This blog post is focused on those new to GIS. We often work with organizations who are interested in using GIS to overcome challenges, but lack in-house GIS expertise. Where do we start is often the focus of the initial conversation. Below we discuss one such engagement.
In early 2016 we were approached by a commercial organization whose leadership team had seen a demonstration of GIS technology. The CEO saw that GIS might be able to solve a range of challenges faced by the organization all based around WHERE questions. The organization approached WebMapSolutions to help them get started with GIS by solving a specific initial problem.
Getting Started with GIS: A Case Study
Initial Company State
1. The company operates a series of coffee shops. Finding locations for new stores involved sending staff into the field to discover new locations by visiting potential sites. This was a time consuming, expensive process.
2. The organization had an IT department, but no GIS infrastructure.
3. The organization used spreadsheets to store and assess new store locations.
4. Though interested in GIS the organization had no in-house expertise in the technology.
5. The company data was not stored centrally. Some data, particularly around demographics and traffic flows, was hard to find and pull together in one place.
Where the Company Wanted to Get To
1. A new more efficient way to find locations for new stores preferably using GIS.
2. Help building out a GIS infrastructure.
3. A fast track on how to publish maps and work with GIS.
4. Training and guidance on how to most effectively use GIS to solve their challenge.
5. A central store of all site location data, and integration of this and other related data into GIS applications.
Process to Get There
1. A GIS design or blueprint could be put in place, guiding the work. WebMapSolutions took the company through our Discovery process: defining the problem in detail, evolving the story.
2. Data – Much focus was initially put in data. Any GIS system is only as good as its core data. Existing data accuracy and completeness were considered. Questions around what other map layers might be useful were asked. Implications and processes around one source for all data discussed in depth
3. GIS – WebMapSolutions considered the technology later in the planning process. ArcGIS Online proved to be the ideal platform for this solution. Data stored centrally, which was easy to update was key. So were the many configurable apps available. WebMapSolutions first provided the organization an ArcGIS Jumpstart package to get things moving quickly. As part of this process we published data and maps important to the process of choosing new site locations. We also provided training on finding and using the many data-sets which are part of any ArcGIS subscription, including demographics.
4. Applications – WebMapSolutions provided guidance, advice and hands on help with choosing and configuring the best applications for site selection.
Unexpected things which happened (challenges and obstacles)
Though initially finding ArcGIS Online a little daunting, after some training, we found the company staff soon came up to speed on understanding and working with ArcGIS.
We are still actively working with this organization providing advice and support. The senior leaders were delighted with the technology. Not only has it proved invaluable in assessing new site locations, they have started to use GIS in other parts of their operations. Evolving their own GIS location strategy.
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