I was tempted to title this blog post “I know how to get the most out of GIS .. I think?”. But I’m thinking here about both GIS and non-GIS users.
I know how to use GIS .. I think?
Much of what I will focus on here is cloud GIS. Cloud is a new paradigm for GIS. A shift from just desktop or Web, to a holistic truly shared system. And its a dramatic change. Esri call it WebGIS:
In simple terms cloud based GIS allows your data to be published, mapped and made available from a central location. You can then view and interact with these maps on any device wherever you might be: in the office, at home, outdoors. Anywhere. No more data stored only on your local PC. No more single source shapefiles. A completely collaborative environment. Cloud based GIS requires new ways to think about and interact with GIS.
Read that sentence again. That is why so often you hear GIS revolution mentioned. And me harp on about GIS moving from the periphery to the core. Cloud based GIS means we can now integrate GIS with other systems. Big corporations familiar with business systems: CRM’s, ERP’s etc are beginning to use GIS integrated with these systems to answer new location based questions.
Back to our question on knowing how to use GIS. Today that means cloud GIS and all its many facets. Let’s break users into two groups:
Cloud GIS and GIS Experts
Desktop GIS remains the workhorse of GIS analysts and traditional GIS users. Map making, geographic insight, modelling; all are part of this universe. An ArcGIS desktop license comes with an ArcGIS Online organizational account. That means cloud based GIS. Many do not realise this benefit. ArcGIS Online comes with a mind-boggling array of tools, services, and applications. From web apps, to mobile. From rich data-sets (eg. demographics via enrichment services) to geo-coding. On and on. Cloud based GIS is different to desktop. You’ll need to learn and think differently in this wider universe. But the benefits you will bring to your organization by leveraging cloud GIS cannot be overstated.
Help for those new to GIS
Cloud GIS is getting the attention of those unfamiliar with the technology. That is the wider world, from small organizations to large corporations. But there is a danger here. GIS is not a simple click click technology. It requires both geo-technical skills and (often overlooked) spatial thinking. Much of our company work is with this group. Getting from nowhere to somewhere and further is how we often describe these engagements. We have defined a very clear path and approach to get at and understand problems. And evolve a GIS solution path. We push the technology into the background, and stay focused on the challenge to be solved. For those new to GIS getting the most out of the technology to solve problems requires time to learn or outside help.
Cloud GIS has made GIS technology easier to use, more accessible and simpler to integrate with other systems and platforms. But cloud GIS is a new arena for those who know GIS through desktop, and those unfamiliar with the technology. Time, patience and maybe a little help from your friends will pay huge dividends for both you and your organization.
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