Wednesday, October 10, 2007

GIS? Show Me the Money!

From: The American Surveyor

There is a lot of talk about the role that GIS plays in business, and in society at large. I'd like to talk about what GIS means to surveyors, at least to this surveyor: my experience with GIS technology, and the way it has performed for me, convinces me that it is an excellent tool for any surveyor to have in his toolbox. Not only does it make a lot of sense for our spatially-oriented projects to use a consistent geo-centric coordinate system, but having all the relevant data and metadata associated with a project in one interface improves the efficiency, accuracy, and profitability of our work, and also increases client satisfaction. It's an excellent business management tool and adds value to our deliverables. Let me relate how I got started with GIS, and why I think it can be the engine that drives a survey company.

The vision I had for my surveying business was to use mature, accepted technologies, like GIS, to keep up with jobs and to increase the velocity of every project step from the client placing the order to the transmittal of deliverables and invoice. I further envisioned the use of NGS control as a way to work with repeatable coordinates and the incorporation of GIS data and metadata into each plat and legal description produced. There were a lot of reasons I was thinking this way, including the dictum, "Follow the steps of the original surveyor." I wanted my footsteps to be easily retraced by future surveyors. And of course, in some cases, the "future surveyor" would be me or my coworkers, returning to a project or working near a past project. We have continually refined our methods as we learn more and better ways to meet these goals, and have seen extremely positive financial impact on our business. And there was an unexpected benefit: as word got out that we were actually implementing progressive technology, we attracted higher quality employees who wanted to work at a progressive firm. In turn, some of these employees became leaders and pushed us to the next levels of GIS use, and the use of other new technologies.

GIS is not a fad, and has been around since before Roger Tomlinson invented the term in the 1960s. Why, ESRI has been in business for 38 years! So GIS is here to stay, and if you've been thinking you should get into it "one of these days"'' then maybe today should be the day. There's no right or wrong time, all you really need is the interest and desire to make it happen. One of the great things about continuous learning is that we get to build on what we know and increase the speed of the "business flywheels" that are already spinning.

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