engagement tool (transparency).
  2. What is the GIS cost vs value – definition varies for different organizations.
  3. GIS benefits must be explained; sell again and again.
  4. ROI = cost avoidance.
  5. Know your audience/stakeholders – speak their language.
  6. Educate executives continually – on-going information exchange.

ArcGIS Online Implementation Strategies

  • What were the main issues you discussed?
  1. Understanding how ArcGIS Online works.
  2. Credits and estimating costs. Credit usage is hard to understand.
  3. How to share information with outsiders without making it public.
  4. Best practices for managing Named User accounts.
  5. Managing Security, user workloads, change management.
  6. Leveraging ArcGIS Online for field/public workflows.
  7. Collector GPS accuracy – how accurate can we be?
  8. ArcGIS Online Web map limited toolset – purpose and value of online analysis tools.
  9. ArcGIS Online collaboration, sharing, security – how do we train our staff?
  • What were the big takeaways from your discussion?
  1. We need a better understanding of costs – how to estimate credit usage. Everyone would use ArcGIS Online more if they better understood the service use costs.
  2. Building powerful Web apps – use templates, build targeted apps, and gain small success.
  3. Understand business needs for location accuracy – choose the right collection tools.
  4. Focus on web maps/apps – simple to build and deploy; available for use on every device.
  5. Don’t use desktop for everyday GIS – Web apps are more focused, easier to use, and deploy on every user device.
  6. Compile business serviceability. General development not specialist – customize and extend configurable apps with skins and widgets – empower business users to collaborate, create and share their own focused Web maps and apps.

3D Implementation Strategies

  • What were the main issues you discussed?
  1. How to use 3D to show construction below grade.
  2. How to server LIDAR and elevation data to non-GIS users via the Web.
  • What were the big takeaways from your discussion?
  1. There are people already doing 3D that can help.
  2. Serving LIDAR to non-GIS users over the Web is not easy.

Empowering Developers (API Discussion)

  • What were the main issues you discussed?
  1. Establishing development strategic plans and goals.
  2. Developer vs application enabler – advent of the configurable apps.
  • What were the big takeaways from your discussion?
  1. We no longer need developers to create GIS Web maps and apps.
  2. Role of the developer is to enable the business user to create great apps.

Citizen / Public Engagement (no feedback)

Open Data Strategies

  • What were the main issues you discussed?
  1. Problems when data not organized, authoritative metadata important.
  2. Clunky tools/interfaces for metadata user, data downloader.
  3. Differences between tabular vs spatial vendor strategies.
  4. Estimating publishing server loads.
  • What were the big takeaways from your discussion?
  1. Need to establish data priorities.
  2. Identify specifications for needed data sources.
  3. Importance and value of authoritative published data services.
  4. How to share open data with ArcGIS Online, registering ArcGIS for Server to ArcGIS Online services.
  5. Options to put server load in the cloud (IaaS deployment options)

Implementing a Location Platform (Enterprise Integration)

  • What were the main issues you discussed?
  1. Defining what the GIS Enterprise is.
  2. Tools used to implement Enterprise GIS.
  • What were the big takeaways from your discussion?
  1. Enterprise definition is variable – depends on the business needs.

Empowering a Mobile Workforce

  • What were the main issues you discussed?
  1. How to engage staff into projects or solutions without $$.
  2. Getting business involved, defining business processes, identifying application priorities.
  • What were the big takeaways from your discussion?
  1. Business processes that can be improved with mobile solutions.
  2. Sources for proper mobile solutions: Business partnerships, dedicated business analysts, development tools.
  3. Mobile development and deployment: identify business needs, prioritize deployment strategy with business executives.

Leveraging Big Data

  • What were the main issues you discussed?
  1. Understanding data location – best utilization of existing data.
  2. Deriving meaning from data – spatial relationships and patterns.
  3. Different methods of capturing – GeoEvent Extension, RSS streaming services.
  • What were the big takeaways from your discussion?
  1. What we mean by the term big data.
  2. Importance of clustering in storing and searching big data – ArcGIS tools for Hadoop.
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