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Implementing ArcGIS

55 Posts authored by: acarnow-esristaff Employee

Here is the third of my twelve posts as a GovLoop Featured Contributor: 



Here is the second of my twelve posts as a GovLoop Featured Contributor: 

For the next twelve weeks, I am a GovLoop featured contributor. Please check out my first post: 

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.


Check out the Speaker Bios. (Adam Carnow, Tom Tibbits, Paul Giroux, and Nick O’Day)

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:

  • Katrina Scarborough – Osceola Co., FL Property Appraiser
  • Eddie Canon – Cobb Co., GA Support Services Agency Director

Following the panel discussion, Adam introduced everyone to the “Lean Coffee” communication methodology that we would use to drive our round table discussions.

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.

Tom Tibbitts provided our second presentation on Managing a Utility; Solving Assets, Operations, Projects & Hurricanes with Mobile-GIS, Cityworks and Insights.  Tom’s presentation was followed by our second period of round table discussions.

After our lunch break, Paul Giroux presented our third presentation on An Elusive Enterprise.  We followed with our third period of round table discussions.

Our final presentation was provided by Nick O’DayPunching above your Weight: Maximizing the Impact of your GISWe followed with our fourth period of round table discussions and closed with a Panel Discussion with Adam, Tom, Paul, and Nick.

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.


Want an example of how easy ArcGIS app deployment can be?  Check out this story: Accelerating Small-Town Services on a Small-Town Budget | ArcNews 


Want help? Esri and our business partners are here to help you every step of the way.  You can also start with this Esri Training course: 


Thanks to Andy Huntington and Brian Baldwin for peer review of this post.



Wikipedia, Reed Gold Mine:

North Carolina Historic Sites, Reed Gold Mine:

This post was originally published on LinkedIn, April 8, 2016.

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of being part of the team representing Esri at the American Planning Association (APA) National Planning Conference in Phoenix, AZ (see a picture of the Phoenix Convention Center above).  I really feel at home among planners, as I have a Masters degree in Urban & Regional Planning, attained the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) certification, spent part of my career as a Planner, as well as worked with planners as a GIS practitioner.

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. Our participation includes 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 the Twitter hashtag #APA16.

We were very busy and showcased solutions like ArcGIS Online, Story Maps, free and configurable Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) apps from our ArcGIS for Local Government solutions gallery, Business Analyst Online (BAO), GeoPlanner, and other planning solutions, like Geodesign and 3D.  The bottom line was that quite often planners realized that their view of GIS was inaccurate - there are a lot of web-based tools that they can use themselves to be more productive, efficient and effective.  Most of them are used to having to learn ArcGIS for Desktop, or to have a full-time GIS specialist perform the GIS-related tasks for them.

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 of geography 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.

This post was originally published on LinkedIn, June 22, 2016.


As the 2018 Esri International User Conference approaches, I have been thinking about the essence of what makes an enterprise GIS successful and offer these thoughts...

A successful GIS implementation requires more than just technology.  Whether or not a GIS is successful, largely depends upon motivated people that are committed to managing change, and effectively applying the technology in a sustainable manner, while following best practices.  An assistant City Manager once told me, "...whether or not our GIS implementation is successful is not a technology problem, it's a people problem..."

Two of the key elements of a successful GIS are vision and leadership – if you are a GIS Manager, you need to be more than just a manager, you need to be a leader in your organization.  You need to awaken your organization, and the public, to the capabilities and benefits of the use of GIS.  This means you need to market the benefits of GIS to colleagues and the public.  Let them know that GIS can do more than make maps, that it can be used easily by anyone, and that spatial analysis can provide insight that is not accessible with any other technology.  This critical insight can help anyone make better decisions, be more efficient, and therefore, save money and time.

In order to realize this vision of a location platform successfully supporting your organization’s business, you need to understand how GIS can contribute to your organization’s success.  Talk to leaders in your organization, understand what their vision is, and what their problems are.  Then deploy sustainable GIS solutions that directly align with their vision, and help solve their problems.  Provide these leaders with solutions they can use themselves to run their business – solutions like web-enabled, operational dashboards.  By making executives GIS users, they will directly understand the value of GIS, and it will elevate your standing in the organization, as well as your GIS, to a mission-critical, enterprise business system.

