Point of Beginning Blog


Sight Lines: The Snowball Effect

July 22, 2009
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After a presentation at the recent ESRI Survey & Engineering GIS Summit, a surveyor in the audience asked: “How can I convince my boss to invest in GIS? He wants to see an immediate return on investment.” Indeed, time is money. In today’s economy, few companies can afford to experiment with technologies and endeavors that don’t promise a fast payback.



I hate waiting. I want my flight to be on time, I want instant access to information, and I expect to see immediate results from any endeavor in which I invest my time and energy. I’m not alone. As a society, we’ve become enamored by the idea of instant gratification.

So the question posed at the recent ESRI Survey & Engineering GIS Summit in San Diego didn’t surprise me. After a presentation by Jack Avis, PLS, GISP, of Baker-Aiklen, a surveyor in the audience asked: “How can I convince my boss to invest in GIS? He wants to see an immediate return on investment.”

Indeed, time is money. In today’s economy, few companies can afford to experiment with technologies and endeavors that don’t promise a fast payback. It’s hard to step back and see the big picture-the potential for a significant return over time. But the potential is there.

The surveyor’s question sparked some animated discussion among members of the audience, many of whom are involved with GIS activities in their own firms. They agreed that the ROI is difficult to measure at first, but that it grows over time. They pointed out that implementing a geodatabase can provide a time savings because it streamlines project management, and that training staff in GIS or hiring GIS professionals opens new doors. They said that as they began implementing GIS capabilities in their dealings with clients, additional opportunities were generated. It’s a snowball effect. Avis recommended that any firm seeking to get involved in GIS needs to have a “GIS champion”-someone with a vision for the possibilities.

Can we afford to invest in something that takes time to produce results?

Can we afford not to?


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