In this blog post I wanted to step back and reflect on the dramatic changes in GIS, we’ve been calling it the GIS Revolution. To ask the question is there a gap between perception and reality? And discuss the continued importance of early adopters.
The emergence of cloud and mobile technology have raised dramatically the profile and demand for location technology. Esri and other vendors in the GIS space have reacted to these technology changes and new demands by releasing new products. That actually understates reality, in the case of esri, they are in many ways reinventing themselves. We are in a phase of GIS innovation. The path is to mainstream acceptance and use of GIS; new uses of the technology and a vastly expanded user base.
Traditional GIS users are seeing their world turned upside down. Those new to GIS now have an entry point. They are no longer excluded from the technology. Publishing maps has never been easier. A plethora of GIS apps are now available. Configure first has become an esri mantra. And why not. If your GIS app needs are shared by others why reinvent the wheel? Esri are releasing new configurable apps at a prolific rate.
Is there a Gap between Perception and Reality
So where are we in the GIS revolution?
Have traditional users adopted the new cloud based solutions, are they configuring apps and providing them across their organizations? Are non-GIS users adopting the technology in droves? Reading the GIS press you would think yes.
The reality is definitely, maybe!
The Importance of Early Adopters
The GIS Revolution still being driven by early adopters. The GIS press is in reality focused on where we are going not where we are. We see adoption rates as picking up, definitely close to a tipping point, but not there yet.
Value. Now there is a slippery term. Value is very much down to individual perception. Yet providing and demonstrating value is at the heart of our mission as GIS solution providers. And I don’t just mean by companies like ourselves who provide GIS services. Those looking to provide new GIS based tools across an organization will come across the value proposition. Why should i give up my paper based approach to data collection? Stop using spreadsheets for asset management?
Do those new to GIS see the value?
As GIS professionals the value of GIS to us is obvious. Location based data is better understood, easier to work with, when presented on a map. Maps are images, our brains are wired to understand images. Hidden behind the (map) covers is the analysis part of GIS. Spatial analysis, location intelligence call it what you will. GIS is very powerful technology.
Flexibility and simplicity. This should apply to any and all ArcGIS apps. As a company we stay focused on providing this perfect balance. In this article will provide a sneak peek into a development effort in which we have been engaged which brings amazing flexibility and simplicity to ArcGIS web apps.
Sounds like cheap advertising. If you read this blog regularly you know me better than that. Read on you might be surprised.
The ArcGIS Platform
Before we jump in, let’s just step back for a moment. The concept of the ArcGIS platform is still sinking in for many. Those who attended the recent Esri developer or partner summits in Palm Springs were given a deeper dive into the idea of the ArcGIS platform: identity, web map, maps and apps. Esri aren’t alone in their evolution. As GIS becomes a core technology (its popularity driven by cloud and mobile technology) much is changing. Its change for the best. Different to our old narrow comfy niche. Call it advance and progress. Long overdue in our view.
In this post we will discuss widgets. Dojo widgets (don’t worry we wont be getting technical) to be precise. We have moved past the days when we need to build big bloated web applications loaded up with tools. I used the analogy of a cruise ship versus a speedboat in a recent post: Esri, Me and my Cats.
Today we do not need to spend the time and money building one big web application to serve all needs. We can start with a simple configurable map viewer and add widgets to provide focused functionality.
Writing helps me pull my thoughts together. Helps me understand. I write in large part for myself. Over time my 2 cats have joined me. Sitting on my lap, letting me know in their own special way when they disagree with something I have written (they were particularly amused by my reference to the Osmonds in my recent Utah blog post.)
Over time I have realised these blog posts and articles I write have a reach wider than just my cats. It would seem others (you) are reading these regular missives. I find that very interesting and in many ways surprising.
So why title this post “Esri, Me and my Cats”? Regular readers will note I often reference esri.
Simply put I love esri technology, and I think they have arguably the most huggable group of employees on the planet (its ok, i am European we are like that). The thrust of much of my writing is around what I call emerging GIS. Its the move from a niche technology to core. Much of this is being driven by the new recognition and demand for location based information. Now don’t get me wrong i don’t agree with everything esri. But they are helping to forge the path forward for much wider acceptance and adoption of location technology.
Let’s talk about traditional and emerging GIS. And within the same discussion consider how esri are changing the old models. I see traditional GIS like taking a cruise (stay with me here). Huge ships, filled with everything you could imagine to do (and eat). They move slowly, take an age to turn, are tough to dock. They live in isolation. I see emerging GIS as that slick speedboat we have always wanted. Cool looking, fast, easy to manoeuvre, does one thing really well, can dock anywhere and with anything.
I believe esri are now focused on providing ready built tools for us to easily construct these lightweight, highly focused (GIS) speedboats. To me that is what they mean by configure first. Today GIS is all about providing tools which work super well, are simple, and focused. See Web AppBuilder (widgets), see App Studio (templates), see the ArcGIS platform itself: a web map and identity provide access to a plethora of tools and applications.
Its hard to leave those comfy (traditional) cruise ships. But those of us who have embarked on the emerging GIS path (and I spoke to many last week at the esri EPC in Palm Springs) are in for an exciting ride. One which will bring enormous value to our customers.
I wanted to find a good video to finish off this post. The “laughing Gnome” really does not fit well with the discussion, but its the cats favourite ….
Palm Springs is an unpleasant place in March. Flowers everywhere, birds singing and 80 degree temperatures. Attendees suffer this unpleasantness to attend the Esri EPC and Dev conferences. This year is proving notable in many different ways. Big changes are taking place. Esri technology, internal structure and messaging are evolving rapidly. Sure we’ve seen change in the past, that is part of growth, but things feel different.
We’ve said it before: GIS is complex. data, spatial platforms, raster, vector, layers on and on. As GIS become more ubiquitous, ever more people will be exposed to this technology. That’s users and technologists. Our role as GIS experts is increasingly to simplify/hide this complexity. This will require us changing our language, our approach and the solutions we build. Like Esri we need to change.
1. Look to use GIS to solve business problems. Today GIS talks easily to other business systems. Collaborating directly with a GIS will reduce complexity, provide rich location analytics, reduce costs and much more. See our recent blog post: What is ArcGIS Geo-Enablement?.
2. Still printing or generating pdf maps? Use GIS for more than just maps. GIS answers any and all location focused questions: show me which valves need inspecting? Where are our most profitable stores? Which homes are in areas at greatest risk of flooding?
3. Start thinking about platform. ArcGIS is one product made up of many complementary elements. Integration or geo-enabling has never been easier. See our white paper on our approach to leveraging and integrating with ArcGIS.
4. Consider configuration, before customization. For ArcGIS, Esri have made available over 50 applications or templates which are ready to be used. Simply configure and launch. Check out our ArcGIS Templates package if you need help.
5. Think about your data. Bad data, means a bad GIS – fix your data: the incorrect, incomplete, or old data. Simplify your asset data model: favour simplicity over complexity. Build the cleanest data system with only the core attributes, and remove data duplication.