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The Data Czar: Breaking Down User Data Needs

June 10, 2009


I can deliver verbiage on geodatabases, spatial data infrastructures and data models with ease … begin discussions on their far-reaching implications in this janam, birth, lifetime, whatever you want call it … warm the hearts of many in the geosciences field with this dialogue. However, many of us just aren’t that tech-savvy, as indicated by POB blogger Larry Phipps, PLS, in “The Choice of Change.” To bridge this “spatial divide,” the reasoning and choices an information technology professional makes with data must sync with those of the geoscientists, surveyors, engineers and mappers as well as their business processes.

A shift in awareness to data organization is required. However, we must make this shift step by step and in a manner that is understood by both the geotechnical and non-geotechnical fields. In this respect, the outlook will be meaningful, and the best approach to harness the power of our data will surface.

Take a journey through the eyes of an IT professional. Visualize what is required of geography, surveying and mapping. Use your discipline’s perspectives as a guide to view your processes and the data that drives them.

For an application developer, the development process begins with a user needs assessment. This provocative term is placed near the top of many to-do lists. A needs assessment gives the client a certain level of comfort that their needs are being identified. It also gives the developer a handle on the various functions in your organization. The initial stage divulges structural layers of egos, dominions, hang-ups and multitudes of processes that enshrine the organization. These responses will be used to formulate plans and designs that detail the flow of data and the systems encapsulating the processes.

Users give a general idea of the type of solution they need. However, their responses, as anyone else’s, are based on their beliefs, experiences, areas of expertise and personal agendas. It is therefore important to direct user responses toward the data by asking the correct questions. Only then will the data’s format and its interpretation into the information will reveal itself. When conducted in this way, the needs assessment will enhance the likelihood that the appropriate solution will be obtained.

Rely on your expertise of the related technologies, and be wary of the data’s impact on currently running processes. Data needs should be addressed simultaneously with the needs of the users and of company’s management as a whole. Disregarding data needs as an integral part of an improved solution will create competition between users and data instead of a seamless data solution.


What do you think? Please post your comments below.

Other posts in this blog: The Data Czar: Getting Over the Ownership Mentality

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