So far in my columns, I’ve talked about relationships and technology. Today, we’re going to combine the two into one topic: collaboration. 

With the geospatial industry expanding as it has been, new technologies and focuses are coming into play. Take UAVs as an example. Their introduction has created a tremendous boom followed by a ripple effect that has infiltrated channels such as LiDAR, surveying, etc.

With innovative avenues of business comes the question of new market opportunities. Do I want to pursue this market/technology? Should I add it to my business model? Would it be wise to invest in this product? 

What’s developing in the geospatial industry is the consideration of the high costs of new technologies (both the cost of the equipment and the cost of maintenance, training, etc.) versus finding someone to subcontract for that work. 

Here’s where to start. Take into account the possibility of future work. If having those capabilities would positively benefit ongoing work and you see a long future in that market, then buying might be a better option. If that answer isn’t a definitive yes and sways more toward uncertainty, then more questions need to be asked. 

For example, do I have a target market? How can I develop more business in said market? Will this market grow? Will I be able to achieve a return on investment (ROI) in five years? 10?

It’s important to define the target market first and develop or acquire the capability second. It’s usually less effective to buy the tool, then try to figure out how you’re going to sell it. 

As a wise mentor of mine once said, “Too many geospatial professionals are acquiring tools and then trying to make them fit more projects to justify their purchase. The old cliché is that when you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. If you justify a purchase by trying to convince customers they need the added capability when they don’t, you’ll lose customers.” 

This is where collaboration comes into play. Before spending the money on a pricey product for a job or two, consider subcontracting the work out. Instead of expanding your business model to fit three, four, maybe even five different markets, try finding someone that specializes in that line of work to allow you to focus your skills and tools on what you’re best at. 

If a company wants to provide drone services, they should first consider if it’s going to be a major part of their future business. If not, then they may want to postpone the liability, or the cost of the equipment and training; instead, they can continue to research the tools and opportunities while  collaborating with a drone pilot, who has the flexibility and knowledge to perform the work needed. 

The same can be said with post-production work and intricate point clouds, which can often be time-consuming and costly. Highly technical skills such as these might be best subcontracted out to those with the right experience. If very specialized deliverables are required, collaboration might be the best fit. 

In the end, don’t be afraid to stop, evaluate and collaborate.