In my interview with Tiffany Perrin, GISP, featured in this month’s Geo Positions, a part of her answer to how she views the state of geographic information systems (GIS) is, “They can be used in any discipline.” I learned that pretty early on after joining GeoDataPoint and was given a robust reminder of it at this year’s Esri User Conference in San Diego.
The long list of sessions and exhibitors was quite overwhelming for little old me to take in. “Where on earth do I begin and how do I decide what to cover?” I asked myself on day one. GIS is of value to such a vast array of applications, it can be tough to wrap one’s head around where to go with it — and that’s not just an editorial observation.
Chris Thomas, director of government markets with Esri, started one of his presentations, “Trends in Government,” with this point. He mentioned that with so many ways to apply GIS, it is easy for solution developers and providers to set their sights on the wrong area or set of areas with respect to market demand. For this reason, Thomas highlighted what he sees as some of the top trends in government for geospatial providers to focus their brains on.
- Mobile workforce
- Business intelligence/data analytics
- Agile and incremental software delivery
- Real time
- Open data
- Health and human services
- Civic engagement and lifelong learning
- Disaster response and public safety
- Green infrastructure
- Smart communities
- Aging infrastructure
- Economic growth
- Open data
- Mobile strategies
- Real time
While focusing research and development in the right places is key to ensuring a worthwhile investment, the right places aren’t necessarily limited to the trendiest and most understood. As Adam Carnow, account executive for Esri, points out in Mary Shacklett's interview with him, most GIS non-users don’t realize the abundant capabilities of GIS, so they have to be educated by those who are familiar with it. They need to know it can do more before they can demand more. “The change begins with GIS managers themselves,” he says.
Shacklett’s feature article touches on the importance of geospatial professionals teaching the rest of their company, non-geospatial professionals, about the increasing capabilities of the technology and sharing ideas for where GIS could be integrated to increase productivity.
This is exactly what Perrin does as a senior GISP analyst within a consulting firm that specializes in environmental services, and she admits it isn’t a walk in the park. “The toughest challenge, which has been a challenge my whole career, is trying to explain to different project managers and engineers how GIS can help them. … Things like that are just never going to go away. I’m always going to be marketing internally.”
All of this to say, geospatial professionals do a lot of technical things to produce extremely important tools and data, but that isn’t where the job ends. That technical knowledge needs to be invested in worthwhile areas. Therefore, the value of GIS needs to be communicated to the wider company or wider world. It is in the best interest of geospatial professionals to get somewhat comfortable with marketing the value of the technology they master. As a result, they will help maintain geospatial technology's position as a high-growth industry.