Solution Templates: Rethinking GIS

GIS technology has evolved from a tool for specialized professionals to a platform that can be used “by everyone.”  An important component of this more far-reaching platform is the development and release of Solution Templates that are designed to facilitate GIS throughout the organization.
“Our goal is to provide things that help people be successful,” said Damian Spangrud, Esri’s new Director of Solutions. “But the landscape is changing—the types of people we are serving, how they are using our technology, and even the definition of what is ‘success’— everything is changing.  As we started to think about where GIS fits in this new landscape, the questions we started asking ourselves were: What kinds of things can we give people so that they can tailor their ArcGIS system to be more successful? And how can we help them share their GIS investment with everyone across the organization?”
In many organizations, GIS has long been an island—in effect, an IT department separate from IT, because, as many have suggested, “spatial is special.”  But that’s all changing in the new geospatial landscape.  “GIS is no longer an island,” says Damian.  “GIS is the bridge.  Spatial is increasingly being recognized as valuable, and the GIS people are in the position of being heroes across the organization…if they can just provide the maps and apps that the rest of the organization needs.”

Esri has released a number of successful Solution Templates such as these for local government, water utilities, and public safety.
The result of this rethinking of GIS is a new Esri initiative providing Solution Templates.  This initiative has resulted in the creation of a series of communities where users can share best practices and focused maps and apps that add value to their community by illustrating how to best configure the ArcGIS system for specific applications. The intention is to reduce the time and effort users and partners need to invest to deploy GIS, and to make GIS more broadly accessible and useful.
A Growing Program
Though the initiative is still in its infancy, Esri has already released a number of successful Solution Templates.  “The main areas we’ve been focused on so far are local government, defense, and emergency management,” Damian said.  “And we’re looking at building templates in a number of additional areas.”
The suite of Solution Templates ranges from simple examples of best practices all the way to commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) applications.  “The level of refinement of a specific template depends on who is going to be using it, and how they are going to be using it,” Damian notes.  “In some situations, people want—even expect—COTS.  In other situations, it would be a waste of time to release a COTS app, because people would never use it as-is; they are just looking for examples of best practices, and code they can grab.”
These new Solutions Templates also offer unprecedented opportunities for partners.  Being open source, all templates are available at no charge for use by systems integrators and developers in their own projects and products.  “By providing partners with apps that show them the art of the possible, we hope to make their work easier,” Damian said.  “And many partners are already leveraging our investment in Solutions Templates.  It’s gratifying to see such widespread adoption, given that the program has only been fully in place for less than a year.”

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