San Juan County Reaches New Heights with a Natural Leader
When Sherice Snell began her career path as an intern in the San Juan County, New Mexico, geographic information system (GIS) department, she did not know what the term "GIS" meant. Her rise through the ranks in the department—culminating in being named department manager in 2017—is a testament to her relentless drive to learn, strengthen the skill sets of her colleagues in other departments, and continually develop the capabilities of the county's GIS.
Snell is thriving in her leadership role despite an economic downturn in the region's oil and gas industry, which slashed San Juan County's workforce and reduced the GIS department to a single-person operation. Remarkably, Snell is single-handedly executing the department's core mission—to provide high-quality maps and real-time spatial data support to end-users.
Constantly facing the challenge of doing more with less, she has persevered and thrived with the help of Esri, which provides strategic support, subject matter expertise, and tailored resources.
Delivering Newfound Successes via Enterprise-Wide GIS
After her promotion to GIS manager, one of the first phone calls Snell made was to her dedicated account manager at Esri. Snell needed a better understanding of the technological capabilities the county had at its disposal in ArcGIS.
An integral part of the GIS department's evolution is the counsel provided by the Esri account manager—Snell's trusted guide.
"[Esri] has a great website. So I go and I grab whatever [I need] from the website and then I'll kick it off to [the account manager]. I'm able to reach out to her and say, 'Hey, what exactly do I have?' and then have her send me everything," said Snell. "There's a lot of communication back and forth. She reaches out a lot. I reach out a lot. If I have a question and she doesn't know the answer, she's going to find somebody [at Esri who] does. And that's fantastic for me."
Snell was also interested in exploring a potential move to ArcGIS Enterprise, including a license for small-government users. This would free up funds in the county's budget that she could use to purchase consulting services from Esri. She recognized that her department could greatly benefit from the additional support, guidance, and training resources that Esri Services provides.
Snell was inspired by the best practices detailed in the white paper Architecting the ArcGIS Platform, and she was eager to implement them into her own department. She reached out to her Esri account manager to inquire about an upgrade of the county's existing server as well as a base ArcGIS Enterprise deployment.
Her account manager suggested an ArcGIS Enterprise Jumpstart Package from Esri Services, which would provide on-site expert guidance to help facilitate the installation, configuration, and administration of the enterprise-wide platform. Snell jumped at the opportunity. Soon, an Esri Services consultant was on the ground in San Juan County, working side by side with Snell to personally address the GIS department's unique requirements and data challenges.
"[The consultant] said, 'This is how we're going to do this.' He took the time to explain each step . . . showing me, 'Now we're going to be installing this, and this is how you configure this' . . . from start to finish," said Snell. "He was very thorough . . . and he just held my hand and walked me through it and really got me to the [ArcGIS Enterprise] platform, [which] I needed to succeed."
The personal visit from the Esri Services consultant in 2018 helped Snell streamline processes, gain efficiencies, and expand the department's map and data offerings on the new open data site, GeoHub. It was a transformation that would set San Juan County on an exciting new course for the future.
"He installed my portal. He got my ArcGIS Web Adaptor going, and he taught me how to use ArcGIS Enterprise. And that experience right there was such a turning point for me. I came in that next Monday and sat down and consolidated 11 applications into our own ArcGIS Web AppBuilder applications in a day. And within that week, I had the San Juan County GeoHub spun up," said Snell.
Snell also reached out to Esri's ArcGIS AppStudio team and learned how to leverage ready-to-use configurable templates to create mobile apps that run on multiple platforms.
She set up meetings with county government leaders to educate them on the value and benefits of enterprise-wide GIS and the mobile apps available to them. Wasting no time in applying what she had learned, she began deploying the apps that her partner departments needed.
Empowering the Sheriff's Office to Better Protect and Serve
While the new platform was an instant success, the server it was running on needed to be migrated. The Esri Services consultant returned to San Juan County in September 2019 to help Snell with that task in order to further upgrade the county's system.
Once again, the consultant offered personal, step-by-step guidance to Snell throughout the server migration process. Together, they successfully moved everything from the legacy server to several new, virtual servers and configured hundreds of unique data services provided by the county.
The consultant provided Snell with the knowledge to not only stand up the ArcGIS Enterprise platform but also understand all the best practices and leverage the tools and technology—to extend the maximum benefit to all the departments in her organization.
One example of this is the San Juan County Sheriff's Office. Its staff needed their own ArcGIS Enterprise implementation, as the office runs on its own network. Snell successfully implemented the new platform and then personally walked the deputies through the myriad of new capabilities. She explained the benefits of the upgraded system, its suite of mobile apps, and helped staff set up their named users and workflows.
It didn't take long for the Sheriff's Office to experience its own successes using the newly available smart maps and apps to better serve and protect the community. Today, a map-based app—configured by Snell specifically for the office's needs—is helping staff clear a sizable backlog of active arrest warrants by making it easier to identify and locate the residents involved.
"…I would not have been able to make the changes, implement the changes, [and] have them embraced without Esri behind me, helping me get to where I am."
Nurturing a New Culture of Learning and Growth
San Juan County has realized the direct benefits of Snell's and Esri's holistic relationship, which is continually growing. With tailored resources, guidance, and validation from her support system at Esri, Snell has become a GIS power user.
The GIS department can now efficiently get end users the information they need. Turnaround time on projects is much shorter, and Snell is completing all data requests seamlessly.
Snell is more than just an evangelist. She is nurturing a new culture of continued learning and growth for users in other departments, taking personal pride in their successes. If she is not personally providing instruction based on her own learning from the latest ArcGIS training session, she is seeking guidance from her dedicated Esri training consultant on the sessions that are best suited for other departments. She always pays it forward, teaching her colleagues how to use a certain tool or application within their device of choice. If they have a somewhat advanced GIS skill set, she will teach them how to ensure that the data is configured correctly in ArcGIS and how to provide it as a feature service.
The impact of each new achievement inside the GIS department naturally flows outward to all the other departments in the county. As a result, those positive outcomes reverberate throughout the communities Snell serves and even into neighboring counties, which also look to her as a thought leader.
"[The Esri training consultant] is really, really good about sending me what's new from training. She calls to see how we're doing and if anybody needs anything . . . that my end users might benefit from. We're just constantly going back and forth, and she is fantastic about making sure that I know what I have . . . training day-wise and what courses would benefit the county," said Snell. "One time I had to call [the training consultant] to ask, 'I know [that] ArcGIS Pro is coming. I know I have a bunch of training days. What can I do?' And she brought a trainer down from Esri . . . so I could get all my end users trained on ArcGIS Pro. And that was great."
Snell knows that she can reach out to a wide range of subject matter experts throughout Esri for assistance on any issue she has. Whether it is her account manager, a technical or training consultant, or the product managers or solution engineers, her support system is available whenever she has a question or issue of any kind.
"I would not be where I am and I could not do what I do if I didn't have the support from Esri. If I didn't have the [training consultant] to talk through what training I need. If I didn't have the [technical consultant] to come out and teach me what I needed to know. If I didn't have my [account manager] saying, 'You know you pay for this, right?' and [I'm able to say], 'Tell me where I can use that,'" said Snell. "The support that I get from Esri is phenomenal. [Staff] walk me through a lot of things. . . . In the three years that I have been in this role, I would not have been able to make the changes, implement the changes, [and] have them embraced without Esri behind me, helping me get to where I am."