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Archive for the ‘ArcGIS Online’ Category

Lego and GIS are Easy Right?

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

I was born and raised on a small island off mainland Europe. A rainy place, which often drove us as kids indoors. One of my favourite toys when young was Lego. I built simple things with Lego: houses, cars, aeroplanes. Over time the box of pieces grew. I started being creative and building my own simple creations, beyond the step by step guides. It was brilliant.

Building simple things with Lego was easy. One day an older boy asked me if I knew how to build things with Lego. I said yes of course. He needed a structure built for his model railway. He told me the problem and in a perfect world, what he wanted. From his description it all sounded simple. He needed the structure built quickly. I sat down to begin the work. I had all the Lego blocks I needed. Had a description of the problem and goal of the work. I was ready.

Now where to start …… I had absolutely no idea

What did I learn from this experience? Lego is easy if you are solving simple problems. The older boys problem was complex. Sure, I had all the (Lego) pieces to solve the problem but had no idea where to begin.

Today with GIS many are faced with the same challenge

The emergence of GIS platforms is transforming the access, and use-ability of the technology. Publishing maps has never been easier. But answering complex business questions with GIS, that is quite a different matter. Where do we begin, and how do we make better use of our GIS are common questions our customers ask. Like Lego, your GIS might have all the pieces you need (data, configurable application etc) but how do you go from business problem to solution, that is the question?

How does GIS Cross the Divide?

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

We talk often in this blog about the increasing need for answers to WHERE questions. That is what a GIS provides. A common way to visualise the answers to these WHERE questions is through a map. Similar to a chart for spreadsheets. But today GIS lives in an odd place. It is still seen as a mapping solution and not a technology which solves business problems. How do we cross the divide and have GIS seen and used differently? That is the focus of this blog post.

What is the Problem?

I made this mistake the other day. We were in conversation with a real estate company who needed a mobile GIS app developed. They provided a rather confusing picture of what they needed, then asked for a demo from us. I decided to show some examples of mobile GIS functionality, just to help move the conversation forward. MISTAKE. What I should have done is dug deeper. Understood better myself (and maybe more importantly have them understand better) the problem they were trying to solve and the story. I should have followed more closely our from WHERE to THERE process. Showing things we think might interest a client is a mistake we all make. Understand and steer the conversation always towards the problem. How do you propose a solution if you don’t understand the problem?


Can GIS Help the Mad Hatter?

Friday, May 20th, 2016


As the Mad Hatter says:

“I’m late. I’m late. For a very important data. No time to say hello, goodbye. I’m late. I’m late. I’m late.”

Ours is a Mad Hatters world. Fast paced. And getting faster. Decisions increasingly need to be made yesterday. In this blog post we will consider making business decisions fast and where GIS fits.

Can GIS Help the Mad Hatter?

I’m going to rephrase our question: Is GIS a 3 click solution? Is it a software solution which might help those who are moving quickly like the Mad Hatter….

My answer to this question is definitely YES. And definitely NO.

“Curiouser and curiouser!”

Why Yes – GIS IS a 3 click solution

Today GIS has become an in demand technology. Let me re-phrase that: more WHERE questions are being asked by more people. Traditional users of GIS have been swelled by the addition of non-GIS users. Business users in particular are looking for answers to questions traditional BI platforms cannot answer. People are realising GIS is far more than mapping technology. It can analyse and answers complex WHERE questions: Where should we open a new store? Where is our highest flood risk exposure? Where will be the greatest impacted areas of an oil spill?

GIS are you selling or solving?

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016


Selling versus solving seems lately to keep coming to my attention. I’ve watched, heard from others and experienced directly a sales pitch in place of solution discussion. In my case we have been looking for a BI platform to integrate with GIS to solve a particular client problem. So doing my due diligence I reached out to various BI vendors. And what was I met with? A features fest.

“Our platform can do this and that and comes with all these super useful apps and tools. You can configure this and that. Do it yourself or have us help”.

Overwhelming, and frankly bloody useless. Did they once ask about the problem which needs solving? …… Nope.


What is a GIS Quickstart and can it Help ROI?

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016


I’m cautious about my use of the term quickstart. That also applies to terms like jumpstart. In this post we will talk about both getting started with GIS and moving forward with GIS. Ultimately how to answer your organizations WHERE questions with GIS.

Let me ask this question: if you throw technology (GIS) at your WHERE question will you be able to find an answer?

My answer: if you understand GIS and can approach the problem from a spatial perspective, there is a good chance you will be successful.

Can anybody simply invest in GIS technology and … click click click … answer their WHERE questions.


What then is a GIS quickstart? In simple terms its guidance towards answering WHERE questions. It’s help understanding where to start and a guided journey to a solution. Why quickstart? You could spend much time (and money) trying to answer a simple WHERE question with GIS. Leading you to question your return on investment (ROI). Help up front, and support over time can move you forward quicker.

