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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.

Now we are not called mapping guys or gals what is holding us back?

August 27th, 2015 by Matt Sheehan

I’ll admit it was a little tongue in cheek. But my blog post entitled “Please stop calling me the mapping guy” proved to be amazingly popular. Our blog is generally well read but this post pushed things off the chart. See Google analytics below:

But a well read blog post does not indicate approval or disapproval. Simply interest in the topic. From the responses I received it would seem many readers agree with the general thrust of my argument. Which leads me to this next post ….

Now we are not called mapping guys or gals what is holding us back?

Where am I going here?

That we still live in a one-dimensional world. That’s where. And it is that which is holding back both the adoption of our technology and us as GIS professionals.

So what do I mean by one-dimensional?

Allow me to walk through my thinking. The world of technology is changing at a rapid pace. Cloud and mobile are revolutionizing how we live and work. The old ways of thinking, interacting and working are being replaced by new faster, more efficient methods. Today we carry with us computers at all times, connecting to cloud based services which are available 24×7. Mobile computing is today’s reality. Mobility means changing location. Changing location means a dramatic increase in location based questions. That means greater demand for technology and people who can answer these questions.

That must therefore mean GIS services and solutions are (figuratively) flying off the shelves. GIS professionals are continually turning away job offers. True?

I believe that is coming, but not here yet. Why?

That Mapping Label (again)

Maps are both a blessing and curse. They are easy to communicate (I work with maps, we can provide a map to view your data), wonderful for discerning patterns, beautiful to look at, the most perfect medium for ‘mashing up’ data. But ..

To be labelled a mapping person is one-dimensional. That label lessens my role, expertise and value to my employer/clients. I provide solutions to location based problems to improve the efficiency and insight of any organization. I want to be described as:

“A key member of my organization tasked to save money and improve our bottom line”

When did you last hear a CEO say “Our mapping person is important to us, since he/she is focused on saving us money and improving our profits”?

Location Technology is the (old) new Kid on the Block

GIS is new to many organizations. The adoption of new is always slow. For those who are already using GIS, there has been caution in moving to new cloud based solutions. Solutions like ArcGIS Online are the future of GIS technology, providing new ways to answer the location based questions of today. This caution and the confusion created by the new remain challenges. Today GIS is for everybody not just for those trained in its use. As GIS professionals we need to take that on board. I want to attend a GIS conference which is just focused on the challenges of widening the adoption of the technology, and uses none of our GIS vernacular.

How can we help small private companies recognise the benefits GIS can bring to their organization (without using the same old site selection examples)?
How can I get the attorneys in our organization to use GIS for their cases in place of spreadsheets?

As a company we take a holistic view of our customers challenges. We guide, implement, educate. We approach problems and solutions in a multi-dimensional manner. Always focused on location as the core component of our solution-set.

Let me illustrate how we try to approach client challenges. We recently had an organization contact us about high-accuracy GPS. Now we like the new Trimble R1; it is low cost, small in size, offers high precision and connects to any Bluetooth enabled mobile device. Rather than provide a simple answer to their specific question, we asked “what problem are you trying to solve?”. What we learned was fascinating. They told us they required a simple way to collect data with sub-meter accuracy. In advancing the conversation we discovered automating this process was important, “having an easy way to view this data would be wonderful” was mentioned. In summary, we found the GPS unit was but one part of a much broader location based problem. We were able to provide a complete solution-set to the satisfaction of the client. As both a company, and individuals, that defines us.

My conclusion. There is a dramatic increase in the number of questions being asked, and answers which can be provided, around location. As GIS professionals we have both the technology and expertise to answer these questions. Sure we can start conversations with the term map. But if we lean on that word too heavily, we undersell our true value.

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

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