“Success leaves clues.” – Jim Rohn
Since joining Esri Australia in 2013, I maintain regular contact with around 40 organisations each year. In some of these organisations, GIS is a business-critical system, well supported by executives, with high adoption by end users, making a real difference for decision making.
In other organisations, GIS struggles for support, funding and relevance. Surprisingly, there does not appear to be any direct correlation between head count, industry, IT maturity or any other discernible factor that determines GIS success.
But success leaves clues and there are clear patterns that set successful GIS strategies apart.
Based on these patterns, here are my top 5 tips on how to ensure your organisation’s GIS success:
- Align the GIS budget with business initiatives
GIS is a business expense consisting of salaries, software, hardware, data, external services and professional development. Just as we treat expenses in our own household budget, most organisations will budget just enough to maintain the status quo. Discretionary budget is dedicated to high priority business initiatives that will increase revenue, improve safety, minimise risk, etc.
Effective GIS managers connect with high priority business initiatives and demonstrate how to solve those problems using GIS. The enhancement of the organisation’s GIS then becomes part of the initiative and therefore its budget. Tying GIS innovation to a specific project with measurable outcomes will help validate GIS budgets.
- Talk to the C-suite about GIS in their language
Executives generally reach their level in business through their skills in managing budgets and people, and a strong knowledge in a professional field. Knowledge of GIS doesn’t often fit into the C-suite job description.
To gain the highest level of executive support, explain the value of GIS in terms that will resonate with executives – return on investment, efficiency, collaboration, risk, engagement. (Save the GIS jargon, features and functions for the IT team and end users.)
- Become an organisation enabler, not a map maker
Many organisations still believe that GIS is only accessible to the highly trained specialist with their own professional desktop GIS software.
This has changed in the last five years. Web GIS means every organisation can have access to fit-for-purpose, easy-to-use apps with the ability to produce maps, edit, work in the field, search for datasets and perform analysis.
The GIS Professional can now put simple tools in the hands of all staff and embed maps seamlessly within workflows and critical business systems. This makes GIS available to the entire business and cements the position of GIS as a business-critical system.
- Keep and share up-to-date information
Here’s a way to ensure your organisation doesn’t fall into the ‘but it’s getting the job done’ trap. Even after agreeing that a new approach is faster/better/more efficient/effective than the current approach, some decision-makers will still want to maintain the status quo.
Innovative GIS managers stay up-to-date with changes in the industry and know when those changes will make a real difference. They attend vendor information sessions, conferences and industry events and subscribe to blogs and newsletters. This empowers intelligent judgements on which new technologies will add value to the organisation and are not just change for change’s sake.
- Demonstrate the value of progress and automation
This can be a tough one. Progress means change, change means stepping outside of day-to-day tasks. Most change requires time and/or money, a business case, market research, procurement, implementation and change management.
Why would a business approve change through GIS unless a net positive outcome can be identified?
Show the value of automating work (rather than manually pushing data to a mobile device, making maps that could be self-served, double-handling data that could be stored centrally) and enable others to undertake GIS-related tasks and analysis.
Record the time it took before, then the time it takes after the change. Do a pilot or proof of concept. Provide a Cost Benefit Analysis to the decision makers. Make them an offer too good to refuse.
In my experience, these tips have had a positive impact when it comes to budget negotiations and strategy discussions.
Hopefully by drawing on these success clues gathered from a variety of organisations, you can now fast track your organisation to GIS success!
About the author
Business Development Manager