Forgive my analogies. I use them often in this blog I know. Sometimes I think of GIS as helping us get to a destination. We often describe this as a journey from problem to solution. In our post last month called Building your ArcGIS runway. Huh? we described how to successfully use GIS to solve problems you need to first build a runway. Too many organizations fail due to the lack of a runway. What do we mean by a runway? Fundamentally data.
A library of data: comprehensive, accurate, and complete.
But does data alone get us to our destination?
With GIS runway built do you know how to fly?
Let’s stay with our journey analogy. Data is the foundation of all you do with GIS. See the demos shown on stage or in videos of exciting new GIS apps. How good would those demos be without comprehensive, accurate, and complete data? I think you can guess. Demos have already been pre-built.
I digress. Our focus in this blog post is flying. Take a look at the image in the header of this blog post. What do you see? The cockpit controls of an aeroplane (or airplane for my American friends). The picture scares me just looking at it. All those dials, levers and flashing lights. Ask me to pilot a plane and I’m running the other way. Now you could teach me the basics, but to successfully fly a plane – any plane – I would need far more than a quick crash course.
Now I don’t want to stretch this analogy too far. Flying planes and using GIS to solve problems are quite different. But both require skill and experience. And that’s more than simply training. The ability to think spatially is essential. Any monkey (apologies to my hairy friends .. figuratively speaking) can press buttons, but thinking through a spatial problem to arrive at a solution requires expertise.
Jumping back to our analogy, when we discuss GIS with any client one of our first questions is “How much flying experience do you have?” Often we build the runway and (at least initially) pilot the plane for clients. Our goal always is to guide clients successfully to their destination.
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Author: Matt Sheehan
Matt Sheehan is a Principal at WebMapSolutions. Matt evangelizes GIS and intelligent maps around the world through keynotes, articles, tweets and his books. Follow him on Twitter:
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