The Path from GIS Manager to GIS Leader - Part 3

06-05-2020 04:00 AM
Labels (1)
Esri Regular Contributor
2 7 2,207

This is a continuation of The Path from GIS Manager to GIS Leader - Part 2.

It is time to bring this all Part 1 of The Path from GIS Manager to GIS Leader, I mentioned how rebranding can help you change your image from mapmaker to enterprise IT solution provider.  This rebranding can be applied to two areas, job titles and department names.  Here are some real example job titles from GIS practitioners that have rebranded:

  • Content Delivery Manager - Charlotte, NC Water Department
  • Decision Analytics Manager - Charlotte, NC Department of Innovation & Technology
  • Data, Analytics & Visualization Services Director, York Region, Ontario, Canada
  • Geospatial Intelligence Manager - US National Geospatial Intelligence Agency
  • GeoAnalytics Information Officer - Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission
  • Geographic Information Officer - there are many examples of this one, especially at the state government level
  • Director of Enterprise Location Intelligence - Walgreens
  • Business Analytics, Intelligence & Reporting Manager – Edmonton Police Service
  • Business & Location Intelligence Manager - DCSI South Australia
  • Business & Location Innovative Services Supervisor - Cabarrus Co., NC

The ultimate accomplishment of all of this is to create a new strategic executive position that is above the GIS Manager and reports to a top executive. This is key, as guiding the strategic direction of enterprise GIS to enable location intelligence across the organization is a full-time job. The GIS Manager position should focus on the operations, managing the GIS staff and projects. While this goal of creating this new executive position may seem impossible, there is evidence to the contrary. If executives see value and potential for more value in technology, they can, and will, create new full-time executive positions to lead these critical initiatives.

When enterprise technology was first implemented at most organizations, the first step was to create something like a Chief Technology Officer (CTO).  As enterprise technology expanded, and with it, the value it provided to the organization, additional positions are being created, like Chief Innovation Officer (CIO), Chief Data Officer (CDO), and Chief Analytics Officer (CAO).  If the lead executive can understand the full potential and value of Location Intelligence and GIS, they will create a Chief Geospatial Officer (CGO).  If this is not possible in your organization, it is possible to move up above the GIS Manager position to gain increased access and ability to affect change and expand the use of GIS. Here are more than thirty real examples of GIS practitioners that have done this from across the US, Canada, and Australia:

  • Mark Wheeler - CIO, Philadelphia, PA
  • Tim Oliver - CIO, Horry Co., SC
  • Todd Shanley - CIO, Cabarrus Co., NC
  • Tim Dupuis - CIO & Registrar of Voters, Alameda Co., CA
  • Tracy McKee - Chief Innovation Officer, Charleston, SC
  • Tessa Allberg - CTO, Grapevine, TX
  • Barney Krucoff - CDO, Washington, DC
  • Mark Greninger - CDO, Los Angeles Co., CA
  • Nick O'Day - CDO, Johns Creek, GA
  • Patrick Baber - CDO, Roswell, GA
  • Hank Garie - CDO/GIO, Philadelphia, PA
  • Bryan Zumwalt - Director Office of IT & Innovation, Pinellas Co., FL
  • Wade Kloos - Director Enterprise Systems, Utah DNR
  • Ryan Fernandes - Director of IT Services, Weston, FL
  • Brad Phillips - IT Director, Decatur, AL
  • Justin Cure - Information Services Manager, Longview, TX
  • Paul Giroux - Innovation, Business & Location Intelligence Officer, Greater Sudbury Utilities, Ontario, Canada
  • John Houweling – Director Data, Analytics & Visualization Services, York Region, Canada
  • Joann Fox – Business Analytics, Intelligence & Reporting Manager, Edmonton Police Services
  • Jillian Elder – Vice President Real Estate Market Research, Ross Stores, Inc.
  • Rob Bailey – Airport Technology Program Manager, Charlotte Douglas International Airport
  • Katherine Lynch – Principal Business Partner – Technology, BHP, Australia
  • Mary Jo Horace - Deputy CIO, Cook Co., IL
  • Susan Olson - Asst. Director of Information Technology, Frisco, TX
  • Tim Nolan - Senior Applications Manager, Collin Co., TX
  • Gary Maguire – State Lead, Geospatial Intelligence at Dept. of the Premier & Cabinet, South Australia
  • Trisha Brush - GIS Director, Kenton Co., KY
  • David Moss - Deputy Director of Data Management & GIS, Maricopa Co., AZ
  • Qazi Iqbal - Assistant CIO (GIS), Fulton Co., GA
  • Steven Steinberg - GIO, Los Angeles Co., CA
  • Keith Stump - Executive Director/GIO, Knox Co./Knoxville, TN
  • Tina Miller - GIO, Anchorage, AK
  • Larry Nierth - GIO, Houston, TX
  • Kenneth Juengling - GIO, Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission
  • Joseph Sloop - GIO, Forsyth Co., NC

