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Matt Sheehan
Matt Sheehan
Matt holds an MSc in Geography and GIS. He has been working with clients solving problems with GIS for over 17 years. Matt founded WebMapSolutions whose mission is to put innovative, intuitive GIS driven applications into the hands of new and existing users.

6 Key Challenges Slowing ArcGIS Online Adoption

June 8th, 2015 by Matt Sheehan

From our work with customers, we are beginning to see the pace of adoption of ArcGIS Online and the ArcGIS Platform pick up. Ever more maps are being published in Online. But for apps, we remain in a world of early adopters.

What do we mean here?

We mean the pace of those deepening their engagement with ArcGIS Online beyond simply map publishing. Below we discuss 6 key challenges slowing ArcGIS Online adoption.

6 Key Challenges Slowing ArcGIS Online Adoption

1. Time

“Finding the time to implement some of the configurable ArcGIS apps provided by esri is impossible”

That age old problem of not enough hours in the day, holds many organizations back. Dealing with day to day work pressures, and implementing new solutions is a massive challenge. If there is money in the budget, some consultants offer low cost ArcGIS maps and apps implementation services.

2. Money

“We would like to provide ArcGIS Online to a wider group within our organization, but our budgets cannot support the number of named users required.”

Money will always be a challenge, particularly for smaller organizations and those new to ArcGIS. Esri have provided free accounts, and organizational accounts with desktop licenses. This has helped to drive much initial interest. But the cost of adding named users, remains a sticking point. One great suggestion we heard recently was for esri to provide shared named user accounts, which did not allow concurrent use. That means the fire chiefs or maintenance staff, when it is their shift, can use a single named user account. All maps and apps are already set up for their use, and the cost contained.

Getting more bang for your buck is another area worth considering. New widget based ArcGIS apps provide a single application which can be configured for any and all groups within an organization. Providing focused functionality to get jobs done. If the data you have published is public, then these apps can be used without the need for named user logins.

3. Managers

“I would love to extend our use of ArcGIS Online, but our managers do not see the value”

This is unfortunately all too common. Many managers still see GIS as simply maps. They have trouble understanding the true depth of the technology. This is especially true within organizations with established GIS departments. Moving managers forward has much to do with demonstrating value. As an example, in the insurance business GIS can be used for predictive analysis. We have been working with an insurance storymap which helps insurance companies assess their insurance exposure from hurricanes. This is a powerful application which demonstrates to managers the usefulness of GIS technology. Demonstrating how GIS can be used within an organization with actual examples like this storymap is a powerful educator and persuader.

4. Older workers

“Our field based workers are older, they are used to working with pen and paper. Trying to move them to mobile maps and apps is a big challenge”

Similar to educating mangers about the value of GIS, encouraging older workers to adopt new technology has its challenges. Again demonstrating value is key. Let’s take data collection as an example. A well designed, easy to use data collection ArcGIS application can save much time and frustration. Demonstrating ArcGIS data collection apps which work both online and offline and allow staff to tap a feature on a map, fill out information about work done on that feature, and automatically push it into a central system, can be very powerful persuaders. Simplicity is key.

5. Focused, Sticky apps

“What we really need are focused, sticky ArcGIS apps. The kind of apps which staff come back to regularly”

Google maps has always been very sticky. Meaning we go back there regularly. ArcGIS Online is not Google Maps. ArcGIS Online has been built to help organizations. Google Maps is consumer focused. Providing ArcGIS Online apps which are sticky will greatly speed up adoption. Imagine a local government attorney working on different cases. Much information needs to be sifted through and understood. Maps are the perfect medium to display rich data; to query and see patterns. ArcGIS Online should be the first place these attorneys turn as they work through their cases loads. Today that is not the case.

Providing focused, sticky apps across organizations is important. Just like Google maps is to the consumer world, so need be ArcGIS Online to organizations.

6. Lack of authoritative data

“We still do not have a central authoritative source of our data”

We still live in a world of data silos. Both within and between organizations. This is a product of old practices, and politics. Centralized authoritative data makes data sense at so many levels, but that takes organization and direction. Data is power. Many do not want to share their data, since that means “giving up power”. Petty and small minded that may be, but it often a reality. Managers can help break down these barriers, encourage or drive centralization of authoritative data.

Revolutions often take place slowly. That is certainly the case for the new cloud and mobile world of GIS. Amazing possibilities now present themselves. But work is still needed to broaden and deepen organization adoption.

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Categories: ArcGIS Online, cloud GIS, Mobile ArcGIS, Mobile GIS, Web and mobile GIS

One Response to “6 Key Challenges Slowing ArcGIS Online Adoption”

  1. Matt Stull says:

    Good blog! You summarized key challenges really well! I also find that if your data is of poor quality, it is also a challenge in getting people to use any GIS application. If they don’t have trust in the quality of the data, they probably won’t use it.

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