Four Guidelines for the New GIS Professional
The GIS platform helps you visualize, question, analyze, and interpret data to understand relationships, patterns, and trends. As a GIS professional, you make the GIS platform valuable and successful. You are the champion of geography-based decision making across your organization. You define and drive the adoption and application of spatial technologies.
First and foremost, GIS professionals have always been defined by a sense of purpose. Many started out as geographers who had a deep passion for the world around them and then became involved with GIS technology. GIS professionals bring a lot to an organization. They collaborate with their coworkers and with the larger GIS community. They believe in the value of geographically informed decision making and the ability of GIS to improve organizations around the world.
However, the GIS technology ecosystem is changing rapidly: cloud-based GIS, the widespread use of web mapping, the increasing adoption of open data, and the app revolution.What do these and other changes mean for the GIS professional?
These four strategies can ensure that a GIS professional not only keeps pace with these changes but remains at the forefront of this profession:
- Build a strong platform
- Extend the platform across the organization
- Leverage existing GIS investments
- Be active in the GIS community
Build Strong Platforms
Strong GIS platforms are resilient to change, provide obvious value to an organization, and are a springboard for future development. A strong platform starts with high-quality data that is created and maintained through robust data management procedures. GIS professionals leverage this quality data by building maps that communicate effectively. These maps can be delivered as apps that improve efficiency, enhance workflows, support decision making, and encourage collaboration and communication. The use of spatial analytics is applied to yield new insights and create greater understanding.
Extend the Platform
Because the ultimate audience for the GIS platform is the entire organization, it should be built so that it can be extended across the organization's departments. Architecture should be open and interoperable so it easily integrates cross-department data and other business systems.
The GIS professional, who is responsible for ensuring continuity of spatial information management across the entire organization, develops targeted information products and apps that extend the value of the platform investment. Building the platform with the enterprise in mind means that as the value of the geographic approach becomes more widely appreciated, other departments in the organization will be able to adopt GIS into their workflows with minimal difficulty and expense.
Leverage GIS Investments
Once a strong GIS platform is in place, the focus can shift to getting more people to take advantage of the valuable services, information, and expertise it makes available. A great place to start is by providing self-service mapping capabilities that are accessible to non-GIS users. These web maps and apps address specific needs and streamline processes. As more people become familiar with the value of geographic thinking in problem solving, the GIS professional becomes an internal advocate who can expose users to the platform's powerful functionality. Over time, the platform evolves to become a critical component of the organizational infrastructure—a powerful way of sharing data, collaborating, and performing analysis.
Be Active in the GIS Community
The GIS community is vibrant, thriving, caring, and supportive. It is a community of like-minded individuals dedicated to using the power of spatial thinking to build better organizations and communities. Opportunities for GIS professionals to participate in and become valuable members of this community include attending conferences, presenting papers, publishing academic papers, writing articles for mainstream media, sharing tradecraft (methods, workflows, models, code), making data available as open data and open services, and mentoring the next generation of GIS professional.
As a GIS professional contributing to the GIS community, you can help advance the adoption and use of GIS technology. You also gain valuable insights and learn best practices that you can implement in your own organization.
The Future of GIS Is in Your Hands
By any measure, this is an exciting time to be a GIS professional. New applications and a growing awareness of the power of GIS are accelerating the need for skilled people in this field. Web mapping and visualization have opened the world's eyes to the power of the spatial visualization of information and are transforming how people understand the world.
Despite substantial advances in GIS technology over the past few years, the fundamental job of the GIS professional remains more important and more in demand than ever. Your skills are enabling and driving the geospatial transformation taking place across the world. By focusing on building a strong platform, extending the platform across the organization, fully leveraging GIS investments, and being active in the GIS community, you and other GIS professionals will ensure that your organizations are taking full advantage of the power of geography.