Operating a successful surveying and mapping business has become increasingly challenging in the last few years.

Firms once buoyed by a flood of opportunity have found themselves running aground as land development work has slowed to a trickle. While revenues have diminished, expenses continue to rise. How can today’s professionals possibly navigate through such a difficult environment?

POB asked our readers to share their thoughts on the current business environment as part of our annual Salary & Benefits Study. The response was overwhelming. Here’s a brief summary:

What changes has your firm made within the last six to 12 months specifically to address business conditions?

Reducing the budget by cutting staff, wages, benefits and other expenses was the primary response. But a number of firms noted that they increased or improved marketing efforts and diversified their services to find new revenue streams. Several respondents also noted that their strategy was to invest in GPS technology, laser scanners, automated systems and other technologies that increase productivity.

What technologies are having the biggest impact on the surveying profession?

GPS/RTK GPS, laser scanning and LiDAR were at the top of the list, with GIS, robotic instruments and software also mentioned by a number of respondents. Some believe that the technology advances are reducing work opportunities for surveyors. Others, however, commented that new technologies are streamlining workflow, expanding possibilities and opening new doors.

What steps should today’s surveyors take to position themselves for continued success in the coming years?

The main answers here included keeping up with technology, diversifying into new markets and increasing education. A number of participants also indicated a need to be open-minded and adaptable. “Expect things to change,” said one respondent. “Keep yourself informed of changes in technology while staying open to the prospect of providing different services.” However, he also cautioned, “Do this without forgetting the fundamentals of our profession. Avoid becoming a ‘button pusher,’ and understand the technologies that you adopt.” Another respondent suggested an integrated data-sharing network. “If all surveying firms had access to a network that had an organized land parcel system, where data was freely shared, jobs could be completed faster and errors could be avoided,” he said.

The challenges faced by today’s surveying and mapping professionals are unprecedented. But by sharing our experiences and learning from each other, we can develop strategies that will allow us to plot a successful course for the future.

For more reader insights and statistical highlights from the study, view the online version of“Professional Perspectives 2010”.

Share your thoughts on this column below. To contact the editor, send an e-mail to pobeditor@bnpmedia.com.