Avoiding the Clear and Present Danger – City of Roseville, California

Apr 1, 2016 -- Former Intel Chairman and CEO, Andy Grove was driven not to be satisfied with past success; “Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.” This could easily apply to the GIS leadership at the City of Roseville, California. 

By any standard, the City of Roseville has a successful GIS. Roseville employs a highly adept group of central technologists, within IT, that have led the implementation of enterprise-wide GIS in creative and diverse ways.  The City has hundreds of maintained GIS layers, integration with IT business systems, diverse software options for users, and many departments with skilled GIS staff. As compared to similar cities nationally, Roseville is in the upper tier of GIS implementations. This could easily result in complacency. Staff could sit back, enjoy the fruits of their labor, and ignore objective self-analysis. As humans, we are all susceptible to complacency and are apt to begin to take success for granted; not so in Roseville.

Early in 2015, the City of Roseville GIS Leadership Team in coordination with the GIS Manager issued a Request for Proposals for GIS Planning Services. Scott Adrian, GIS Manager, points out: “Our leadership team is driven by excellence and is never satisfied with the status quo.  We intentionally push ourselves and each other to go further. We understand that technology is always changing and that a GIS program is a continual progression that can always be modified and improved.

Therefore, we decided to engage a consultant to help us identify and prioritize gaps and opportunities.” After a competitive selection process, the City selected Geographic Technologies Group (GTG), the leading GIS Strategic Planning firm in North America. Curtis Hinton, President of GTG, states: “We were very excited to propose on this project.  It was apparent that this project was unique and that successful completion would require the use of innovative planning tools and techniques.”

The ultimate goal was to develop a strategic planning framework that outlined recommendations, methods, and strategies for achieving the GIS Program goals and objectives.  The purpose of the framework was not to detail implementation tasks or timelines, but rather to provide a priority list that will be used over the next few years to guide the existing annual GIS work planning process. 

To achieve this goal, a number of innovative planning strategies were employed. The project began with a Voice of the Customer Survey, onsite interviews, and a number of workshops.  The survey was a mechanism for existing GIS customers to share their needs, concerns, and opinions about the technology. The workshops focused on a maturity assessment, alignment with city goals, value measurement, and return-on-investment.  These diverse planning methods yielded a wealth of data that allowed the GTG strategic planning team to identify the biggest challenges, needs, and gaps.  Each of the needs was entered into a goals and objectives matrix that ranked priority, cost, achievability, and if it was an organizational imperative.

All of this background material then allowed for an intense analysis of how the City GIS effort was aligning with City Council goals and ways to better align with these goals.  Additionally, a GIS Capability Maturity Model assessment was undertaken to establish the City’s current baseline.  Next, a number of comparator cities were interviewed to ascertain their existing successes and challenges for comparison to Roseville.  Finally, each of the City’s current process and standard operating procedures (SOPs) were reviewed for relevancy, completeness, and to discover gaps.

All of this information was then used to identify a strategy for growth and success over the next few years.  This included a training, education, and communication strategy; an evaluation of policies and procedures; governance and staffing strategies; strategic goals, outcomes, and success/value measurements; and a plan for sustainability and succession planning. 

This resulted in the identification of 34 priorities for the GIS Leadership Committee to consider.  Each of the priorities were ranked on a number of criteria to include; level of effort/cost, alignment, enterprise benefit, and sustainability. The result was a quantified list of priorities that will serve to feed the annual work plan. 

Mr. Hinton summarized the effort as follows; “This project employed a number of innovative discovery tools.  GIS technology has been around for decades and many GIS implementations across the country have achieved various levels of success.  Many of the mature/successful implementations have hit a wall or are unsure of how to prioritize their next steps. 

The City of Roseville project can be seen as a model for mature GIS agencies.  There are so many ways to improve, align, fill unmet needs, and push the innovation envelope.  However, agencies often fall into the complacency trap which eventually leads to a decline in use and user apathy.

Roseville’s team has really pioneered new ways of strategic planning.  This project illustrates what can be done if a mature GIS is not satisfied with the status quo.”  Mr. Adrian concludes; “We were not sure how successful we would be in identifying and prioritizing our framework needs. However, the many tools used throughout this project yielded significant detail and allowed us to clearly understand our needs and priorities. Our team feels very good about the project and the results will guide our GIS work plan in a much more data-driven manner.”


Curt Hinton
Geographic Technologies Group
(919) 759-9214 ex. 105
Email Contact

Scott Adrian
Roseville GIS & Analytics Manager
(916) 774-5164
Email Contact

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