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Building an Enterprise GIS in a Limited Fiscal Environment

Evaluating Enterprise GIS Needs

When an agency recognizes the need for an enterprise GIS, it should gather stakeholders from participating departments or divisions. These stakeholders should be part of the steering committee that will guide the needs assessment for the enterprise GIS. These stakeholders should have some background in GIS, databases, or information systems or have user experience. Most likely, committee members will be a mix of executive, managerial, and technical staff. If possible, set up a governance structure to ensure that the committee reports findings to either an executive or executive committee within the agency.

When evaluating the GIS, the committee should keep in mind the following goals for the system:

  • Centralized administration of data
  • Centralized sharing of data
  • Expanded use for technology
  • Enabling communication related to GIS and GIS-based systems
  • Applications
  • Centralized procurement process
  • Governance that is shared by departments/divisions

At a minimum, the committee should evaluate existing GIS datasets and GIS resources to see where redundancies can be eliminated and consider the creation of GIS-based data service levels and implementation of GIS standards. (See the accompanying article, "Evaluating Enterprise GIS Requirements," for more detailed information on this process.) The time required for this process varies depending on the size of the agency, amount of existing GIS data, and applications currently deployed.

Implementation Planning and Solutions

Following the completion of findings and needs analysis, the program should start planning. A list compiled from the needs analysis and findings should identify prioritized, focused, and phased projects that use existing GIS and IT resources.

A focused, phased project is one that meets the needs of a specific area of the enterprise GIS implementation such as public safety mapping or integration of parcel mapping between a city and county. These projects are prioritized for implementation based on their impact to the enterprise GIS implementation plan and its goals. They may be integrated and run successively or concurrently, depending on the impact on other focused projects. This approach eliminates redundancies by sharing the implementation of certain tasks. For example, work on the address point database can be shared by various other projects such as public safety mapping, parcel mapping, and utility services mapping.

The primary goal is to build a doable plan that can use existing agency resources to build an integrated rules-based GIS database design from the existing system. A rules-based GIS database design is derived in an initial implementation from the GIS-based data service levels outlined in the evaluation. These service levels will initially be completed manually but will enable the development and integration of the geodatabase design. The plan should be developed with the following criteria in mind:

  • Develop prioritized, focused, and phased projects that bring quick returns based on little investment.
  • Build an integrated rules-based GIS database design that yields the most from the existing departmental data for the good of the enterprise.
  • Eliminate redundancies in data and GIS services where practical, while focusing on continuing support for existing services during the transition.
  • Build on the foundation of existing data, systems, personnel, and knowledge resources.
  • Develop an interactive, open-minded relationship with everyone from staff to external agencies to customers.
  • Centralize the administration and coordination activities.
  • Create an enduring governance structure that includes integrated committees of management and technical staff from the participating departments.
  • Build rapport and communicate responsiveness with the executive, legislative, and client levels of the agency.

The Role of Software in Implementation

Deciding on using a single software product for the dissemination of GIS information through direct interaction, Web portals, or distributed data is key to the development of a successful enterprise GIS implementation. Reducing bottlenecks and translation requirements by using a single source, single format software system that is scalable to the enterprise needs is critical to efficiency and growth potential. This system must also have an open, interoperable transfer mechanism that can bring data from the CADD environment and work under OpenGIS standards. Finally, the product implemented must meet the most basic needs at the lowest level for enterprise and public access while providing a tiered functionality that can collaboratively present the most robust application of a completely integrated rules-based GIS technology.

Another high-level goal would be to leverage a quick return on the investment in enterprise GIS through the initial implementation. This quick return on the investment in a limited fiscal environment can be difficult. However, by using the efficiencies of the software and exploiting acceptable quality in existing datasets, this can be accomplished.

For more information, contact

Scott Bowman, IT GIS Supervisor
City of Fresno

Scott Bowman
Scott Bowman

About the Author

Scott Bowman, currently IT GIS supervisor for the city of Fresno, has worked as a GIS manager and a consulting project manager for local governments, both small and large, for 10 years. Bowman holds a bachelor's degree in cartography from Southwest Missouri State University and a master's degree in geography from the University of Missouri, Columbia. He is particularly interested in enterprise GIS for local and regional governments, emergency services GIS, and systems for public safety/homeland security.

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