Welcome to GISWeekly! GIS consulting companies tend to get all the problems of the world that fall between the cracks of traditional “out-of-the-box” implementations. GeoNorth, a GIS consulting company that works primarily with ESRI products, does GIS assessment and design, process planning and requirement definition and enterprise GIS implementations, as well as offers their own standalone and pre-packaged products. In an interview with Marshall Payne of GeoNorth, learn how one consulting company bridges the gap between software and functionality.
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Bridging the Gap Between Software and Functionality through Consulting: Interview with GeoNorth, LLC
By Susan Smith
GIS consulting companies tend to get all the problems of the world that fall between the cracks of traditional “out-of-the-box” implementations. GeoNorth, a GIS consulting company who works primarily with ESRI products, does GIS assessment and design, process planning and requirement definition and enterprise GIS implementations, as well as offers their own standalone and pre-packaged products.
|MapOptix (TM) from GeoNorth is a companion product to ArcIMS for implementing and managing Internet mapping applications - CLICK TO ENLARGE|
Many software companies have customers who beta test software for them and really operate as a testbed. Is that something that works for your company?
GeoNorth is a solutions company providing consulting and application development services. We also develop and sell products. We don't make, or rely on our clients to beta test or serve as testbed for the product solutions we offer. There are some instances where we have had early adopters who have experienced problems. In these cases we do our best to solve whatever problems they're having as quickly as possible. Obviously we're going to be extremely attentive to their needs, because a) the customer base is really very small and we want it to grow and b) we intend to make that customer very satisfied because probably the most important part of a successful product, is a happy customer. They will in turn tell others about their experience.
If you have done your homework right, you'll deliver a great product without having customers serve as beta testers. We really don't see much value achieved through giving them the product, or discounting the product in exchange for beta testing. We typically try to avoid that and instead provide excellent and responsive support services to customers. We also know that product solutions are not always a 100% there and may not meet everyone's needs, but the customer appreciates the service that you give them through support. We find the most successful route to go is being attentive to their needs by soliciting enhancement requests and responding to their ideas. Customers then feel like they are getting value. The quality of service beyond the initial product purchase is truly what differentiates us from other companies.
In the IT world, unfortunately, people have become accustomed to the lack of service. Providing 110% service really makes the difference to the relationship you have with that customer and it's important to the health of your business, because that positive experience is something that gets passed on, and that's how a businesses can grow with limited marketing effort. Word of mouth and good references are perhaps the best marketing tools you can have.
Most of our customers are in government or the public sector and they certainly don't have the time and shouldn't really be beta testing software for vendors. There is probably more appropriate use of their time than to beta test software looking for bugs. So we'd much rather have our solutions fairly well along before introducing them to clients. GeoNorth has been beta testing software internally for other software companies and we're also on early release schedules - that has worked well for us because it's a business-to-business or developer-to-developer type of relationship. We're often developing software that is dependent upon other software, so we're inclined to get that early on, work with it, and test it to make sure our products will in turn leverage their enhancements. Within the software development business this approach happens all the time. But for an end user customer, I don't see it that much, and personally don't feel it should happen that way. Having focus groups and soliciting ideas from customers is fine but software companies need to adequately test and debug their own software. As a smaller company there is an incentive to delivering bug free solutions because there are direct and indirect financial impacts. It pays to strive to get it right the first time out.
What causes projects to fail and customers to be dissatisfied with a solution?
There are a lot of questions and decisions that go into choosing a software product or vendor and many times organizations miss the mark. Just look at the statistics of failed IT projects. We've personally seen cases where software was purchased and ends up sitting on the shelf because of shortfalls in resources to implement the product. Lack of budget, technology limitations, or limited staff availability can all serve as barriers. In some cases, after the fact, they determine that the software does not meet their needs. It happens a lot - organizations put the software cart in front of the horse - basically they haven't done their homework on truly what's needed. They may realize later either users have not accepted the software or they purchased the wrong software, but by that time they're pretty much stuck with it. To try and correct this mistake or try to encumber more money is politically and financially expensive. Organizations often wait it out a couple of years before going back and trying to remedy the situation or they may end up spending many times over what they had intended.
A lot of failures are simply a result of an expectation “disconnect.” We've seen cases where an organization went out with an RFP to build an application and what they were left with was maybe a design document. So much time was spent clarifying needs in design that it didn't leave any time to actually build the application or an application was developed which wasn't what they expected. Ultimately if the application isn't being used, then it's not successful, and if it's not being used then you missed the target or have not managed expectations. It also works both ways--sometimes the customer doesn't or can't articulate very well what they want so tailoring an application design and development approach for an organization is important. This, expectation management, and active communication, is so important to avoid failure. It is the consultant's responsibility to work with and help educate the customer.
What is the value of using customers' success stories?
