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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.

A GIS Success Roadmap

July 13th, 2016 by Matt Sheehan

I often get phone calls which start like this: “We need an application built which does X”. Do you know my next question?


On the surface that would seem like an odd response. But think about it, the caller has a problem and yet the conversation starts with the technology. This is not the fault of the caller. But without understanding the problem the caller is trying to solve, how can we build out a solution. In this blog post I will share our approach to solving problems with GIS. We have developed a step by step process we use with those both new to GIS and experienced GIS users and organizations. Less an advertisement for what we do, more for you to think about how you might better solve organizational problems with GIS.

Getting the most out of GIS requires careful planning and thought. Below we discuss our systematic approach to solving problems using GIS.

GIS Implementation Process

GIS Discovery

Start with the problem. Start by understanding your challenges. What business problem(s) are you looking to solve with GIS?

For example:

– We need to understand better our insurance risk. Where for example are the homes we are insure which are in high risk areas?
– We are putting in place our disaster management plan, and need a software solution to help manage, analyse and display our data.
– We need to replace our map books with a centralised mapping system.

Next comes the story or how might a solution(s) look?

We will step through questions like:

– How do you do this now?
– Why is how you are doing this today such a problem?
– How do you want to use this new map product?
– What is your overall goal?
– What if you do nothing?

GIS Discovery is all about understanding your challenges in more detail. It stimulates ideas, and can reveal areas not initially considered. This step provides the details needed to put in place a solution plan.

Data Discovery

Data is the core or foundation of your GIS. Too often it is overlooked. Accurate, and complete data forms the building block of everything else you do with GIS. Remember garbage in means garbage out. In this phase dig deeper into your challenges and the data you will need to use within a GIS to provide answers to your questions.

GIS Solution Implementation

With the GIS and Data Discovery phases complete, you are ready to step into the technology. Here there are two key elements:

GIS Technology

Do you already have a GIS solution in place or are you new to the technology? Weigh up which GIS solution makes the most sense given your need. New GIS platforms like ArcGIS offer a way to move forward quickly. ArcGIS Jumpstart Packages can be a good way to help you get started. For more here, see our recent article: Getting the most out of your GIS.

Web and Mobile GIS Applications

There are many options when it comes to GIS applications. These include:

– Custom Web and mobile application. See our recent article called Is your GIS your Flexible Friend?
– Configurable GIS applications, such as our Universal Map Viewer for ArcGIS, focused templates, WebApp Builder apps, storymaps, mobile apps like Navigator for ArcGIS; the list goes on

Weigh up your options carefully. You’ll be surprised by what is now available to you.

Solving Other Organizational Challenges with GIS

Now that you have solved this problem with GIS what other questions do you have based on the outcome of this project? The path to this solution has provided both insight and learning. You are now ready to answer next step questions based on the first step results. Diving deeper and answering other questions follows the same step by step process. This may also widen the conversation to evolving a location strategy.

There you have it. A step by step problem focused approach to using GIS to solve your business problems. As I often say in this blog, never start with the software or technology, focus on the problem and the path to a solution.

Feel free to contact us on 801-733-0723.

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

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