In magazine articles, at conferences and in casual conversations, surveying and mapping professionals like to talk about cutting-edge technology. Indeed, having the latest laser scanner, mobile mapping system, GNSS solution or software can be a major contributing factor in a firm’s ability to win new projects and remain profitable. But there’s another equally important consideration for success: cutting-edge knowledge.

“Learning to properly use the equipment you purchase is vital,” says Kristopher M. Kline, PLS, president of the surveying and consulting firm 2Point Inc. in Alexander, N.C. “I’ve heard of cases where crews set their equipment up and take whatever data it hands them; there’s no error checking or doubt in their mind that everything is perfect the first time. But that’s really not a good way to approach any survey project, regardless of the type of equipment being used. There’s always a learning curve.”

Kline believes there are three basic aspects to cutting-edge knowledge. One is having a healthy skepticism of new capabilities. “With a new technology, you can get results faster and produce deliverables so much more effectively,” he says. “But you can also screw up faster than was ever before possible if the technology isn’t applied properly or doesn’t provide accurate results.”

He notes that it’s imperative to ask the right questions before making a purchase, carefully review the technical manual, and get the necessary training to apply the technology appropriately. Additionally, “the first time you get new equipment, it’s not a bad idea to go out and run some checks on it,” he says. “A little healthy skepticism at the beginning can save you a lot of trouble down the road.”

Another aspect of cutting-edge knowledge is making sure you’re qualified to apply technology in a specific field. “Just because you have a laser scanner and you’re a surveyor doesn’t mean the courts will accept your scans as evidence in a crime scene investigation,” he says. “You need a separate expertise over and above the technology in order to pursue that particular course effectively.” Likewise, a crime scene investigator who doesn’t understand how to collect and archive laser scan data risks compromising the case.

Fortunately, expertise and understanding can often be gained through learning—which is the third aspect of cutting-edge knowledge. “There are so many opportunities out there,” Kline says. “Some of them are opened up by the technology, and some of them are opened up by gaining a knowledge base that is beyond the average. If you know more, you can better serve your clients. And that’s another way to add value.”

Kristopher Kline writes the POB column Unmistakable Marks and teaches classes on boundary retracement. He can be reached at Kline’s first book, “Rooted in Stone: the Development of Adverse Possession in 20 Eastern States and the District of Columbia,” is due out this year.