The idea of using customers as references and having customers help you promote your business by sharing their success is rewarding for all involved. If you have a customer who is really going to go the extra distance to share their success, or to get other people excited about your product or services, then you're going to be more inclined to give them better service because ultimately they're helping you market. These days people are questioning the value and effectiveness of flashy demos and print advertising. It looks cool but ultimately, am I really selling more product or recouping the marketing investment? Probably not. Word of mouth is the best advertising you can have.
These days there is such a technology overload and saturation of product solutions. For example, there are many document management systems, permitting systems, accounting systems - so how do the organizations sift through all offerings, options, modules, etc? If I go visit GIS vendor websites I'll find most will all look almost identical in terms of content. They all say “full service”, “enterprise GIS”, “integration”, etc. So it really gets back to differentiating yourself and keeping customers satisfied by providing rock solid cost effective solutions, meeting the customer's needs, and providing excellent service.
Where do most of your customers come from?
Our pace and philosophy has been “slow and steady.” We've grown quite a bit over the last ten years now; we have a lot of satisfied long term customers. A significantly large percent of our business comes from of our existing customers. You could say we invest more relationships and providing good service than we do in marketing. Our new customers will frequently have heard about us from our existing clients or have seen how our solutions have benefited organizations.
What software vendors do you work with?
Our GIS products and solutions are pretty much ESRI-based. We are long time ESRI partners, originally we were also partners with Autodesk, but severed that through an internal company split and that business unit was ultimately sold off. As far as the solutions we provide, like internet mapping, we will use ArcIMS as the engine. We typically work with development tools offered by ESRI such as MapObjects and ArcObjects. We also have developed, for large organizations and software companies, a very robust spatial EAI solution leveraging ESRI's ArcObjects and ArcGIS Server technology.
We are an authorized ESRI business partner, reseller, developer, and corporate consultant. We also offer ESRI authorized training. Basically we're qualified and authorized in all the classifications within the ESRI business partner program. We incorporate their software and technology into our products and applications so our success stories can also be seen as success stories for ESRI.
What are some of the other challenges you are asked to solve?
There are many. The majority of the challenges we face are making organizations more efficient by leveraging their existing technology investment. Organizations are constantly looking to do more with less. They want to have GIS widely used but also want this to be cost effective. They want to minimize their GIS data maintenance efforts, GIS enable their business systems, and ultimately want practical solutions that can scale and grow as their needs change.
Spatial Insights, Inc. announces a strategic partnership with Directory of Major Malls, Inc. (DMM) in order to provide customized shopping center data to its clients. Through an exclusive alliance, Spatial Insights will be able to deliver customized data according to its clients' needs: subset by geography, leased area, and any number of shopping center attributes.
ORBIMAGE Holdings Inc. announced its financial results for the second quarter of 2005 and for the six months ended June 30, 2005. Total revenues for the second quarter of 2005 and 2004 were $8.5 million and $9.7 million, respectively. Total revenues for the six months ended June 30, 2005 and 2004 were $17.2 million and $11.8 million, respectively. Net loss for the second quarter of 2005 was $5.4 million, or $0.32 per share, compared to $4.4 million, or $0.70 per share, for the second quarter of 2004. Net loss for the six months ended June 30, 2005 was $11.0 million, or $0.73 per share, compared to $12.8 million, or $2.02 per share, for the six months ended June 30, 2004.
HP reported financial results for its third fiscal quarter ended July 31, 2005. Third quarter net revenue increased 10% year- over-year to $20.8 billion. Non-GAAP(1) operating profit was $1.2 billion, with non-GAAP diluted earnings per share (EPS) of $0.36, up from $0.24 in the prior-year period. Non-GAAP financial information for the third quarter excludes $988 million of adjustments(1) on an after-tax basis, or $0.33 per diluted share, related primarily to a tax adjustment resulting from HP's decision in the third quarter to repatriate, in the third and fourth quarters, $14.5 billion in cash from foreign earnings. GAAP operating profit for the third quarter was $913 million and GAAP diluted EPS was $0.03 per share, down from $0.19 in the prior-year period.
Analytical Surveys, Inc. (ASI), provider of utility-industry data collection, creation and management services for the geographic information systems (GIS) markets, announced financial results for its third fiscal quarter and nine months ended June 30, 2005. Third quarter revenue was $1.4 million versus $3.3 million in the comparable 2004 fiscal quarter. The Company incurred a net loss from operations totaling $783,000 compared with a net loss from operations totaling $155,000 in the 2004 third quarter. Net loss available to common stockholders was $795,000, or $0.28 per diluted share, compared with net earnings available to common stockholders of $1,250,000, or $0.67 per diluted share, in the third quarter last year. The 2004 fiscal period included a non-recurring gain of $1.5 million resulting from the early extinguishment of debt.
