Supporting mission-critical workflows requires the right spatial infrastructure plan, executive support, and funding. We worked hard to bring all of these elements into alignment to make this vision a reality.
ARPA Funds Help City of Visalia Build Resilient GIS Strategy
At first glance, the story of the City of Visalia, California, may appear similar to other cities that have started a geographic information system (GIS) program. Other cities' GIS work started as incremental implementations, procuring software licenses as needed. Their support was driven by focused projects across various departments. But GIS advocates at the City of Visalia initiated efforts for a more strategic plan for mapping use–one that aligned with best practices, ensured IT resilience, and allowed the expansion of capabilities. This strategic plan moved the city into an elite group of organizations that have made GIS a mission-critical system to deliver services and serve residents.
ARPA Funds Make Strategic GIS Plan a Reality
For decades, the city’s GIS Division had been delivering tools and applications to various departments. This support was on a project-by-project basis rather than a more autonomous basis where departments could use GIS on a day-to-day basis. The city decided that it needed a true enterprise approach where the GIS Division would be able to provide centralized support, data management, and best practices to all departments. And with the availability of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, it had an opportunity to make this vision a reality. With ARPA funds, the city purchased a small government enterprise agreement (EA), a specially priced licensing agreement for small municipal and county governments that provides unlimited licenses of Esri technology. This approach moved its GIS investment from ad hoc, project-based thinking to strategic, enterprise thinking.
“Prior to our strategic GIS plan, we just procured licenses as needed,” said Greg Mattis, GIS analyst, City of Visalia. “This didn’t allow us to establish IT best practices or showcase a coordinated implementation across the organization. Now, with the enterprise agreement in place, GIS has moved from a capital cost to a mission-critical operational cost.”
Implementing Strong IT Infrastructure to Ensure GIS Resilience
The strategic GIS plan put the city on a path toward ensuring all departments could use the best available technology and follow best practices to ensure the resilience of their IT network. The strategic plan and the purchase of the EA allowed them to deploy additional ArcGIS Enterprise, Esri’s GIS server software technology, which allowed them to deploy staging environments, flush out patches and updates, and ensure services were more resilient.
Through the deployment of ArcGIS Enterprise, the city fortified potential vulnerabilities within its 911 response system. ArcGIS Enterprise allowed the city to establish data and service redundancies that would allow 911 dispatchers to continue to monitor the locations of first responder vehicles, even if interruptions in their automatic vehicle location (AVL) feeds occurred. With ArcGIS as a foundational system, the city can begin to address and mitigate this risk with complementary server technology that works on top of ArcGIS Enterprise.
The EA provided the city with a consistent means of updating software—giving everyone access to the most current capabilities—and deploying additional servers if needed. The strategic GIS plan allowed the city to continue to advance the applications of GIS while establishing IT best practices and setting new procurement standards to ensure that new business systems would be able to integrate or be maintained on the latest GIS technology.
Rallying around Champions to Support GIS Use
Every jurisdiction needs executives to help champion technology adoption. The city’s chief of police became one of the GIS Division’s greatest allies. Like many communities, the City of Visalia witnessed a rise in the number of individuals experiencing homelessness. So, when the GIS Division procured the enterprise agreement, a major focus was providing new tools and insight for the Homeless Outreach and Proactive Enforcement (HOPE) team, a group within the police department. The GIS Division is working to empower HOPE team members working in the field with data collection tools to gather information on those in the community experiencing homelessness and document what services were administered. They also set up a police department portal where decision-makers and the chief of police could monitor the data collected.
Due to the unlimited access to GIS tools via the EA, the GIS Division continues to discover new ways to empower the police department with new tools. Team members have launched a public-facing crime map to gain additional insight into crime trends and the impact of law enforcement resources. They have also mapped the reporting of stolen vehicles to provide law enforcement leaders with more granular insight into where vehicle theft is occurring and what types of vehicles are being stolen. Tools like these can provide the police department with more awareness of emerging crime trends and how it can more effectively patrol neighborhoods and keep residents and their property safe. Their strategic partnership with the police department proves that GIS is not only a mission-critical system for the city’s services but also creates an example for other department heads to recognize and follow to also benefit from GIS.
Creating a Strong GIS Organization
The City of Visalia is an example of an organization that moved from project-based GIS use to enterprise-wide implementation. The city's strategic plan allowed it to establish a resilient IT infrastructure through the adoption of industry best practices and ensure future GIS growth. Moving to an enterprise agreement helps the city avoid the time-consuming process of justifying every GIS purchase and allows it to deploy unlimited quantities of core Esri software. The City of Visalia's use of ARPA funds establishes a pattern that other jurisdictions can follow to expand their GIS investment.
“Supporting mission-critical workflows requires the right spatial infrastructure plan, executive support, and funding. We worked hard to bring all of these elements into alignment to make this vision a reality,” said Mattis.