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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.

5 Reflections on the South West User Conference

November 19th, 2013 by Matt Sheehan

With this years conference now over, I thought it worth listing my 5 reflections on the South West User Conference (SWUC) held last week in Salt Lake City. The conference was a great success. WebMapSolutions was one of the sponsors of the event, along with a number of other local GIS focused companies including Gateway Computing and CityWorks. We took an informal survey of SWUC attendees.The results we thought were surprising. Below we reflect in our overall thoughts on the conference.

5 Reflections on the South West User Conference

1) Attendees were focused on problems and solutions; less on technology – GIS is in a phase of disruption driven by cloud and mobile computing. The launch of ArcGIS Online caused initial confusion among many Esri users. That confusion is beginning to abate. Users are less focused on credits and how ArcGIS Server fits with ArcGIS Online, and more on how to apply this new technology to solve problems. We had some fascinating conversations around new ways to apply GIS to solve pain points within organizations.

2) There is a far wider understanding of how it is possible to now build complementary GIS applications leveraging ArcGIS Online – Much of our time at the conference was spent discussing how field enabled mobile GIS apps such as our Offline Editing app is less a one off solution, more a complementary solution. We did live demonstrations for attendees showing our offline data collection (targeting field workers), being integrated with operations dashboards (executives), web apps (staff) and desktop products such as ArcMap 10.2 (analysts). Those who saw these demos truly understood the new world we have entered with GIS.

3) The potential to use GIS to reach beyond GIS professionals is better understood – Many attendees discussed with us their need to both share local information, and improve citizen engagement. With story maps, and the many citizen focused templates from Esri including the Parks Finder and Polling place Finder, we showed how easy it is to now engage with citizens using GIS.

4) How to best leverage Mobile GIS within organizations remains a question – Mobile GIS offers many new opportunities to apply GIS in new ways. One key area of focus within our company is replacing pen and paper with iPads, iPhones and Android mobile devices. Field based staff can now take advantage of mobile technology to help with their daily tasks. This was a key theme in many of our discussions. But any mobile GIS app needs to be designed for non-GIS users. So often in the past we heard complaints about traditional mobile GIS apps running on Trimble and other ruggedised hardware. This is why we design our Mobile GIS apps to be intuitive for both the tech and non-tech savvy users.

5) Legacy proprietary GIS systems are becoming obsolete – It is so much easier now to develop end to end complementary GIS systems, making many legacy systems built before the new mobile cloud paradigm obsolete. We had numerous conversations around many existing GIS systems which are expensive and not easily integrated. Centralised cloud based platforms like ArcGIS Online make it far easier and cheaper to provide complete GIS solutions. That is exciting for GIS companies like ourselves, and nervy times for those established GIS companies not able to adapt.

We’d love your thoughts on the South West User Conference. Drop me a line at

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Categories: ArcGIS Online, cloud GIS, Mobile ArcGIS, Web and mobile GIS

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