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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.

GIS and the Queen of England

 
April 6th, 2016 by Matt Sheehan

So I received a call on Monday. The voice on the line said “One must have crumpets with ones tea”. “Who’s this plonker?” I thought. A trace of New Jersey in the accent gave it away. It was Joe fresh back from his trip to London. His visit to Windsor Castle (with the Queen in residence apparently), had turned our Joe ‘posh’.

Joe relayed the story of his trip to me. Windsor Castle, he said, was particularly interesting. A huge, confusing stately home. His group debated whether to wander alone or hire a guide. “The best 20 quid we’ve spent” was Joe’s comment. The guide made the tour far more enjoyable, Joe and his group got to see the things they wanted and discovered much unexpected and new.

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ArcGIS or Google Maps?

 
April 5th, 2016 by Matt Sheehan

This is a question we are asked often: should we use ArcGIS or Google Maps to solve our WHERE challenge?

You know our usual answer……. it depends!

ArcGIS or Google Maps?

Why would we say that, aren’t Esri and Google bitter rivals, offering similar mapping solutions?

Actually No.

Your choice depends very much on your WHERE challenge. Let’s provide two examples.

1) Bike Trail Map – Imagine your WHERE challenge is sharing with bikers the route of a trail. You have collected data on the trails route, drinking fountains, restrooms etc en-route, have taken photos at various points on the trail and would like to include a directions option for those trying to find the trail. What stands out here in this description? Simplicity. This is a simple WHERE question. Though ArcGIS can provide a solution, the simplicity here lends itself well to Google.


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Approach GIS like you would a doctor’s appointment

 
April 1st, 2016 by Matt Sheehan

doctor GIS 

Nobody likes going to visit the doctor. It usually means there is a problem. A problem for which you are looking for a solution. Here is an all too common conversation between patient and doctor:

Doctor: How can I help you today?

Patient: I have a terrible pain in my knee.

Doctor: What did you do?

Patient: I was tackled while playing soccer and fell awkwardly. How much will it cost to fix my knee do you think?

Doctor: We will need to run some tests.

Patient: Ok, the tests will be free I presume. I really just want to know approximately how much fixing my knee will cost.

Doctor: Tests take time, and give us an accurate picture of your problem so we can provide a solution. And no our time (and expertise) is not free.

Okay, that is not a real conversation. Nobody would ask a doctor such cost based questions. In fact as soon as we walk in the door of a doctors office the $ clock starts ticking.
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Are you the Eddie the Eagle of GIS?

 
March 29th, 2016 by Matt Sheehan

You know Eddie the Eagle. The fearless British Olympic ski jumper. With only 2 years worth of experience a man who competed against others who had been jumping since childhood. Looked down upon by the horrid British toffs who still control skiing in the country.

Though he finished in last place at the Calgary Olympics, Eddie was the peoples favourite. Why? Because against all odds he trained and won a place to compete in the Olympics. Over the course of his career, Eddie fractured his skull twice and broke his jaw, collarbone, ribs, knee, fingers, thumbs, toes, back and neck. He lived hand to mouth, saving all his money for training. Eddie embodied the Olympic adage:

“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.”

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5 Things GIS can learn from Donald Trump

 
March 21st, 2016 by Matt Sheehan

As a Brit living in the US, I do find the theatre that is American politics amusing. It would seem little changes whoever becomes President. And yet in the run up to the election we all have to suffer this onslaught of debates, discussions, opinions. On and on.

This election season is particularly charged. The presence of Donald Trump seems to have stirred the pot. An odd character. It would seem a person Americans either adore or loath. I was thinking about the presidential elections over the weekend and realised we in GIS have much to learn from Donald Trump.

Keep things Simple

Some might argue that it is the candidate who is simple. But take a look at his messaging, like it or hate it, simplicity is at its core. No need to explain. Whether we are talking to clients or our non-GIS colleagues, we in GIS need to keep our messaging just as simple.

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I know how to use GIS .. I think?

 
March 18th, 2016 by Matt Sheehan

I was tempted to title this blog post “I know how to get the most out of GIS .. I think?”. But I’m thinking here about both GIS and non-GIS users.

Much of what I will focus on here is cloud GIS. Cloud is a new paradigm for GIS. A shift from just desktop or Web, to a holistic truly shared system. And its a dramatic change. Esri call it WebGIS:

In simple terms cloud based GIS allows your data to be published, mapped and made available from a central location. You can then view and interact with these maps on any device wherever you might be: in the office, at home, outdoors. Anywhere. No more data stored only on your local PC. No more single source shapefiles. A completely collaborative environment. Cloud based GIS requires new ways to think about and interact with GIS.

Cloud based GIS makes the technology available to everybody

Read that sentence again. That is why so often you hear GIS revolution mentioned. And me harp on about GIS moving from the periphery to the core. Cloud based GIS means we can now integrate GIS with other systems. Big corporations familiar with business systems: CRM’s, ERP’s etc are beginning to use GIS integrated with these systems to answer new location based questions.

