GIS Helps National Mapping Agencies Evolve Missions, Operations, and Service Delivery
Modernizing National Mapping Workflow
National mapping agency: The name conjures images of legions of cartographers laboring away at familiar maps of their respective countriespolitical, transportation, geologic, vegetation, and topographic. In truth, national mapping agencies (NMAs) have a vital and often underappreciated role in national government. They provide timely, relevant, and accurate geospatial intelligence in support of economic development, scientific research, natural resource management, navigation, safety, and national security. They are the leaders in collecting, managing, combining, and promoting the use of accurate and up-to-date geospatial data for use by government, business, and the public. Often, they are the only entity providing these services.
Evolving Missions and Business Models
In many countries, there is more than one NMA, with different agencies dedicated to aeronautical, nautical, or topographic mapping. Most have focused on producing a limited number of standard products or series delivered either as hard-copy maps or digital files. Data was centered on the product sets and stored in a variety of databases and libraries while being processed by a disparate set of systems and tools. The specifications for these products were fixed, with production requirements established months or years in advance. The acquisition of source material followed similar timelines, and production processes depended heavily on manual operations. Customers ordered from an inventory of products and adapted them to their uses.
This business model is changing as the value of geospatial information becomes more widely recognized and customers demand more sophisticated products and greater access to the data. There is growing recognition that the product-centric system no longer meets customers' evolving demands nor is it efficient for the agencies. As geospatial information moves from the realm of map publishing and special projects to supporting mission-critical business functions, customers require more content and currency, on-demand accessibility, and application-ready formats.
This trend has led many NMAs to reevaluate how they interact with their customers. Many agencies have taken steps to adapt their business practices and production systems accordingly, but the demand for geospatial information is outstripping their ability to keep up with the increasing sophistication of their customers.
To meet these demands, NMAs must achieve greater levels of performance and quality in all business functions at an enterprise level. Increasing staff or adding equipment resources can accomplish this in a limited way but are solutions with diminishing returns. To really improve, agencies must
Common Business Functions Among NMAs
There is no single technical solution for all mapping agencies. Each must adapt to the requirements of its particular domain. Each must work within its own special business and regulatory environment. But while they are each different in their specific data and map products and services based on whether their domain is aeronautical, topographic, or nautical, NMAs have common business functions and associated processes and procedures. These include
Common Strategies to Improve Business Functions
There are common GIS-based strategies that all NMAs can employ to improve these business functions:
NMAs are no longer just about mapping and charting. The increasingly sophisticated demands of their customers, which now include communities of users in the government and private sectors, and their own institutional requirements have changed their missions to providing leadership in geospatial data collection, management, and dissemination through a greater variety of products and solutions.
Thus, their situation has changed from stovepipe departmental GIS/processes/procedures for developing static map products to maximizing the value from the investment in digital information across the enterprise. Their systems must meet broader strategic goals, including
NMAs worldwide must achieve these goals within the context of their particular national policies, markets, budgets, and assets. They need cost-effective COTS-based solutions that can integrate systems and databases and standardize business functions while providing maximum flexibility to adapt to their particular needs and situations. Esri ArcGIS solutions are used to meet the challenge of true integration of geodatasets, maps and globes, metadata, and process and workflow models.
For more information about how Esri software addresses these critical challenges, read the sidebar, "Technology Solutions for National Mapping Agencies," and also the following articles and poster in this issue.