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Esri Regular Contributor

I had the pleasure of being interviewed for the Esri Australia GIS Directions Podcast.  Please give it a listen and let us know your thoughts.

Rebranding GIS | Esri Australia 

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Esri Regular Contributor

Must-read article from FedScoop for sure...

  • Align digital strategy and key value propositions to the agency's mission and strategy
  • Understand and engage customers to prioritize transformational value
  • Prove the value of the digital transformation with metrics focused on mission outcomes
  • Carefully manage the impact of transformation on employees
  • Leverage a trusted advisor who is not vested in the technology section

Digital transformation is not just about technology - FedScoop 

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Esri Regular Contributor

Highly valuable report from the Harvard Kennedy School Ash Center for Democratic Governance & Innovation 

about why every government executive should care about data.  In depth analysis with examples of the generation of public value through analytics.

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Esri Regular Contributor

There's a movement to quit calling them "soft skills" and start calling them "essential skills". Results of a CIO survey revealed the top skills needed for digital transformation were:

  • strategy building (40%),
  • project management (32%), and
  • business relationship management (25%).

The importance of soft skills in a tech-focused world 

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Esri Regular Contributor

Excellent article...

  • Chasing the "shiny new object"
  • Fear of losing competitive advantage
  • Not understanding the behavior-habit cycle
  • Impatience - being focused on results, not process

4 Reasons Why You Hurt Your Own Strategies | The Upwards Leader 

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Esri Regular Contributor

Excellent article from McKinsey.

Technology Choices

  • Force-fitting technology solutions: Are you choosing technology out of context?
  • Adopting cutting-edge tech that’s not fully mature: Are you adopting new technology that seems promising but doesn’t have a proven track record?
  • Building out your own cloud infrastructure without sufficient capabilities: Have you let security and regulation block your adoption of public cloud?

Technology road map

  • Initiating big-system-replacement programs: Are you focusing on system replacement rather than improving existing systems in a way that is faster and more cost-effective?
  • Focusing on architecture and tooling improvements without enhancing process and delivery discipline: Did you re-architect and implement new tooling but forget to adapt the delivery processes?

Technology management

  • Focusing on outputs rather than business outcomes: Are your technologists focused on output instead of business/technology outcome?
  • Managing IT purely for cost: Are you sacrificing significant value by overindexing on price and cost?
  • Investing in developing new platforms without involving the business: Is your primary focus platform development instead of platform adoption by the business?

Managing technologists

  • Outsourcing your core value streams: Are vendors doing the work that creates the most value for your business
  • Building up an army of managers rather than developing an engineering culture: Do you value your managers more than your engineers?

Antipatterns that are derailing technology transformations | McKinsey 

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Esri Regular Contributor

Great report here from the IBM Center for The Business of Government - Innovation & Emerging Technologies in Government: Keys to Success

They focus on these emerging technologies:

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Blockchain
  • Hybrid cloud technologies
  • Advanced data management
  • Data analytics

They review examples of 10 innovators:

  • General Services Administration
  • Dept of Health & Human Services
  • NOAA
  • Veterans Affairs
  • National Science Foundation
  • Census Bureau
  • State of Utah
  • Sonoma Co., CA

They list these mindsets as keys to success:

  • Entrepreneurial
  • Collaborative
  • Adaptive
  • Mastery of emerging technologies
  • Leadership

Innovation and Emerging Technologies in Government: Keys to Success | IBM Center for The Business of... 

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Esri Regular Contributor

Since there were over 230 Esri staff-led workshops at the 2020 Esri International User Conference, there's a large chance that you missed out on a few that will provide value.  My focus is on the business side of GIS, and that isn't usually front and center for Esri User Conference attendees, they are usually there to get the latest on ArcGIS technology.  So here are ten of the business related sessions from the UC you may have missed.  I heartily suggest you watch them when you have the time.  The technology part of an enterprise GIS is the easy part, it's the people part that's hard and usually stands between you and the full potential of the technology in your organization.

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Esri Regular Contributor

Toby Soto, Tim Nolan & Wade Kloos of are hosting a GIS Leadership Virtual Summit available to anyone at no cost on July 28-29, 2020.  This is a great opportunity for you to get high value content on GIS leadership from a select group of SMEs from across the globe.  The subjects were selected from crowdsourcing the community.  I hope to "see" you there...

