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.
Let us in the post revisit the notion of emerging GIS. We have in other posts discussed what emerging is not: wearable’s, virtual reality and the like. We see emerging GIS as expanding the user base beyond GIS trained staff. Traditional GIS still serves a narrow user base. A huge untapped audience is crying out for the services provided by GIS. A user base so far largely excluded from this technology.
Widening the use of GIS Internally
Look across your organization. Think about your staff. Who today uses the output and services from your GIS? My guess is in many organizations this is a small group. Now consider who COULD benefit from maps and GIS services: maintenance workers, attorneys, engineers, surveyors, inspectors, installers, auditors, sales staff, site managers the list goes on. So the question is how to provide access to the benefits of GIS to these staff?
The question the is how do we widen the reach of GIS within organizations? We see the key is providing new intuitive, user friendly GIS tools. Take as an example the Web based offline ArcGIS editing application we have just released. This provides the ability to view and edit ArcGIS maps when in or out of wi-fi range. We’ve designed it so no training is required. The diagram below shows the application interface:
Easy to use GIS applications which provide focused functionality (editing, redline, custom forms etc) and improve on how users currently get their jobs done, is crucial for wider adoption of GIS technology
New GIS User Base
Many organizations simply do not use location technology. Visualizing organizational data on maps, and searching or analyzing this data spatially is hugely powerful.
Spreadsheets are common in many organizations to track assets, analyse and chart other business components. Pen and paper remain popular with many field based staff; recording work done, completing forms, and more.
GIS brings the power of maps and location intelligence to organizations. It brings new tools to users which can be made available across devices (PC, tablet and smartphone).
It has never been easier nor cheaper to implement and use GIS. ArcGIS Online from Esri is one of a number of cloud based GIS solutions which make publishing and providing access to maps and mapping services very easy. Historically we have helped our customers configure ArcGIS Server, which had its challenges. Now much of our focus is getting organizations quickly set up with ArcGIS Online and Portal for ArcGIS. A super easy process.
Business GIS the New Frontier
The use of GIS to help run businesses remains limited. Business systems such as ERP’s historically have lacked spatial components. This is being recognised as a huge gap. Geo-enablement has become increasingly more important. This is the application of location or geospatial information as part of business processes or using ‘location intelligence’ to augment non-spatial information systems and/or Business Intelligence (BI). This leverages location information in processes and workflows of a business system without the need to fully integrate with a geographic information system (GIS).
Geo-enablement provides the best of both worlds – location intelligence combined with business intelligence – without the expense and complexity of full integration. We’ve taken a data driven geo-enable approach with a web based framework called Geo-EnableJS for ArcGIS. This is one of a number of powerful new geo-enabling frameworks.
Emerging GIS is focused on widening the reach of GIS. To provide new spatial tools to non-GIS users to improve both insight and workflows.