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GIS Help to avoid Singing

 
March 14th, 2016 by Matt Sheehan

I’m a terrible singer. Just awful. But does that stop me? You bet not. From football songs:

‘We love you Chelsea we do’

To the Bee-Gees (and I do the squeaky, trousers too tight version):

‘We are children of the world’

To Sweater Weather by the Neighbourhood (I might be old but knowing this stuff keeps me in with my teenage kids):

‘Cause it’s too cold whoa For you here’

My wife’s hates it. I say I could learn to be better. She responds “You have neither the time nor the talent. Stick with what you are good at” (wives can be so … truthful). So to today’s topic. Time and talent and getting help.

GIS Help to avoid Singing

We had two very interesting phone calls last week. With the same lovely chap. Two quite different calls. Mapping data and site selection were his two needs. He admitted he knew nothing about mapping, and had neither the time nor the inclination to learn. In our first call we avoided any technical discussion instead staying focused on his needs. After the call we agreed ArcGIS was likely a good potential solution. We also recognised plenty of hand holding was likely needed to help move from problem to solution, given his (and his organizations) lack of GIS experience.

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Curious about GIS?

 
March 11th, 2016 by Matt Sheehan

There is that word curious again. Used in other blog posts I’ve recently written. Its one of my favorite words. Curiosity often leads to discovery. I remember being at university in London when young and finding tides fascinating. My curiosity got the better of me and I spent chunks of a semester learning the intricate details of tides. The discovery process was wonderful.

I first discovered GIS when I came to live in America. It confused the bejesus out of me. But with perseverance (and countless classes) it began to make sense. Though GIS has become my career, my curiosity around GIS continues.

Curious about GIS?
It would seem more and more people are curious about GIS. Many used to (still do) mistake GIS for simple mapping technology. I notice more questions around “What is GIS mapping?” and “What is GIS used for?”. Increasingly there is realisation that much lies behind this technology. New ways to answer both simple and complex WHERE questions; as I like to say.

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A Beautiful GIS Mind

 
March 10th, 2016 by Matt Sheehan


I love a good story. Its actually why I rarely now watch films. Today’s special effects ridden films cannot replace a good tale (see the story free new Mad Max as an example). I’m thinking about 3 Days of the Condor, A Beautiful Mind and so many other films with real stories. Hard to beat.

I’m in story mood today. GIS story mood. Ready?

John is a young, and very driven. A smart guy who started work for a software company less than 1 year ago. Much is expected of him in this new position. Some run away from pressure. That is not John. He has built a new team, and wonders how best to proceed. John’s teams task is to help new markets adopt the software. There are company guidelines he needs to stay within, but he wonders if he should take a tried and tested route, or break new ground? Software sales to those familiar with the software follow a familiar path. Not an easy sale (when is any sale easy), but the approach and language used are familiar. But sales to those new to this technology (its GIS) are quite different. GIS is not learned in 10 mins no matter how simple things become (20 years of working with GIS and I learn something new each day). John’s dilemma: how do I sell software to those new to GIS, without giving them some level of guidance. Checking in once a month he fears will not cut it. He knows GIS is far more than a simple software sale to those unfamiliar with the technology. This keeps him up at night.

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Please GIS Expert Shut up and Listen!

 
March 3rd, 2016 by Matt Sheehan

Will you be offended if I tell you to shut up and listen? Good then prepare to be offended (you’ll be better off for the experience believe me). If there is one thing we are all good at, and that is talking about ourselves, and our products. As soon as a potential customer comes knocking at our door .. off we go… blabbing on and on.

Did you know it does this … and that …. and oh we are quicker and slicker and 3″ longer than our competition.

Please!

Please GIS Expert Shut up and Listen!

What does a potential customer (this is for both internal and external customers) care about? Ask yourself that question. They care about solving a problem. Now if your product provides a potential solution to that problem .. a potential customer might just be curious. And how do you know if you have piqued their interest?

Somebody is curious when they start asking you questions

Let me tell you a story. I attended recently a tech conference. I was on a learning mission. Part of that mission was listening to sales and tech folk as they spoke to attendees. What did I find as I walked around … a sales word puke fest!

Truly. Potential customers being drowned in words. Admittedly this was not a GIS only conference but we GIS experts can be tech blabbers.

Start with the Problem end with the Solution

Let’s start by understanding the problem and end with the solution. Let me share one recent conversation I overheard:

Caller: We need an ArcGIS CRM integration

Responder: Why?

Caller: To map our data.

Responder: For what purpose?

Caller: To help our agents.

Responder: What is the benefit to your agents?

Caller: To help them assess and sell properties.

Responder: How do your agents work today?

Caller: They use paper, spreadsheets, charts.

Responder: How will this help your agents?

Caller: They will have data and visuals at hand quickly which means more deals and more money

I think you get the idea. Ask questions. Don’t launch into a product onslaught. Start with understanding their world today, their challenges and goals. If we as GIS experts don’t understand the problem fully how can we build out a solution for our customers?

During initial conversations around GIS implementations, keep the current problem front and centre. In the back of our minds we might have thoughts about wider use of the technology. Other organizational problems which GIS could solve. With this first problem solved that may then move us to discussion around a location strategy.

There that was not so bad. No bad words used. Its true we are all guilty at times of talking at others. We all need to tell ourselves at times to shut up. As Adam Carnow says “these are golden times for GIS”. Success is based on listening and understanding.

Interest in our approach? Contact us on 801-733-0723.

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