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The City of Salem, Oregon, Broadens the Reach of GIS

ArcGIS Online for Organizations


  • ArcGIS Online is rapidly growing.
  • ArcGIS Online for organizations is currently in beta.
  • City of Salem, Oregon, is testing ArcGIS Online for organizations to see how to get more out of its GIS.

With more than 140,000 users and over 230,000 public and private items, ArcGIS Online has grown quickly over the past two years. GIS professionals around the world use the freely available Software as a Service platform for discovering, creating, and sharing maps, data, and applications. ArcGIS Online has now been expanded into a subscription-based service that is currently in beta testing. More than 250 organizations are participating in the beta program to get a first look at how ArcGIS Online for organizations can make their maps and data more accessible and extend the reach of their GIS.

The City of Salem's GIS users have a central location for accessing city maps and other GIS resources.

The City of Salem's GIS users have a central location for accessing city maps and other GIS resources.

One such organization is the City of Salem, Oregon, which was invited by Esri to participate in the beta program. Located 47 miles south of Portland, Salem is Oregon's capital and the second-largest city in the state. The city has about 1,200 employees and 11 departments, with GIS users in nearly every department and GIS staff distributed throughout 3 departments. The enterprise GIS is managed from within the Department of Information Technology, and citywide GIS activities are coordinated by the GIS Advisory and Planning team. A primary objective of Salem GIS is to provide services to GIS users within the city, both power and casual users; maintain and manage the GIS resources; and develop more efficient ways to provide GIS-based services to the public.

Doing more with less is the common mantra for local governments of all sizes across the United States. When city employees Susan Blohm, IT supervisor, and Daniel Brown, senior GIS programmer/analyst, attended Esri's Extend the Reach of Your GIS seminar a few months ago, they were introduced to ArcGIS Online for organizations and were very impressed with what they saw. "It brings together everything that we've been hoping to do in terms of distributing the value of GIS," notes Blohm. "Extend Your Reach is a perfect title for the seminar because that's exactly what ArcGIS Online does." Participating in the beta program gives them the opportunity to try it out for themselves. For years, Blohm and Brown have been talking about how to get more value from their city's GIS by distributing it across the enterprise. The capabilities of ArcGIS Online for organizations can help them do exactly that.

The City of Salem's long-standing GIS goes back almost 20 years. Managing legacy systems and keeping up with the latest technology while still maintaining the best service possible has proved very challenging. ArcGIS Online is seen as a great product that can make it easy to migrate from a legacy GIS desktop viewer system by providing Software as a Service that is easily accessible to all in-house GIS users with minimal training. With ArcGIS Online, managing and sharing the city's GIS information becomes a lot easier, and that aspect alone has had a positive impact on overcoming internal concerns. ArcGIS Online allows all users to create and share web maps and take advantage of the products created by ArcGIS for Desktop power users, who share them through ArcGIS Online with others in the organization.

Reducing the amount of resources spent on maintaining legacy systems is not the only advantage ArcGIS Online can provide to the city. One city goal has been to improve how GIS information is delivered to the public. Most of the resources at the city have been focused on building internal maps and applications that are accessible only within the city's firewall. Budgetary and resource constraints have made it very difficult to stand up services outside the firewall that would have to include a database, web software, and a map viewer. With the introduction of ArcGIS Online, these are no longer restrictions. ArcGIS Online is hosted by Esri, and all the City of Salem maps and items created reside in Esri's secure cloud infrastructure. In addition, ArcGIS Online includes a built-in map viewer. Users start with a basemap gallery to which they can quickly add data files and web services to create their own maps. This is an ideal solution for the City of Salem to better serve the public and provide more self-serve options. The city has downloaded the freely available public Map Gallery template and created a group on ArcGIS Online where all the maps that can be viewed through the public gallery are shared. Residents can browse the gallery and interact with maps that provide convenient information about zoning, recreation, transportation, and more. They no longer need to call the city for all this information.

The public can browse city maps and learn more about the city's GIS.

The public can browse city maps and learn more about the city's GIS using the public Map Gallery.

The advantage that ArcGIS Online delivers is seen in the efficiency it provides for seamlessly disseminating information created by the city's internal GIS professionals using ArcGIS for Desktop. These power users can now share their information and products with non-power users who still need GIS as part of their day-to-day work by uploading maps and data to ArcGIS Online through a simple, wizard-driven interface. This means that the city now has a way to expose feature services as hosted services, and these can be provided to the public in addition to the map services.

To get the most out of testing ArcGIS Online for organizations beta, the City of Salem has created a small, cross-departmental test group. This group collects and provides feedback by going through all the major processes in ArcGIS Online: publishing maps and hosted services; creating groups; and sharing maps through private, organizational, and public groups. To give more meaning to the ArcGIS Online beta project, each member of the beta testing group has committed to create some type of product that can be shared at the end. This includes employment and economic development maps, mobile code enforcement, mobile graffiti mapping, and mapping out public works projects, among others. The city has also taken advantage of being able to customize the ArcGIS Online for organizations home page. It added the Salem GIS logo and designed the look and feel of the map icons to reinforce the city's brand. The Map Gallery and Featured Maps sections display city maps, and users can choose from the city's own basemaps. "With ArcGIS Online, what we have now is a better catalog of our maps, data, and apps," says Brown. "It's a nice gateway that the city was missing and a destination for both our internal users and the public that will help us improve customer service."

ArcGIS Online for organizations will be available in the coming months. Organizations will be able to purchase a subscription that includes flexible data storage capabilities and administrative controls for managing user accounts and access.

For more information, contact Daniel Brown, City of Salem, Oregon, IT Department (e-mail:, or visit

See also "ArcGIS Online: What's New."

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