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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.

Is GIS Groaning to Move Away from its Traditional Roots?

June 17th, 2016 by Matt Sheehan

GIS is at a crossroads. And its been there for the longest time. The technology has a long history with deep roots in the public sector. Technical advances with mobile and cloud are driving change. Finally GIS has come out of its shell. Is technology the driver or demand? That is a good question.

Is GIS Groaning to Move Away from its Traditional Roots?
As we discuss this question:Is GIS Groaning to Move Away from its Traditional Roots? let’s first consider the then and now. Traditional GIS is map focused, centred on 3 elements: desktop, server and web. See the diagram below:


Cloud based GIS connects these elements. Simple right? Disruptive definitely.

What are the implications of cloud GIS? Reading others discussions i come across words like: sharing, collaboration, simplicity. All very true. I actually wrote, a number of years ago in this blog, that cloud GIS is about GIS anyplace, anytime, in the office or out of the office. I now read variations on that statement. That truly is at the core of cloud GIS. But traditional thinking and approaches to GIS persist. We continue to hear the following:

Isn’t GIS mapping technology?

I’m comfortable with desktop GIS, cloud based GIS is confusing and a leap into the unknown.

Why should we move off of web and server GIS, our user community are satisfied?

The benefits of cloud GIS are considerable, but adoption demands a different mind-set, a new set of skills, a wider view of the applications of GIS technology. Though we wont cover that here, there is no doubt also business reasons as to why GIS is groaning to move away from its traditional roots. But we believe adopting cloud GIS in place of traditional GIS requires hand holding. Realising the possibilities of cloud GIS, implementing solutions across groups and departments, dispelling myths will not happen organically. The picture needs painting of the possibilities.

Its up to us all to revisit how we approach GIS. In our case, we have adjusted our business practices. Through our from Where to There process we have developed a holistic approach to moving organizations forward with GIS: from a mapping technology to business problem solving. For us this is a subtle but significant change.

Feel free to contact us on 801-733-0723 if you have questions.

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

One Response to “Is GIS Groaning to Move Away from its Traditional Roots?”

  1. clark beattie says:

    For me the issue is while it’s true that Cloud GIS Technology provides the tools that enable collaboration, sharing, authoritative data sources etc. it’s the business process that drives the application of the tools to get the job done. I read a meaningful quote somewhere recently that says it all ” in today’s connected world people want answers to their questions not data about their question” By spatially enabling business processes we can provide these answers in the context of the work flow that the end user expects, not what the organization thinks they should have. Big difference! If I search for a nearby restaurant in Yelp do I really care about how the back end geo-processing works? No I want to know the nearest Italian 4 -5 Star with good ratings. I would wager that any business area manger worth their salt uses geo-apps on their phone but don’t recognize the importance of spatial analytics in their own organizations. So it comes down to being a business problem not a GIS one!

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