Here's an interesting point for those that are GIOs, some GIOs report to the CIO/CTO, but some report directly to another executive.  I think this is an important point to make that who you report to can often offer insight to the importance executives put in your position.  For instance, Joseph Sloop, the GIO at Forsyth Co., NC, reports to the County Manager.  This shows that the top executive in that organization values that position so much, that they want to personally direct their work.  Additionally, there are some examples of GIS leaders that may not have the leadership titles, but still are valued enough to report directly to top executives.  This is the case for the following positions:

  • GIS Coordinator, Oak Hill, WV reports to City Manager
  • GIS Analyst, Morgantown, WV reports to the Assistant City Manager
  • GIS Manager, Montgomery Co., PA reports to the Chief Operating Officer
  • GIS Manager, Skagit Co., WA reports to the Central Services Division Manager

What I'm trying to do here is show examples of how your peers are changing their role in the organization to improve their personal professional development as well as increase the value of GIS.  Use them as inspiration to do the same, change from GIS Manager to GIS Leader.

There is a tremendous opportunity for you as a GIS practitioner to move up in your organization and transition from GIS Manager to GIS Leader. This is a valuable endeavor as it improves you personally and professionally as well as your organization. Remember that your colleagues want your help and need your help, they just don't know it. Reach out to them, be proactive, sell them on the value of spatial analytics and location intelligence. Enable them to use the technology themselves with easy-to-use apps that work on any device, anywhere, at any time. Even though your job description may not include working on the five pillars of location intelligence (Strategy, Organization, Technology & Data, Culture and Literacy), make sure you are dedicating time to all of them, the people funding the enterprise GIS (taxpayers, shareholders, donors) deserve the ultimate level of return on investment and this means maximizing the capabilities of the ArcGIS platform and expanding the number of users.

Don't try to do this alone, reach out to Esri, our distributors, and our partners, as well as your peers and professional network.  Learn from the examples of your peers that are doing this.  Get some non-GIS training on subjects like management, leadership, IT, and business.  Remember that GIS is not about maps, it's about digital transformation.  Align your work to helping the business and to what the leaders at the top deem important, that's how to create value.

You can find additional resources related to this topic here.  Please reach out to me if you'd like to connect, I enjoy helping others in this important transition.  You can find me here on GeoNet as well as Twitter and LinkedIn.

About the Author
GIS practitioner for over 30 years. Grew up in Florida. I'm the Public Works Industry Specialist. Been at Esri since 2008. BA in Geography and MA in Urban & Regional Planning from University of Florida. Formerly GIS instructor and Planner. Varied background includes applying GIS and related spatial technologies to complex, award-winning projects across the globe in the realms of planning, transportation and environmental sciences. Experience includes the public sector, business and academia. I have achieved certification as an Urban Planner (AICP) and GIS Professional (GISP).