A successful GIS also needs a living strategic plan.  No enterprise IT system can be successful without an effective strategic plan.  This plan need not be a voluminous document that takes a huge effort to create, and then sits on a shelf.  It can be as simple as a matrix showing which GIS capabilities have been deployed to which departments.  This would then identify what areas are targets for GIS expansion.  Then simply prioritize those, and through phases implement the appropriate solutions to meet their needs.  The key is that the plan is constantly being updated, so it stays relevant and effective.  This plan should align with the IT strategic plan, as well as the overall organizational strategic plan.

Effective governance is another key to a successful GIS.  This means that you must have an organizational structure that allows GIS to be as effective as possible.  You do not want process to get in the way of progress.  There are options for how to effectively implement and govern a GIS, that can be successful, depending on the organization.  One key is that there must be executive sponsorship for GIS.  There should also be a GIS Steering Committee, made up of executives that can make business decisions related to GIS.  This would include decisions on whether or not a GIS solution should be developed using Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) technology, or a custom solution developed by authoring code.  This Steering Committee should also prioritize the GIS projects based on their value to the organization.  This frees up the GIS professionals to do their work in a manner that is sustainable and best aligned with the organization’s mission.

As ArcGIS has evolved, so too does your approach to how the technology is implemented.  Technology is changing faster and faster, therefore to keep up with that change, you must take advantage of it by implementing evolutionary approaches, or change management.  Embrace the change, make it part of your daily work – if you do not consciously commit time to change management, you will not affect any change.  You need to do this by participating in ArcGIS beta programs.  Use an annual subscription to the ArcGIS Developer Program to allow you to constantly try out all of our products to see how they are applicable to your work.  Investigate the new capabilities of the latest versions of ArcGIS, and make, and execute, plans to utilize them.  Change is tough, but it cannot be ignored and the effective and constant management of change, is a foundational piece of any successful organization.

If your ArcGIS implementation is to be successful, the apps that people use must be engaging.  With the widespread acceptance in our personal lives of smart mobile devices, like phones and tablets, and their app ecosystems, the expectations of end users have permanently changed.  No longer are people willing to read a manual or take a class to learn how to use an app.  No longer can GIS apps look like desktop, with layers to turn on and off, and toolbars full of many tools to choose from.  Apps need to be focused, intuitive, and work on any device, anywhere at any time.  With the spread of smart mobile devices, work takes place wherever and whenever the worker decides, so your GIS apps need to be there with them, ready to work for them.  They need to be as easy-to-use as any other app on their devices.  The goal is to give everyone alternatives, but keep them in a known, controlled and secure environment, while using the latest and most authoritative data and processes.  ArcGIS includes a suite of apps that can easily be deployed without writing code. Become familiar with them and see which ones apply to your organization's workflows.  

The last key facet of a successful GIS implementation is good people.  With GIS being a technological field that is rapidly changing, it is critical the GIS professionals get annual training to keep up with the changes.  Maintain a living workforce development plan that creates an educational pathway for the GIS users in your organization that is based on their responsibilities.  Additionally, a GIS Manager, needs more than technological skills – they need business management skills, as well as IT skills.  As a GIS Manager, you need to market and sell your team’s capabilities to the leaders of your organization.  You also need to develop and maintain a business plan and change management plan as part of the GIS Strategic Plan.  These are skills that need to be acquired to be successful.  You also need to learn how to run an enterprise IT system including the implementation of service level agreements, system architecture design, enterprise system integration, security, project management, etc.  It is important to realize that no GIS is successful through solely internal resources.  Implementing and maintaining an effective enterprise GIS requires outside assistance, so plan for getting assistance from Esri and/or our partners.  Assistance from external, experienced professionals will increase the likelihood of success, minimize risk, as well as reduce the project timeline.

Esri offers many resources to our customers to help make them successful - please take advantage of them.  Here are some that come to mind:

This post was originally published on LinkedIn, April 9, 2018.

