Here is the last of my twelve posts as a GovLoop Featured Contributor. Thanks to them for the opportunity to support their amazing community and platform. This one is on the Importance of Communicating Your Value to Leaders.
For those of you that were not able to join us at this year’s Esri International Users Conference, I would like to take some time to share the excitement we had in San Diego meeting and greeting each other at the GIS Managers Open Summit. Over 300 people were registered for the Summit this year.
We had an exciting agenda, starting at 8:00 am Tuesday morning with registration and networking.
We started our morning with a speed networking session; a chance to meet and greet attendees from every part of the GIS community. Our goal was to meet as many folks as possible to start our day.
Following introductions, Adam Carnow provided a presentation on Executive/Elected Official Sponsorship of GIS. Adam introduced some special Elected Official guests who participated in a panel discussion. These guests included the following:
Following each presentation, we had round table discussions related to the presentation topics. Each table was free to introduce topics for discussion, which were then voted on by the table members and discussed based on the identified table topic priorities. The “Lean Coffee” process got all table members engaged and promoted some very exciting and meaningful discussions.
Throughout the day we asked attendees to share key topics from their table discussions on our GIS Managers Round Table Take Away board. We had a great time in San Diego. We were introduced to some great technology, met new friends, and had some great conversations for moving GIS forward. Thanks to all who contributed to this successful event. We will see you next year!
Please bear with me as I set the context for this allegory, I promise there is a meaningful connection with GIS…
You have probably never heard of John Reed. He was a Hessian mercenary, then known as Johannes Ried, working for the British during the American Revolutionary War. In 1782, he deserted his post in Savannah, GA, and later settled in Cabarrus County, in Central North Carolina, to make his living as a farmer. In 1799, John’s twelve-year old son, Conrad, found a sixteen-pound, yellow rock in Little Meadow Creek on the family farm. The Reeds used it as a doorstop.
In 1802, a jeweler from Fayetteville, North Carolina, identified the rock as a gold nugget, and offered to buy it from Mr. Reed. John sold it to him for $3.50, or a week’s worth of wages. The value of the nugget at the time was approximately $3,600. This is the first documented commercial gold find in the United States.
Shortly after this event, John started a mining operation. John Reed ended up a wealthy man. The mining operations ceased in 1912. The Reed Gold Mine is designated as a National Historic Landmark and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It makes for a great visit, especially with children, so they can learn this important bit of American History, as well as on a hot day, as the mine provides some welcome, natural air conditioning. You can even pan for gold yourself. I have found gold flakes each time I have visited.
So, what does this have to do with GIS? Too often I see organizations that have implemented GIS and use only a small number of its capabilities:
They focus only on mapping,
use is restricted to trained GIS professionals,
there is little use of spatial analysis capabilities, and
non-GIS users think of the GIS group only as mapmakers.
This is extremely frustrating since there is so much additional potential in the use of a web-enabled location platform powered by GIS. For most of these organizations, they have this powerful tool right there, but do not take advantage of the true value of the platform they own. Most of the time, it is because they are either averse to change, or they do not know how to take advantage of it.
So, what can GIS professionals learn from John Reed? Think of your GIS as John’s golden doorstop. Here is this incredibly valuable resource just sitting there, not being valued to its full potential. Sure it might prop the door open to simple mapping, but think about how it can contribute to making your community a better place, how it can help with real problems we are struggling with, like homelessness, the opioid epidemic, mosquito-borne diseases… As an ArcGIS user, you have access to free, configurable, supported solutions for real problems like these, and many others. These solutions can be deployed, sometimes in minutes, without writing any code. They are open source, supported and will continue to evolve along with ArcGIS.
Now think about how John realized the true value of the doorstop, and not only profited from the gold he found on his property, but how he changed from farmer to miner, to better take advantage of his situation. Today’s next-generation, web-powered GIS requires a different mindset than the traditional mapmaking-centric GIS of the past. Your job as a GIS professional has changed from performing GIS work for others, to enabling others to leverage GIS capabilities with easy-to-use, focused apps, that work on any device. The real power of GIS is in spatial analysis - your job is to share that with others, so that they can understand that GIS is for more than making maps.
Take a look at what may be holding your door open. A golden doorstop? Mine it for all its worth.
Esri has been supporting this conference for a long time, which is great because planning is a spatial industry and naturally lends itself to the application of GIS. Ourparticipationincludes conducting a series of hands-on workshops, presentations, sponsorship and exhibiting. There were over 4,000 planners there from around the U.S. and abroad. If you want more info on the conference, check out theTwitter hashtag #APA16.
Usually the discussion with these planners would turn to the obvious question of how much does this cost, in reference to one of the products or solutions we were demonstrating. For many of the solutions, the cost is very reasonable (a 5 user license for BAO is $500 per year and GeoPlanner is $500 per year per user). For much of the rest of the solutions (ArcGIS Online, Story Maps, ArcGIS for Local Government), there is no additional cost because they are part of the ArcGIS platform that their organization (most often a city, county, regional or state agency) already owns.
Once they realized that their organization already owned the ArcGIS platform, and that it included a bunch of solutions that they could use every day in their jobs, they were very surprised. Most often their next comment was,"Why hasn't my GIS Manager shown these to me?" I had no answer for that.
Therein lies a lesson for all of us in the GIS industry:we have all got to do more outreach to show our colleagues what the current GIS-powered location platform can do for them. More people using GIS (yes, web GIS is real GIS) is a great thing - as GIS practitioners we all know that using the power ofgeography really can make the world a better place.
Planners especially know this, as they are on the front lines of trying to improve our communities. So reach out to planners, and other non-GIS colleagues, and show them what the current technology can do for them. Make this a priority and part of your daily work. Increasing your user base (dare I say "customers"), should be one of your primary missions as a GIS practitioner.