I was introducing GIS to somebody last week. After seeing a number of different images and workflows relating to his industry, the person said:

This looks like nice to have not must have technology

I thought this comment deserved further exploration.

Is GIS nice to have technology?

At WebMapSolutions we often place organizations into 3 different buckets:

  1. Existing GIS users
  2. New users in traditional GIS industries (small government, utilities etc)
  3. New GIS users in non-traditional GIS industries

For those who are users of GIS or are in traditional industries, the value of a GIS is either already understood or relatively easy to demonstrate: where are our buried pipes? Where is the water main break? Where has snow removal not occurred?

But as a business tool, GIS is less obvious. Many non-traditional GIS industries are commercial organizations: banks, insurance, retail, real estate. Conversations around GIS butt up against Google Maps and popular BI platforms like Tableau:

I have maps already why do I need GIS?

This perception is one of the reasons GIS has hit a wall. Mainstream acceptance and adoption of GIS has still yet to happen. Understanding the value proposition of GIS is a huge barrier.

There are 3 ways GIS can be sold

  1. As a single, separate platform
  2. Integrated into an existing platform
  3. Separate discrete pieces. To quote Bill Dollins “Organizations increasingly seek technical implementations that allow them to take just the bits they need”.

In my view there is a place for all of the above. But the key to successful GIS adoption (in whatever form) is to demonstrate value. That means being 100% problem to solution focused. So instead of starting with solutions and trying to fit these to problems, we start with problem discovery and move forward from there.

My ‘nice to have, not must have’ conversation last week told me we still had yet to discover a real problem or pain point GIS could solve. That conversation is set to continue.

Bringing GIS to a wider audience demands detective work to find where current tools fall short. GIS need be positioned as ‘extending, not replacing, the traditional system and analysts. Actually adding lifespan, not reducing it’.

What do you think?

 

 

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:

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