BY TRACY THORLEIFSON
“I have a stack of paper more than one day old.”
Sometimes we use older methods of data collection that rely on users in the field submitting paper requests to the main office to add or alter data in the central system. However, this system is fraught with delay and frustration for both the field users and the main office GIS staff. A better way might be to empower the field workers (or really, anyone who owns data) with a way to get data back to the central office quickly, and queue the data up for review by GIS staff or even Subject Matter Experts.
“I’m entering data 6 hours a day.”
You probably became interested in GIS because you like maps, making them, and building apps for other people to consume. As soon as you got into GIS though, you found that a map is only as good as the data behind it, and inevitably you end up loading that data so that you can build maps. Times are changing. Technology can power that data loading for you so that you can get back to the GIS you wanted to do: making maps and apps to help other people.
“I keep finding errors after I load the data!”
How many times have you loaded some type of GIS data only to find months later that you loaded the wrong data, over-wrote newer data, or even (although this never happens) loaded the data incorrectly? The process of loading data and then running QC is outdated! Using an organized GIS system, you can load the data to a QC environment, process, and review it there before you load it into the main system. This way, you find out about the errors beforehand, not when the boss walks in…
“The other departments at work think GIS is a paper map.”
GIS used to be about doing analysis, and then giving someone a paper map to look at and review. Now, GIS is about building an analysis, and letting others explore the results in a way that is meaningful to them. This does not seem to be common knowledge! GIS does not have to be something special, it can be a daily tool used by anyone in your company, and you don’t even have to print anything!
“I have to schedule time with my manager to get new data approved.”
Managers are busy people – we all are! When data is ready to go, it can sometimes take weeks to get it approved for the system. With messaging technology today, you should be able to send your manager an email or text message to approve some new data. That way, he can approve the data in between meetings, and you don’t have to schedule any time with him.
“My degree is in GIS, and I don’t do GIS.”
GIS stands for “Data Loading In Training,” right? Nope! But it seems like all you do nowadays is load data – over and over again. Using automated systems and QC environments, we could get back to doing GIS, analysing data, and providing value back to the company. Let’s stop loading data, and let’s get the computers to do it!
“I’m sick and tired of looking at spreadsheets!”
Yikes… Engineers do like spreadsheets, but spreadsheets don’t manage data in an enterprise system very well. If an engineer wanted to play with some numbers and then load data back into the system, why does he need you to do it?
“My fancy copy of GIS Software just sits in a corner collecting dust.”
There are a lot of different kinds of GIS software out there. Some of them get spelled with I, R, S, and E, and others have other letters too! These programs are powerful – building web maps is just the beginning. By automating your system, you can start to see more return on the value of that GIS software, and get back to doing the GIS you set out to do!