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New Contributor III

In my previous article, Architecture is a Funny Word, I introduced Esri’s Global Architecture Team. I talked a bit about the work we do (and don’t do) and how we can support you in your efforts to design, build, and implement a GIS that makes a real difference at your organization. You might want to check that blog out first, since it sets up some of the context for this one. However, if you think context is dull and overrated, then by all means carry on, dear reader.

While everyone uses both sides of their brain, it is said that ‘right-brained’ people tend to be creative, imaginative and innovative thinkers. They like to employ creative concepts to understand complex ideas, are often focused more on the ‘big picture’ rather than specific details. ‘Left-brained’ people are said to be detail-oriented, analytical, and logical thinkers. They like to approach problems methodically and with concrete evidence and facts, and know that people don’t trip over mountains, but over molehills.

It seems to me that GIS practitioners are a diverse mix of right and left-brainers. Which makes sense, since GIS is as much about analyzing data and identifying patterns as it is about communicating concepts and ideas with beautiful, compelling visuals. So, I figured it could be valuable (and fun) to try and explain architecture in a way that would appeal to a larger group of thinkers.

The Right Brain
For my right-brained readers, I offer you an architecture analogy: Architecture is often compared to the architecture of the physical world of buildings, bridges, or even city planning. This analogy illustrates some key facets of the discipline- describing ‘what should be’ in terms of design, and how it should be adjusted going forward. However, this analogy only describes some of what architects do, and sometimes the ‘how’ and ‘why’ are more interesting, especially to you right-brainers, than the ‘what’. So why don’t we take a new analogy for a spin?

The fundamental idea of “yin-yang” is that seemingly opposite or contrary forces are actually complementary and interrelated. If you’ve ever sat in a room with technologists and business people trying to solve a problem together, you might see how those 'seemingly opposite forces' could represent business and technology. Technologists often feel separated from the business objectives of their organization, and business people sometimes see technology as a frustrating, separate field from their work. Of course, these two practices are completely interrelated and dependent on each other: the business dictates the use of technology, and technology guides and enables what’s possible for the business to achieve.

One of the key tenets of an architect’s duty is to make this relationship strong and clear by aligning the capabilities of technology to the needs of the business. In other words, we strive to highlight and strengthen the interconnectedness of these sometimes seemingly opposing forces. We do this by starting with a vision everyone can agree on and collectively work toward. Almost as importantly, we also need to make that alignment easier to see and understand, especially for leadership and other key stakeholders. This means communicating creatively, often with visuals, to explain complex ideas. Anyone who has had to act as the bridge between business and technology knows that bridge’s foundation relies more heavily on the art of building relationships than the science of technicalities.

The Left Brain

Alright, left-brained readers, it’s your time to shine. Let’s get serious about the methodical, concrete work architects on the Global Architecture team can do with you. Our work revolves around three key questions:

  1. Where is your organization today?
  2. Where do you need to be tomorrow?
  3. What’s the best path to get there?

Notice how I didn’t say:

  1. What does your GIS do today?
  2. What do you want to do with GIS tomorrow?
  3. Here’s what you need to buy or install to do it

Rather, we take a business-first approach to ensure that your investment in GIS is directly impacting outcomes for your organization and its stakeholders. We start by understanding the business challenges impeding your organization’s goals, and design new or augmented business workflows that resolve those challenges. Then, we identify what technology components, information, data, and skills are needed to enable those workflows. This process draws clear connections between technology solutions and business outcomes for your executive sponsors (or potential executive sponsors).

This work can’t be done in isolation. An architect documents perspectives from both the business and technology side before defining how to meet their needs in an efficient, sustainable and adaptable way. This means that architects speak the languages of both technologists and business managers. One way we do this is with diagrams. Kind of how GIS practitioners communicate with maps.

While technical architects communicate with system diagrams, my team and I communicate with conceptual and logical architecture diagrams. These might take the shape of a matrix illustrating where technology is not being effectively leveraged in your organization, a flow diagram outlining a new or augmented business workflow, or a roadmap that details how to get from where you are now to a place where you can overcome the challenges impeding your goals.

Let’s Connect

As Esri’s User Conference is just around the corner, I suspect many of you are getting excited to talk about the future for GIS at your organization. The Global Architecture Team is excited to work with you. Come chat with us. If you have any questions or would like to talk about any of these ideas further, email me at You can also reach my team at

“Nothing is as dangerous in architecture as dealing with separated problems” – Alvar Aalto

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