Each year, POB examines the 2019 Survey & Mapping Industry Software Study conducted by Clear Seas Research to gain a better view of trends and spending in survey and mapping software. The dollars committed to new software and technology are a measure of growth and adoption when it comes to some of the technologies, but some of the other responses are equally if not more informative.

One important point in looking at the study results is that all respondents had to be involved in or have familiarity with the survey operations at their company. Respondents were identified as either surveyors, engineers, management, or they were classed as “other.” The management group, which could include “president,” “owner,” and other titles, dominated at 49 percent of respondents. Having said that, respondents identifying as management may also be licensed surveyors or dual licensed individuals as well as filling a management role (See Chart 1).

  2019 2018 2017 2016
Surveyor 21% 24% 31% 32%
Engineer 20% 18% 13% 7%
Management 49% 52% 51% 49%

Looking behind the company revenue numbers may help explain how many surveyors end up in the management title category. While overall responses put 35 percent of companies in the lower earning category under $1 million, surveyor responses indicate 43 percent of their companies fall into that category, leaving 57 percent of surveyors at firms earning over $1 million (See Chart 2).

  2019 2018 2017 Surveyors*
Less Than $1 Million 35% 34% 45% 43%
$1 Million to $4.9 Million 25% 26% 20% 22%
$5 Million + 39% 41% 35% 35%

*Those with "surveyor" job titles were mostly at firms with over $1 million in revenues.

Company size is another category where the overall pool of respondents differs somewhat from the responses provided by individuals with a surveyor title. Here, the breakdown remains about equal at a third of companies with over 100 full-time employees and a little more than a third (39 percent) reporting fewer than 20 employees. However, surveyor responses (excluding “management,” “engineer,” and “other” respondents) showed surveyors more often working at companies with 100 or more employees (42 percent).

  2019 2018 2017 Surveyors*
Less than 20 39% 36% 49% 32%
20 to 99 30% 26% 23% 26%
100+ 33% 37% 29% 42%

*Those with "surveyor" job titles were more likely to work at mid- to large-sized companies.

One factor influencing all of this may be the rise in the number of respondents who are at companies where the principal business is construction. Five years ago, the 2015 study included only 6 percent of respondents at those businesses. That number grew steadily while the number at civil engineering firms, which was at 1 percent on 2015, has grown far more slowly, accounting for 7 percent of respondents in 2019. There may be an implication that professional surveyors are increasingly being absorbed into construction and civil engineering firms, or the study could simply reflect lower participation by smaller surveying-only firms. Regardless of the drivers, some of the results appear to reflect this stronger emphasis on construction (See Chart 4).

  2019 2018 2017 2016 2015
Surveying 15% 17% 25% 27% 35%
Survey & Civil Engineering 34% 33% 37% 39% 45%
Construction 28% 29% 18% 17% 6%
Civil Engineering 7% 6% 3% 4% 1%

There is a rise in the number of surveyors reporting they work at firms where the principal business is construction.

Asked about the principal type of work done at the company, “boundary survey” has hovered around 20 percent since 2016 after dropping from 34 percent in 2015. At the same time, “building and construction” jumped from 10 percent in 2015 to 23 percent in 2016 and has reached just over a third in the last two reports. Other categories have remained largely consistent over the period of the last five studies.

Taking the respondents with surveyor titles as a group, the number reporting boundary surveying as the principal type of work at their company is over 20 percent and construction lags the overall responses at 20 percent vs. 34 percent for all responses. The other notable difference is that 13 percent of surveyors report topographic surveys as the principal business where it represents only 7 percent overall.

  2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 Surveyors*
Boundary 18% 14% 24% 23% 34% 22%
Building/ Construction 34% 34% 21% 23% 10% 20%
Engineering/ Design 22% 21% 24% 21% 22% 28%
Road/ Instrastructure/ Transport 11% 12% 12% 15% 14% 12%
Utilities 5% 7% 4% 3% 3% 1%
Mortgage/ Title 2% 2% 1% 1% 2% 3%
Topo 7% 6% 8% 5% 5% 13%

*Individuals with survey titles report their businesses perform more traditional survey work, including a higher percentage of topographic surveys than overall respondents.

Using Software

Among the mix of software tools employed by respondents, it is not surprising that computer aided design (CAD) tops the list at 90 percent. This is consistent over the range of the last five studies. Similarly, civil engineering and design software has shown some tapering but remains at about 50 percent.

A couple of trends may be showing in the longer view that could be less evident simply looking at 2019 vs. 2018. One is the drop in data collector/controller software. In 2015, 83 percent of respondents reported using this type of software. That number has dropped to 55 percent in 2019. In addition, the intent to buy data collector/controller software has also dropped. Without an in-depth look at hardware trends relative to hardware design and users’ purchase and use, it is difficult to provide a reason behind the change. One explanation could be that earlier numbers reflect purchases or use of standalone software which has subsequently been provided by the hardware manufacturer (See Chart 6).

  2019 2018 2017 2016 2015
CAD 90% 89% 95% 94% 95%
Civil/Design 49% 52% 55% 57% 60%
COGO 38% 41% 52% 59% 67%
Data Collector/ Controller 55% 56% 64% 71% 83%
GIS 48% 54% 41% 44% 47%
BIM 23% 22% 20% 0% 0%
UAV 20% 17% 15% 12% 6%

The other interesting trend is the rapid rise of building information management (BIM) software. BIM stood at zero responses in 2015 and 2016 but jumped to 20 percent in 2017 and has remained at that level. BIM has become a hot topic in construction and geospatial circles, but watching the adoption curves of other technologies in this sector shows a more cautious approach rather than a rush to follow trends. Some of the rise could be accounted for by the increase in respondents who say they are involved in construction. To take speculation a step further than that, an economic boom in construction could drive more demand for survey and geospatial services and, as a consequence, respondents are moving strongly towards adoption of BIM tools. Looking at who is interested in BIM software, surveyors are showing their customary caution. Engineers are the largest group by title expressing interest in BIM (41 percent), followed by management (22 percent). Surveyors and “other” account for 8 percent and 24 percent, respectively. As noted earlier, it is difficult to gauge how many surveyors or geospatial professionals are among the management titles.


Except as noted by some of the interesting ups and downs in certain areas, the 2019 Survey & Mapping Industry Software Study shows consistent growth. As noted, some categories are rising faster than others and a few are tapering or trending downward. Increasing use of newer tools such as BIM, LiDAR, and UAVs certainly has an effect on related software or on the software tools that support other processes that exhibit change or growth as the newer technologies get integrated into the core business. Software remains at a mean average of 35 percent of survey and geospatial companies’ budget allocation, roughly equal to that allocated for equipment.

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