Chevrolet, the new name for value in the UK car market and the global brand of the GM automotive family (selling the Matiz, Kalos, Lacetti and Tacuma model ranges) has announced a major enhancement of its existing retailer locator service, as provided by Multimap. Europe's leading online mapping provider has developed functionality that enables web users to search for retailers by road distance, as opposed to distance “as the crow flies”. The new functionality, known as “Manhattan distance,” makes the search results delivered by Multimap's “Storefinder “ service even more accurate, by taking into account road features, such as lakes, rivers and the coast, that might impact journey time.
Sun Microsystems, Inc., announced that ESRI has chosen Sun Microsystems' UltraSPARC(R) IV processor-based servers to support advanced data analysis. ESRI chose Sun because the combination of Sun Fire(TM) servers running SPARC(R) processors and the Solaris(TM) 10 Operating System (OS) will allow the company to maximize overall system throughput.
Following the publication of the outline prospectus on the National Spatial Address Infrastructure (NSAI) by ODPM in May 2005, the Improvement and Development Agency (IDeA) and Ordnance Survey have been in discussions on the agreements necessary to underpin the proposed infrastructure.
However, Ordnance Survey and IDeA announced this week that plans to transfer ownership of the National Land and Property Gazetteer (NLPG) to Ordnance Survey as an input to the NSAI had not reached agreement within the original timescales. Further negotiations on the transfer have been suspended whilst all parties consider the implications for the future.
Both organizations entered into the contractual negotiations in good faith. During the detailed consideration of all aspects of these arrangements it has not been possible to reach agreement on how NLPG could readily become part of the National Spatial Address Infrastructure which would be available under a Crown Copyright license.
Metadata Tips & Tricks, a new free live training seminar from ESRI Virtual Campus, is designed for those who want to explore how to go beyond the basics of creating metadata and learn what goes on behind the scenes. There will be three presentations August 25, 2005, at 9:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., and 3:00 p.m., Pacific time. A broadband Internet connection and an ESRI Virtual Campus membership are required to view the seminar and becoming a Virtual Campus member is free and only takes a few minutes. Following the live presentation, the seminar will be archived and available for viewing at any time on the Virtual Campus Web site. For information and schedule on this seminar, visit the website.
MapInfo Corporation, provider of Location Intelligence solutions, announced that its MapXtreme® family of products has been certified as fully compliant with the Open Geospatial Consortium's (OGC) OpenGIS® WMS Specifications. Being fully OpenGIS compliant allows users to share and reuse data, improve the quality of information, and reduce the need to rely on one vendor.
Appointments SANZ Inc., SANZ Geospatial Solutions Group, a provider of spatial data provisioning solutions, announced the addition of geotechnology industry veteran Jeff Young as its director of business development. Young, who brings over 25 years of industry experience, will support the company's commitment to the growth of its EarthWhere(TM) product offerings and will concentrate on growing and managing the organization's Southwest region and specific national accounts.
East View Cartographic has appointed Ron McCoy as its Director of Business Development. Mr. McCoy will use his strong geospatial industry experience to add focused solutions to the company's wide range of global geospatial products and services. He will lead growth initiatives including adding new products, forging key partnerships, and providing complete geospatial solutions to companies in defined vertical markets.
Analytical Surveys, Inc. (ASI), a provider of utility-industry data collection, creation and management services for the geographic information systems (GIS) markets, announced that its board of directors elected Rad Weaver as a member of the board effective August 15, 2005. Mr. Weaver, 30, has served as an investment analyst with McCombs Enterprises in San Antonio since March 2000, participating in the asset allocation of the firm's equity portfolio. He also is a director of privately held Media Excel, Agilight and Wholesale Clicks, Inc. Mr. Weaver will serve as one of ASI's independent directors and will sit on the Company's Audit Committee. He holds a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Texas at Austin.
NovaLIS Technologies, provider of GIS-centric land information management products to government and business partner Concord Engineering & Surveying, Inc., (CESI) have been selected by Davidson County, North Carolina for the implementation of NovaLIS Land Development Office.
Pictometry International Corp., provider of digital, aerial oblique imagery and measuring software, announced that it has filed a lawsuit against Aerial Cartographics of America Inc., of Orlando, FL and Ofek Aerial Photography International, LTD of Netanya, Israel.
The lawsuit, filed this week in United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, alleges that ACA and Ofek, through the Ofek product MultiVision, are infringing upon a patent owned by Pictometry (United States Patent No. 5,247,356) covering its aerial imaging technology.
A9.com, Inc., a subsidiary of Amazon.com, Inc., launched "A9.com Maps," a new service that shows users an interactive map and corresponding street-level images in a single interface. A9's Block View(TM) technology brings traditional maps to life by combining driving directions and other convenient mapping tools with street-level images of millions of places and their surroundings. The fully-functional A9.com Maps beta is now available on the website.