Is your GIS application a one trick pony?

Monday, May 9th, 2016

“A person or thing with only one special feature, talent, or area of expertise.”

That is the definition of a one trick pony. I remember playing football (soccer) once with a chap. He had a devastating trick. I don’t know how he did it, but he would beat the defender with ease … that was until the defender learned the trick and how to defend it. That was the end of beating the defender, and indeed the end of the chaps impact on the game. Because he had but one trick!

Was your GIS application built to do one thing, and only one thing, well. Maybe its mobile data collection, insurance risk analysis, emergency assessment. What happens if you need to do more than your focused application provides? Build or configure another application is likely your answer, or live with a GIS application which does 80% of what you need.

But is there a better way?

Leverage a GIS framework is your answer. Don’t worry this blog post will not be a deep dive into technology. We will at a high level here be talking about the difference between a GIS application and GIS framework. In one word it is about flexibility.

Why is my mobile GIS app so SLOW?

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

I hear this question all the time: why is my mobile GIS app so SLOW? Whether simply loading a map, trying to edit features on the map, or routing; mobile GIS apps can be maddeningly slow. More than maddening, this slowness can actually get in the way of getting work done!

In this post we will discuss the cause and solutions to mobile GIS app slowness.

So what is the cause of mobile GIS app slowness?

For mobile GIS there are two primary causes:

1) Poor wireless connectivity – In both remote and populated areas wireless reception can be very variable. Take a look at the wireless signal bars on your smartphone or tablet. You will see changes in signal strength as you move. The weaker the signal the longer it will take for your mobile GIS app to load or return results. Sometimes you will wait and wait and the application fails. Very frustrating.

2) Loading a large number of features – If you are using a mobile GIS app which loads tens of thousand of features eg points representing water valves, your application will likely be impacted. Often that means a poor performing app. You are taxing the resources of your smartphone or tablet.

So two core reasons for mobile GIS app slowness: wireless connectivity and feature overload.

Looking in the Crystal Ball at GIS and BI

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

So young Matt and I were chatting yesterday. As ever our GIS conversation was wide and interesting. As our discussion meandered we started looking in the crystal ball at GIS and business intelligence (BI). A fascinating conversation. And one in which GIS lite and GIS business specialists emerged.

When referencing GIS we often talk in terms of ‘WHERE’ or ‘Find the Nearest’ questions. At its core GIS answers these questions. Asset management has been a key reason to use GIS eg. where is the broken pipe in need of replacement? The public sector has gravitated to GIS in part for this reason. WHERE are our assets is a very obvious use of the technology, combined with map generation for visualization.

But that’s pretty narrow.

Commercial use of GIS has been somewhat limited versus the public sector. Why? It’s a good question, and one I often ponder. But that is changing. Mobile devices have brought the notion of location to the fore. In our new smartphone/tablet world, WHERE questions are often asked. The commercial sector have begun to realise WHERE is a key business question. That’s good right?

Does GIS hand holding mean I’m a girly-man?

Sunday, April 24th, 2016

As a kid I was a typical boy. Always playing football (soccer), climbing trees, bleeding from a new wound, exploring, covered in mud. I remember hitting my teens and still wanting to do the same. But I realized a new, nagging internal pressure had surfaced. The scene in the Jungle Book where Mowgli follows the beautiful girl to the village, hypnotized, yet looking back at Ba-loo and his other friends, somehow always rang true with me. From free living independence I began to change. For the better no doubt. But I went from nose picking boy, to boyfriend then husband. I began to enjoy simple things like holding hands. Things which would have horrified me as a kid. I began to be guided down a different path by my wife: “More civilized, less smelly man” as she describes. Even to a point now where “manscaping” I will tolerate.

By ‘hand holding’ in this post I’m really talking figuratively. Guidance down a different path I mean directly. When I was a young lad I saw the world in a certain way. My wife gave me a different perspective, showed me a new path. A path, on my own, I would never have known existed (ok, I’m overstating a little here). A path I would have once shunned as “girly”. My wife made me curious, encouraged me to put aside my entrenched thinking, and open my mind to new possibilities.

Mobile Asset Management: Taking GIS and Work Orders OFFLINE

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

Let’s jump into a topic which is much discussed: offline mobile GIS asset management. A problem which lacks good solutions. In this post we will cover the nuts and blots of how offline works for GIS and work orders. We will also share a little secret which might surprise you. Onward.

Many mobile GIS based work order systems are built for laptops. Complex interfaces, hard to use in the field. Often offline needs a full download of all system data: inefficient, slow, and super hard to administer.

Our focus in this post is true offline mobile GIS work order apps. Mobile apps built for tablets not laptops. Simple interfaces and easy offline uploads and downloads. These are new generation offline mobile GIS work order apps.

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