The Future of Surveying - Point #2

September 16, 2009
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Posted By Ted Madson on 9/15/2009 at 8:56 AM

THESIS: The remaining markets for surveying are driven by factors other than the traditional desires of our clients.

“Too often we as a group fail to listen and instead try to tell our clients what they need, when we are not fully informed of the end use of the information we are asked to provide. Once we clearly identify their needs we can then go about educating them on the best way we can help them achieve their goals. We need to look at ourselves more as partners and less like contractors to our clients.” (Rob Mellis on 9/14/2009). “It's is [sic] all going to this "Design Build" the small civil engineering and surveying firms will be no longer in the future.” (Krb Baldwin on 9/14/2009). “Machine control and GPS is moving a lot of our traditional work over to the contractors. We just got a call from a dirt guy trying to figure out his new robot.” (Andy Nadeau on 9/14/2009).

Boundary and topographic work is on its way out as technology takes hold. Such surveys have traditionally been performed as though the property being surveyed was the only property on the planet and without regard to adjoining or adjacent properties. The GIS parcel map, although in its infancy, stitches together all of the parcels in a particular area, e.g. county, parish, etc. The venues that are taking the lead in upgrading the tax maps that formed the original GIS parcel base maps to a survey-grade base map already have government support in most instances. It doesn’t take a crystal ball to see the inevitability of a government mandate that makes that upgraded GIS parcel map the statement of ownership of parcels.

It seems to me that since we traditionally define the boundaries and shape of the land, we need to rethink our role a surveying licensees as being the lead professionals for issues dealing with the other uses of the land. While this might mean hiring or joint venturing with engineers or other specialists; however, as the lead professionals we would control the flow of work and fees. For example, the following work comes immediately to mind:
• Permitting work of all kinds
• Road Design
• Traffic Analysis and Reports
• Transportation Studies
• Storm water Analysis and Reports
• Environmental Reports
• Wetland Delineations
• Contaminated Site Analysis
• Soil Reports
• Historical and Cultural Resource Determinations
• Production of Civil Plans
• Construction Management
• Bid Specifications
• Bidding documents
• Contract documents
• Construction budgeting and scheduling
• Construction inspection
• Waterline Design
• Sewer line Design
• Storm water Design
• Water Plant Design
• Water Tank Design
• Wastewater Treatment Plant Design
• Water Treatment Plant Design
• Site Plans
• Proposal Preparations and Presentations
• Geotechnical Reports
• Compaction Tests

To simplify matters, the surveyor is usually the first professional on a project. Therefore, the surveyor is the one who has the ability to bring the work to the table. With a well-established surveying company becoming a multi-discipline firm would not be a problem if that company is well established, well known and liked. That will be the key to the success. For other surveying companies, the willingness to get out and sell the company can insure success. For the fainthearted who are fearful of making such a proposal to an engineer, architect, environmentalist, or other professional, the surveying company could proceed as a totally separate entity.

In Point #3 we will discuss the issue that leaders in the surveying profession have created a new and more expansive definition of surveying that they call “Geomatics.”

Ted Madson

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