AmberCoreTM Software, global provider of spatial decision support systems, is pleased to announce the release of Amber iQ 2.5. Amber iQ is the leading high performance Geographic Information System (GIS). Amber iQ 2.5 was designed with GIS power-users in mind, and features the ability to efficiently handle large point data sets. With the implementation of double indexing users will now be able to process point files up to 50 million points.
Garmin International Inc., a unit of Garmin Ltd., announced that Mopar will begin offering the Trail Guide(TM) -- a highly versatile Garmin-built GPS navigation system designed for the Jeep Wrangler. The device was unveiled at Camp Jeep, an international gathering of Jeep enthusiasts held in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.
Universal Guardian Holdings, Inc. , an emerging global leader in non-lethal protection products, systems and security services to protect against terrorist, criminal and security threats to governments and businesses worldwide, announced that it has launched its ISR Systems' integrated and interoperable, Transportation Security platform designed to protect inter-modal transportation worldwide.
INPHO of Stuttgart, Germany announced the release of their orthophoto mosaicking software OrthoVista, V4.1.0. In the new version INPHO has focused especially on enhancing the radiometric part of the software. This will greatly improve the quality of all images taken with a digital aerial camera and containing water areas with sun reflections.
Letters to the Editor
It's been a while since I had the privilege of writing for GISVision. I'm happy to see that the weekly report continues to do well. I still read it almost every week. While reviewing the edition covering the ESRI Conference I noticed a photo of the 6th grade I work with getting a photo taken with Jack Dangermond.
Deseret News Reports
Mapping out Learning
West Valley 6th-graders are hit at global conference
KSL News Report
Sixth Graders Learning Map-Making
Soon to be available video interview at the ESRI conference
There is also a report about our work with K-12 GIS education on page 22 of the current issue of ArcNews.
The kids are great to work with. It's amazing how fast they learn and the interesting projects and maps they come up with.
Continued success with your work at GISCafe.
Around the Web
Making the case for Windows on Palm devices, by Ina Fried, CNET News.com, August 11, 2005 - In an interview, Palm Chief Financial Officer Andrew Brown said that building a Treo that runs on the mobile version of Windows might help the company woo corporate customers who have been reticent to buy its Palm OS-based gadgets.
Making Sense of Sensors, by Michael Kanellos, CNET News.com, August 12, 2005 - Accenture's Chief Scientist, Glover Ferguson, is in some ways the head prowler. For the past few decades, he's worked at the company trying to figure out what's next. Ferguson sat down with CNET News.com to discuss RFID, the general state of privacy and what your car radio is saying about you.
Date: August 22 - 26, 2005
Place: Cairns, Australia
A joint assembly of the International Association of Geodesy (IAG), International Association for Physical Sciences of the Oceans (IAPSO), and the International Association for Biological Oceanography (IABO).This rare joint conference of the IAG, IAPSO and IABO will offer opportunities to present and discuss cross-disciplinary research into the solid earth and oceans. In fact the scientific programme, under the theme “Monitoring and Understanding a Dynamic Planet with Geodetic and Oceanographic Tools”, will emphasize the interaction of the earth and oceanographic sciences.
Third International Symposium on GIS/Spatial Analyses in Fishery and Aquatic Sciences
Date: August 22 - 26, 2005
Place: Shanghai Fisheries University Shanghai, China
Three themes will be addressed: (1) Effective and Affordable GIS for Fishery and Aquatic Information, (2) Spatial Fish Stock Assessment Modeling. (3) Spatial Fisheries Resource Management.
Map Asia 2006
Date: August 22 - 25, 2005
Place: Hotel Mulia Senayan, Jakarta, Indonesia
The Asia and Pacific region is the largest developing region in the world in landmass, population and aggregate income. Its 48 countries have nearly three fifth of the worlds total population. Each country in the region abounds in Natural Capital and has comprehended the true potential of Geospatial information in leveraging this Capital to its utmost economic viability. The Asian region is today forging a path of development and economic growth as a function of establishment of Infrastructural capital. It thus convolutes to be a fecund sphere for application of the various Geographic Information technologies like GIS, GPS, Remote Sensing and Imaging.
The 6th Annual Central Appalachian Geo-Spatial Conference
Date: August 26, 2005
Place: University of Pennsylvania's Southpointe Southpointe Center, PA USA
The Earth Sciences Department at California University of Pennsylvania is hosting the 6th annual Central Appalachian Geo-Spatial Conference. This conference is sponsored by California University of PA, Allegheny County, University of Pittsburgh, URISA-CAC, Thinformation, PA Geographical Society, PASDA, West Liberty State College (WV) and ESRI. This conference will be held at California University of Pennsylvania's Southpointe Campus on Friday August 26, 2005 from 8am to 4pm. The reduced cost for presenters is $35 and that includes coffee, doughnuts and a lunch. The cost for attendees is $40.