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Herding Cats! GIS Coordination Efforts in an Enterprise System
By Tracy Jenee' Moy, Arkansas Game & Fish Commission

catsCan you imagine trying to herd cats? Just as cats sometimes have their own mind-set, so do most of the GIS users in our organization and probably yours!

The Arkansas Game & Fish Commission (AGFC) is responsible for managing the fish and wildlife resources of the state. The agency's GIS users represent professionals from many disciplines. In addition to the varied scope of work carried out at the commission, users are spread geographically across the entire state, and the level of technical mastery of these users also varies greatly.

These factors and others contribute to the increasing difficulty of managing, tracking, and coordinating GIS projects within the agency. This article will discuss issues associated with coordination efforts and will offer suggestions on how to deal with the issues that occur in a large enterprise setting.

Centralized, Decentralized, or Both

GIS may become part of an organization through careful planning or by accident. Either way, it will exist as a centralized system, a decentralized system, or some combination of both. In a centralized system, the components will reside in one department or physical location in the organization. Clients request a project, work is completed by the department staff, and the final product is delivered back to the client. Even though the project may be complex in nature, this type of workflow is straightforward and project tracking can be simple.

In a decentralized system, components may reside in different geographic locations or different departments within an organization. Many individuals may be working simultaneously on many different projects. Project tracking in this type of system can be very challenging for an organization. AGFC has a combination of centralized and decentralized systems.

Some Background on AGFC

During the 1980s, GIS was being used at AGFC by only one division. Individuals in the Wildlife Management Division realized the potential GIS had for managing habitat. One workstation was purchased, and one person was designated to carry out GIS work for the division within the agency. Over time, other divisions also began seeing the value of GIS. In 1998, the administration approved the hiring of a GIS coordinator who would serve the entire agency.

With only two people performing GIS activities within the agency, project tracking was no problem. That soon changed as the program expanded to include user training, software distribution, and a distributed network of data over a large geographic region and multiple divisions of the agency. Although users were educated about metadata and the importance of project reporting to the coordinator, most users ignored this policy for ensuring the coordination of GIS work.

Project Tracking Issues

The AGFC GIS program currently includes 12 redundant servers spread over the state on a wide area network. More than 100 GIS users are connected to these servers. Some users, those who work in the field, use a single seat license for ArcView. Most users utilize one of 30 floating licenses for ArcView and routinely perform GIS work from their local office. The GIS staff now includes five full-time and two part-time employees who support GIS needs within the agency. Approximately 100 of the 600 AGFC employees are GIS users or clients of GIS products.

However, it was becoming increasingly difficult to justify expenditures for additional resources with no evidence of how the GIS program was being used. Products from the program appeared everywhere. Almost every report and presentation delivered contained GIS products, yet the agency's GIS staff had little knowledge of any work beyond their own.

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