WHERE questions are becoming more and more common. This new interest is increasing demand for GIS and mapping technology. ArcGIS is the most popular WHERE focused platform. But if you are new to this technology it can at first be a little intimidating. In this blog post our goal is to set you on the right track for success with ArcGIS.
What do you you need to know before starting with ArcGIS?
Worry about the Technology Last
Too often we overhear conversations which start with the technology. Somebody interested in GIS (this might be you), and with little or no experience, is led down a technical path by a GIS expert. GIS can be confusing even to the most technically savvy. As you start your journey with maps and GIS, in your reading and initial conversations, avoid focus on the technology leave that until last. Sounds an odd suggestion? Keep reading.
Define the Problem
Start with the problem. Do you understand in detail your (or your organizations) challenge or problem which needs a solution? Can you clearly define that problem? For example:
– We need to understand better our insurance risk. Where for example are the homes we are insure which are in high risk areas?
– We are putting in place our disaster management plan, and need a software solution to help manage, analyse and display our data.
– We need to replace our map books with a centralised mapping system.
Evolve the Story
Story evolution is as much art as it is science. With a clearly defined problem, next comes discussion around today and how tomorrow might look. When we work with customers this often involves generating a map which includes client data, and sitting down together with this map and brainstorming. We ask questions like:
– How do you do this now?
– If you had this would that make this task easier?
– Why is how you are doing X today such a problem?
– What is you do nothing?
We have found this step to be the most critical in the success of any GIS implementation. It’s a deeper dive into the problem. This process is all about understanding challenges in more detail. It stimulates ideas, and can reveal areas not initially considered. This step provides the details needed to put in place a solution plan.
Understanding the Different ‘flavours’ of ArcGIS
With the problem defined and story evolution completed, the first technology steps can be taken. ArcGIS is a platform. That means there are many connected elements which make up the whole. It is likely that at this early stage in your engagement with GIS you will need a very defined solution set. That might mean:
1. Desktop GIS – Often for more advanced users. The ArcGIS desktop suite comes with a plethora of tools to view, generate and analyse your data.
2. Web GIS – Maybe the most common request we receive is for a web application. This is an application anybody with permission within the organization can simply open in a browser.
3. Mobile GIS – Using their mobile devices, field staff now can view maps, edit data, get routing guidance and much more.
We have used the term ‘connected elements’, what does that mean? Simply that all the individual pieces which make up the ArcGIS platform – desktop, web, mobile – are connected via ArcGIS Online. So, for example, your data can be published from ArcMap on the desktop to ArcGIS Online, then accessed (as maps) by web and mobile ArcGIS users. It is truly an interconnected, shared system.
Let’s not get lost in technical detail here. Always stay focused on the problem and story. Sure there is some initial set up needed to get up and running with ArcGIS. But you need to understand which elements within the platform will provide the solution to your specific problem?
The ‘Getting Outside Help’ Conundrum
Ask yourself these questions:
– Do I have expertise in ArcGIS or am I willing to put in the time to learn ArcGIS?
– Do I have in-house staff familiar with ArcGIS or (again) are willing (or have the time) to learn ArcGIS?
As mentioned the ArcGIS platform comes with an incredible range of applications and tools. You will discover configurable (COTS) apps, linked mobile apps on and on. It can be overwhelming. A key question you will need to consider: should we move ourselves forward with ArcGIS or look for outside help?
This is an important question. The answer varies enormously, driven by urgency, budgets etc. What does outside help look like? Let me share how we help our customers:
1. ArcGIS Discovery – We help with initial problem definition and story evolution.
2. ArcGIS Set up and Configuration – We have in place ArcGIS Jumpstart Packages which are focused on moving clients forward fast with the technology.
3. Solution Providers – We often build out complete solutions by configuring and building new applications.
3. Ongoing ArcGIS Help – We provide ongoing GIS help and support. For those who want to focus on doing what they do best, and avoid the need to learn GIS or put in place GIS staff, we have become an external GIS department to a number of customers.
Some additional thoughts and ideas.
As you move through the process of solving your immediate problem with ArcGIS; keep in mind the bigger picture. How might ArcGIS help others in your organization? Developing a location strategy is potentially important future step.
You might already have an ArcGIS Online subscription without even knowing
Some have already ‘dipped their toe’ into the ArcGIS world with a desktop license. Did you know you get an ArcGIS Online subscription with your desktop license?
Training and Resources
There are many resources available to you to help you move forward with ArcGIS. Esri provide an amazing amount of supporting documents, videos etc. Take a look at the Esri partner directory if you need training or have specific needs, there are a large number of organizations both small and large who could potentially help. Join mailing lists such as NEARC, and keep up to date with community conversations.
If you have questions or need ArcGIS help contact us on 801-733-0723.