So I'm in New York City, NY recently with my family, and of course my kids, who are huge fans of video games, add the Nintendo World Store in NYC to our "must see" list during our visit. We stopped by and had a lot of fun touring the entire museum/store, and stocking up on goodies to take home. While we were there, I couldn't help noticing all of these Nintendo seals around the store, at the bottom of these seals are the words, "EST. 1889".

This really intrigued me. How can it be that Nintendo, one of the world's largest video game companies, was 129 years old?!? I turned to Wikipedia for the answer. Sure enough, Nintendo was founded as a playing card company on September 23, 1889, by Fusajiro Yamauchi. I had no idea it was that old; it's founding had predated electronic computers by almost 60 years. I was astonished that such a well-known, high-tech company, had such historic and modest roots.

This reminded me of one of my favorite informative items from Gartner, an American research and advisory firm providing information technology related insight for IT and other business leaders located across the world. It is a photo of a slide from one of their events, showing the results of an innovation survey; it states,

"The biggest threat to innovation is internal politics and an organizational culture, which doesn't accept failure and/or doesn't accept ideas from outside, and/or cannot change."

That statement is so true. Too many organizations are not innovative, due to these exact issues. When there is a lack of innovation, organizations stagnate and fall behind, and often do not get the return on investment for the technology they have already invested in. If they are private entities, they usually fail, because they cannot compete. If they are public entities, they are rendered ineffective and waste money. The cure to this is change management. Change is inevitable, but also not easy. We cannot ignore change. We must embrace it, part of that is accepting failure.

If you read the history section of the Nintendo Wikipedia entry, you will see that like many successful companies, not all of their endeavors are a success - these include a taxi company, a love hotel chain, a TV network, and a food company. Not all of their electronic gaming products have been huge successes, either. But the reason they are one of the leaders in this incredibly competitive industry, is because they are innovative - and part of that is accepting failure, accepting ideas from the outside, and changing.

So I put this challenge out there to all GIS practitioners: your job is to be innovative, so please do everything you can to make that happen. The people that are funding your work (shareholders, if you work for a private company - taxpayers, if you work for a government agency - donors, if you work for a non-profit) deserve a good return on their investment in you - that means you have got to use all of the capabilities you have available to you, and you have got to keep the technology current - it is the crux of your job. You have got to make it a priority and dedicate time for it.

Don't believe that one person cannot make a difference in an organization, there are many examples to prove otherwise, this being a great one: Accelerating Small-Town Services on a Small-Town Budget. Change management and innovation take time and resources, please invest in them. There's a difference between being a manager and a leader, you have a great opportunity to lead, please make the most of it. You have access to powerful technology that can make a difference in your organization, your community, and your life. As Denzel Washington so eloquently put it, "Don't just aspire to make a living. Aspire to make a difference."

Some ideas on where to start:

Learn the basics of Change Management. Here are some excellent resources: GovLoop, Harvard Business Review, McKinsey & Company, Kotter International, Prosci

Seek to be influential. Here are Three Differences Between a Manager and a Leader.

Communicate with, not to, your leaders. Seek them out. Learn their pain and their vision. Then propose solutions that alleviate their pain, and support their vision. They will become your supporters.

Get some help. Reach out to the GIS community, they are a powerful force.

Thanks to Michael Green and David Schneider for peer review of this post.

If you are headed to the 2018 Esri User Conference, and need some guidance in creating your personal agenda, and you are a current, or future, GIS Manager, check out this flier that lists some recommended activities.  They include the GIS Managers' Open Summit and the GIS Manager Track.


GIS Manager Events and Activities UC 2018 Flier 

If you are headed to the 2018 Esri User Conference, and want to hear from experts and peers on planning strategies for a successful enterprise GIS, please consider attending the GIS Managers' Open Summit on Tuesday, July 10th.  Here is a link to a GeoNet blog post that provides more information, and includes a link to the registrations site.  Registration is free, but since we have limited space, we require attendees to register.  Hope to see you there!


Esri User Conference Behind-the-Scenes: GIS Managers' Open Summit 

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