After 20 plus years of working with GIS, I still have so much to learn. I find that exciting. Guess where I now learn most about GIS .. through customers. Its through my interaction with customers that I have learned my early assumptions about GIS were all wrong!
Let me explain.
My Early Assumptions about GIS Were all Wrong!
My path to GIS was like many; from geography. I completed a Physical Geography degree in England before moving to the US to complete a Masters degree. Older readers will remember MapObject IMS. That technology formed the base of my graduate degree. It helped me learn both GIS and programming. And programming was the first phase of my GIS career, developing ArcIMS and ArcGIS applications.
As a developer data was assumed. My focus was on building tools and providing analytical capabilities. In other words, using today’s vernacular, my focus was often on looking to answer complex where questions. I had a technical emphasis, focused on solving difficulty.
Now I realise I was wrong.
“I simply want to be able to see my data and other data in one place. Together.”
That is the most common customer requirement. No fancy tools, nor complex analytics.
GIS is fundamentally about data. The right data. Accurate and up to date. Combined together, usually on a map.
I was recently reading the summary of a report: Global GIS Market 2017-2021. A key market challenge is seen as the “Communication gap between developers and end-users.” Why do you suppose that might be? I suggest it has much to do with our inability to focus on the core customer need. We get lost in our fancy tools to answer complex where questions.
Does that mean there are not complex questions in need of answers? Absolutely not. But take a look at Tableau, the most popular business intelligence (BI) platform. Though it comes with many complex ways to analyse data, most users simply want to view business data in different ways. In other words visualization.
GIS is complex technology. My past assumptions that I needed to use this complex technology largely to answer complex problems was wrong. Many, many business where questions are simple, the answers data driven.
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Author: Matt Sheehan
Matt Sheehan is a Principal at WebMapSolutions. Matt evangelizes GIS and location intelligence around the world through keynotes, articles, tweets and his books. Follow him on Twitter: