As COVID-19 restrictions continue to impact countries around the world, your GIS team may need to work remotely for several months. Find out how you can optimise an existing distributed working environment in part two of our three-part series.

By improving the performance and reliability of your GIS team’s remote working environment, you’ll be ensuring continuity of business as usual functions. To discover how you can transition your GIS team to a remote working environment, refer to Part 1.

  1. Lighten your (local) workload

    Within a distributed working environment, your team’s internet speed and reliability will vary. Therefore you should aim to reduce your team’s bandwidth requirements to improve performance.

    As a guideline, avoid using a corporate VPN if possible. Depending on your organisation’s structure, it is possible that your VPN may be experiencing heavy use from non-GIS users.

    The use of ArcGIS Online can drastically reduce your team’s reliance on VPN access as it uses a Software as a Service (SaaS) model where all infrastructure is external to your organisation. Depending on your internal IT infrastructure, Portal may also offer a similar benefit.

    As mentioned in Part 1 making use of hosted and referenced feature layers for data layers will make your experience as seamless as possible.

    Hosted feature layers have the option to allow offline editing, where edits are synchronised upon reconnection. Note that this may require additional management to ensure that multiple users do not edit the same features simultaneously. By default, referenced feature layers have the capability to reconcile concurrent editing conflicts.

    If you have migrated to using Portal or ArcGIS Online, there are further steps you can take as well. If you are using feature layers for visualisation purposes within your processes, then consider publishing a copy of the feature layer as a vector tile layer.

    As the name suggests, vector tile packages operate in a manner similar to image tiles where only a tile appropriate for the display scale of your map is rendered, however the data displayed is a vector type, reducing the amount of data needed to display features.

    Typically vector tile layers are used purely for visualisation purposes, but pop-ups can be configured using the associated feature layer. Furthermore, if your layers are configured appropriately, workers can use the Download Map button within ArcGIS Pro to keep a local copy as outlined here.

  2. Work smarter, not harder

    Within Esri software there are many tools which can be used to increase the ease and repeatability of GIS work.

    If part of your team’s GIS work involves performing an analysis process continually, ModelBuilder offers the capability to join together multiple geoprocessing tools into a model which can be run in a similar manner to an “out of the box” geoprocessing tool.

    Using the graphical programming interface of ModelBuilder, parameter types can be specified and constrained, and logical processes such as preconditions, iterators and if-then-else components can be used to achieve the analysis you would like to perform.

    Models can be packaged and shared as a toolbox file and published as a geoprocessing service if your organisation has Portal or ArcGIS Server. This allows other users to perform the same analysis using server resources. Models can also be exported as a Python script and run locally at regular intervals using Windows Task Scheduler, and from version 2.5 and onwards a scheduler is included within ArcGIS Pro.

    For even more advanced functionality, the Data Interoperability extension for ArcGIS Pro and Desktop can be used. The Data Interoperability extension can seamlessly provide integration and translation between many GIS and non-GIS systems; around 370 file types are supported.

    If you would like to streamline a GIS process that isn’t a strict geoprocessing operation, then you can design a step by step wizard interface using ArcGIS Pro Tasks to guide users on the process. Using Tasks ensures that best-practices are followed by non-GIS experts.

    For organisations with an advanced GIS maturity, ArcGIS Workflow Manager is designed to address workflow management challenges involving multi-user editing of enterprise geodatabases. Workflow Manager provides the capability to standardise processes, assign work tasks, manage data versioning as well as tracking and reporting on task progress. ArcGIS Workflow Manager provides the capability to easily manage a complex, distributed GIS team.

  3. Use downtime effectively

    Even with excellent preparation, your GIS team may encounter connectivity or other technical issues that prevent the completion of required tasks. In these situations, use your downtime for personal development. An excellent resource for online Esri training is Esri Academy which has a comprehensive 633 training items available.

    If your organisation has a maintenance subscription, you will be able to access online courses through Esri Academy which contains detailed explanations, easy to follow instructions, example data for practical exercises as well as a quiz at the end to test your understanding. Upon successful completion, you will be awarded with a certificate. If you don’t have access to the Esri Maintenance Program, you can still access free content within Esri Academy.

    If your organisation will have scheduled downtime for full-day or more, consider engaging Esri Australia to provide a tailored training course. This course can be delivered in a virtual classroom.

    There are also tutorials available on the Esri YouTube channels. The 2019 Esri User Conference and Developer Summit technical workshop playlists are an excellent way to broaden your understanding of how GIS technology can be used to improve your business processes. For something even shorter and a bit of fun, check out One Minute Map Hacks.

Next instalment

While on the topic of downtime, in our next blog post we will focus on how the current COVID-19 situation can be further used as an opportunity to review your organisation’s business processes.

Our team is here to help you and your organisation. For more information on distributed GIS solutions, contact the Client Success team.

About the Author

Ta Taneka profile image
Tariro Taneka
Program Manager, User Journeys
Esri Australia, Brisbane
Designing trailblazing enablement programs.

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