Managing GIS Needs More than Technical or Data Knowledge

It is easy to fall into a fallacy when it comes to any area of technology. The mistake is to think that mastering the mechanical and theoretical intricacies are all that is necessary to make things work for your company. Geographic information systems, or GIS, is no exception. Companies can use the concept of location — which can be logical or virtual as well as literal and physical — to bring together otherwise disparate information and gain insights and knowledge that would be impossible to acquire any other way.

But as people who obtain a Masters in GIS quickly learn, using the technology in a corporate, governmental, or non-profit setting is far more complex than running software against sets of data. There are strategic and tactical considerations of legislation, globalization, and mobilization to consider, as research firm ARC Advisory Group notes in a recent study.

The GIS and geospatial market has continued to grow at a good pace through the last two years and it should keep growing at least through 2017. Some of the major factors affecting GIS are industry-specific regulatory requirements, adoption in emerging markets, and the marriage of GIS and mobile solutions.

“Adoption of mobile GIS by utilities for field work such as maintenance and network build-outs continues to increase sales to utilities. In addition, the recently enacted US legislation known as ‘Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21)’ includes budget items that ARC believes will increase spending on GIS solutions in the US by the federal government,” according to Clint Reiser, Enterprise Software Analyst, and the author of ARC’s “Geospatial Information Systems Global Market Research Study”.

In many cases, increased regulation on industries indirectly increases the use of GIS as a way to fulfill requirements. For example, additional safety and environmental requirements on pipeline construction opens a door for GIS systems to monitor and analyze performance data to tell whether pipelines are within specified parameters.

Both the public and private sector in emerging economies have seen the value of GIS as a vital tool to manage infrastructure, monitor economic activity, and measure the effects of population on resources. Organizations in these regions continue to ramp up their adoption of and investment in GIS as a result.

Cloud computing and software as a service (SAAS) delivery has reduced the cost of many software applications, including GIS, and also made them available on many more platforms than ever before. Because the computation does not need to happen at a desktop or even on a directly connected server, people have increasing access via mobile devices.

But all this has important implications for using GIS. Companies should understand the strategic ramifications of GIS and how to effectively adopt it to run operations. GIS use on mobile devices could face data privacy and safety requirements that change from one country to the next. Some technology may be restricted from distribution in certain countries. Implementing GIS becomes a far more complex problem than installing software and collecting data. Executives need knowledge of how strategy, regulation, and technology affect each other to help their organizations legally and effectively adopt GIS.

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