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Evaluating Enterprise GIS Requirements

Eliminating Redundancies

An investigation into enterprise GIS will most likely find multiple redundancies in data storage, data maintenance, and other areas that exist in the current environment. These redundancies should be graded as data that is necessary and required, data that is not necessary, and data that can potentially be eliminated.

When evaluating GIS resources, look for completeness, detail, spatial accuracy, precision, spatial integrity, and applicability.

However, some redundant data may have to persist. Redundancies in public safety information systems, for example, may be required by local, state, or federal statutes. Lack of integrated information systems within the agency may prevent elimination of some redundancies. Required redundancies should not be viewed as an impediment for the implementation of enterprise GIS. They should be noted and implementation plans modified to include the dissemination of data into these redundant systems, databases, and applications.

Where possible, all other redundancies should be eliminated to increase the enterprise focus and the centralized administration of data. Representatives of participating departments should share their data requirements and data maps so the impact of redundancy elimination on work plans, procedures, and systems can be assessed.

Create GIS-Based Data Service Levels

As part of developing enterprise GIS, departmental requirements for providing data or products may differ in terms of accuracy, precision, layers, and timelines, which may impact other departments. There is a need to develop a method for tracking and defining these requirements and impacts as part of the enterprise GIS to ensure that all parties involved are working together.

To satisfy this need, the enterprise GIS and participating departments should create a rules-based service-level agreement that defines the entity relationship of each particular service, personnel responsibilities, departmental responsibilities, signatures, legal implications, and the priority of critical path single and multithreaded relationships.

A multithreaded relationship is a particular entity that starts in more than one place and must await approvals from multiple departments before progressing as a single entity. The relationship between departments and divisions must be defined with applicable working time periods, reasonable lag time, approval triggers, required waiting periods, and all other impeding factors to the automated processing of an activity.

GIS-based data service levels may be formal or informal agreements between departments, divisions, or external agencies such that the enterprise GIS is the application system that holds the process together. These agreements can be used for maintenance, production, application development, data sharing, and other areas where the collaboration of one or more departments or intergovernmental agreements is part of the critical path for the data and products administered as part of the enterprise GIS.

Implementing GIS Standards

Crucial to sharing data is data standards. This is central to the success of any information system implementation. It is highly recommended that the Federal Geographic Data Committee ( and National Map Accuracy Standards ( be used as guidelines for standardizing data and developing approaches to managing GIS data layers.

Other good sources for standards are the state Geographic Data Committee, a similar agency charged with standards development, or a regional group involved in data sharing. In the case of bistate, multistate, or multinational implementations, national standards may be more applicable for enabling data sharing.

Whether a specific program of GIS standards methodology is used as a standard for all data, data accuracy and precision should be set for the enterprise. This should take into account database formats that must be applied to the GIS for compliance and use within the enterprise. These standards are applied as part of the enterprise implementation in addition to the GIS-based data service levels.

Taking Advantage of GIS Software

Within the GIS industry there is a trend to build a Mercedes-quality enterprise GIS with features that are impressive and extensive. If decision makers fail to realize that the immediate benefits won't match investment, this trend can be a limiting factor. GIS software vendors, such as Esri, have developed advanced enterprise GIS database engines and software applications that can leverage information and integrate systems throughout the entire enterprise for local governments. This approach for those smaller agencies that are beginning to move from the decentralized departmental GIS may be much more than they can realistically handle.

The caveat that should be employed here is to take advantage of the software to bring enterprise-like solutions to the users that will build core user group support for further expansion. This expansion leads directly to the implementation of ArcSDE and geodatabase modeling concepts. ArcGIS includes tools and extensions that can be used to bring quick results to users.

An example of this type of deployment is the use of ArcGIS ArcView 9 with ArcGIS Publisher to bring targeted mapping to users that is interactive, allows for data inquiries and limited searches, and answers a specific enterprise GIS need. This approach relies on existing personnel making a modest time investment testing this approach. Another requirement is a need for exploiting existing GIS information and related databases. By taking advantage of the immediate cost savings and ROI using the ArcGIS Publisher/ArcReader approach, the agency can bring the advantages of enterprise GIS to users earlier than the Cadillac approach.

After completing this evaluation, the committee should then compile and document the findings, gap analysis, and needs analysis and report them back to the executive-level group. This is the first step in planning for enterprise GIS. The costs are minimal if the agency completes the process without the assistance of a consultant.

However, it should be noted that the costs for this type of service from a consultant are normally much less than the investment in hardware, software, databases, applications, and data development, which make up a much larger portion of the overall costs of enterprise GIS. In addition to keeping staff time to a minimum, the consultant may be able to provide comparisons to other similar agencies, systems analyses, and employ industry experience from previous evaluations to guide this process.

Other keys to a successful evaluation are

  • Communicating with all participants and the executive group
  • Keeping the project on a reasonable timeline
  • Evaluating the entire enterprise rather a small part
  • Reviewing interagency and regional data sharing potential
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