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The current business model, as I have experienced it, is basically charging clients for the number of hours worked. A bid is created based on what costs the company expects to take in term of time, equipment and personnel required. This bid can be a single number or based on an hourly rate sheet. As data collection and processing become more automated and simpler to produce, the value of hourly work diminishes quickly. This is already well-known; who hasn't been told not to work themselves out of a job? On jobsites everywhere, many surveyors are either allowing inefficiency to make a profit or are losing most of their office and field personnel due to lack of competitive income.
The better business model, I believe, is one that more directly involves the surveyor and their companies. The data becomes easier to produce, but interpreting and acting on it becomes much, much harder. Subdivision plats are complicated enough, but when they are related in a GIS to other plats across a region, which are further related to environmental, economic and social information, the results are impossible to determine without knowing what it means and how to interpret it. The new way to do business in our industry is not as organic data collectors and processors, but rather as interpreters for how all the new sources of data work together. The survey company, then, collects a profit not as a subcontractor but rather a partner involved in every step of a project. I am not saying that the data collection is not important; on the contrary, the more detailed the surveyor can capture the environment, the more relevant and valuable the associated data and results become. The five-year window is not some technological development, as the technology and procedures for automating much of our work already exists. What the five-year window is, then, is the time for accepting this dramatic change in how we work and what our work is.
We can see similar changes in other information industries. Look at the development of the Internet or computers, where information and technology have changed the way so many professionals work. I believe we can greatly profit by learning how these industries adapted and follow suit.
--Andrew Gaiennie, Geomatics Engineering Sr, Nicholls State University
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