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The Coming Quantum Change in GIS Consulting and Systems Integration Services

By John C. Antenucci, President, PlanGraphics Inc.

John Antenucci GIS consulting and systems integration services of the 21st century will reflect a quantum change from the manner and content of those services as delivered less than a decade ago. That certainly should not surprise anyone who has either tracked the evolution of geographic information systems (both the technology and the implementations) or followed the evolution of traditional information systems (both the technology and the implementation).

For more than 20 years, PlanGraphics has developed its professional service practice to reflect the maturation of GIS technology, the organizations that would embrace it, and the human resources available to leverage it. I do not intend to recount history, nor has our practice been one that mirrors what is going on around us, but rather one that anticipates what will be needed. Our focus has been and continues to be keenly drawn to the future.

In that context, the 21st century model cannot and will not be "consulting" or "integration" as some would like to characterize it. It must be "integration implementation" (called "I2" throughout). In my view, and in current PlanGraphics practice, every thought and action must be taken with the objective of successfully recognizing and benefiting from the spatial content of databases.

I do not choose these words casually.

Yes, there will be a continued "advisory" role--as consultants have always provided. There are experts in all fields and all fields have niches that require levels of expertise that are even more advanced than that of general practitioners. With increasing frequency organizations recognize that the knowledge base required to conceive, design, and build out systems is not mission critical to their own Business interests--and they will look more intently to have those functions filled on a temporary and outsource basis.

Certainly, the phases of conception, justification, design, and buildout are central to implementation. But the focus will not be on technology or even on the traditional context of geographic information "systems." No, the focus will be on the implementation of systems: people, procedures, data, technology, and communication networks that result in the solution of a Business need. Many of these will leverage the spatial content of their information assets.

Just as organizations are more complex--as are their interactions with other organizations, customers, and constituents more complex and intense--so are their required solutions. The complexity and a need for rapid response and capability will drive the importance and value of exploiting--and integrating--existing information assets and existing systems (both technological and procedural). Moreover, the need for competitive edge and rapid deployment will drive preferences toward customization of proven "solutions." Herein lies the key differentiation between traditional systems integration and I2. Once again, the emphasis will be on implementation, the realization of the solution in a Business environment.

Another dimension to I2 is the nature of the organization. The focus will be on enterprise deployment. That is, having access to the solution regardless of where an individual resides--in or out of the organization. In addition, the deployment across traditional organizational boundaries will re-create an opportunity and need for providers such as PlanGraphics to represent the "organization" and not the narrow interests of one or another of the organizational units.

Perhaps the greatest change will be that the G in traditional GIS consulting and systems integration will become silent, just as the "g" in the word "thought" is a vestige of the past.

Many of our clients now know PlanGraphics as an integration implementation firm with a special expertise in spatial information touching on systems of all types: analog, digital, and organizational. This is the future of what was once GIS consulting and systems integration.

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