When it comes to rolling out or migrating to a new Geographic Information System (GIS), there are a handful of common pitfalls that can derail even the best-laid plans.

As Esri Australia's National Manager for Service Delivery, I’ve been involved in the successful completion of hundreds of projects – seeing first-hand what works, and what doesn’t.

Below is a list of essential tips to help your organisation streamline even the most complex transition.

1. Don’t overcomplicate things

Sometimes you’ll find the simplest application can deliver the best results. Consider establishing an initial operating capability (IOC) utilising a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) approach first. 

Be careful not to be ‘wowed’ by add-ons you might not need to use initially.

Start with a solid foundation, optimise your workflows, then analyse the results – you’ll be in a far better position down the track, when your team is ready to explore more advanced GIS capabilities.

2. Forget the past

When it comes to GIS migrations or major upgrades, one of the costliest errors occurs when a new system is configured to mimic the functionality of the legacy system.

When scoping your new configuration, it’s best to start with where you want to go, rather than where you are. This way you’ll avoid seeding your new system with the very functionality that brought you to the decision to upgrade.

Technical debt is just that…debt. Ensure you future-proof your systems by removing it.

3. Establish a GIS data and services strategy

Remarkably, one of the biggest oversights when it comes to GIS rollouts is the absence of a wholistic data-strategy.

Considerations such as secure environments usually (and understandably) take precedence in planning, but often at the expense of other more practical requirements.

For any specific dataset or service, considerations about the consumer's needs of that data may have an impact on how data is mastered, copied or published.

For example, if you want really complex cartographic symbology on multiple layers of a web map, and for it to be editable and lightning fast in a browser, all while maintaining minimal computing power expenses; then unfortunately you might need to reassess.

Prioritise between competing requirements based on your needs or look at other options such as making a copy of the data for specific uses. Working out the best approach for your data can be as much of an art as a science – there may be conflicting preferences depending on different considerations.

4. Prioritise training

You wouldn’t put a high-performance vehicle in the hands of a learner driver, and the same principle should apply to your new GIS.

Forget about a basic knowledge handover at the end of a project; insist on your solution provider priming your team with ongoing learning and skill development. Ideally, you should look for professionally delivered, tailored training or facilitated group courses.

Once your new system is established, it’s also worth tapping into low-cost training alternatives like webinars, user groups and technical blogs.

5. Keep IT in the loop

There is nothing more disappointing than doing the hard yards to get approval for a system upgrade only to have your project blocked by your IT department.

Ensure your IT team is involved early-on in the project and they’re aware of your organisation’s GIS objectives. You may just find a willing GIS champion within their ranks.

If your IT team has concerns about resourcing, or your system’s ability to handle an upgrade, your technology provider should be able to present a solution that boosts both expertise and capacity.

6. Don’t rush to replace

When it comes to big GIS implementations, one of the things I’m seeing less and less is a rush to kill-off outdated systems.

Before you undertake a wholesale swap-out of your existing GIS, I’d recommend you find out how complex organisations – like Melbourne Water – are deploying the latest GIS technologies to work alongside, and bolster their legacy systems before launching a full enterprise transition.

It’s inventive spatial thinking at its best.

Following this advice will put your organisation in an ideal position to embark on your next project – and have it be successful. Should you need help along the way, my team and I are always on hand for advice and support.

Want to discuss options for your next GIS implementation? Call 1800 870 750 or send us an enquiry for a free consultation.

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