Where it’s at today at #EsriUC: Maps, processes and content for digital transformation

During my time in government, the use of geographic information systems (GIS) solutions grew slowly. Initially, we used Esri’s GIS platform to prepare proposals to businesses for location in my state. This was an obvious and useful way to show the infrastructure and available properties that would be a critical part of a company’s decision to locate a new site.

It was a great use of GIS for 1997.

Five years later, I was working at a housing agency and one of our most innovative decision-making activities involved using GIS to review proposed multi-family housing projects and compare their locations to public transportation, services, schools and other affordable housing complexes. Because of GIS, we could see if the proposal offered a location that provided needed options for transport, good education and importantly, that we would be able to distribute housing throughout the city to make it convenient for future tenants.

This was a huge leap forward in our understanding of the value of GIS. With a geospatial component, we weren’t just finding good connectivity for a business, we were trying to place housing so that it was located where it made sense for the families.

The next GIS revolution is coming

Today, I see so much more potential for government GIS solutions. GIS datasets are valuable, GIS solutions provide context and GIS is accepted as critical technology for government at all levels. The only problem is, GIS is missing key aspects of the daily business of government – documents, content and processes.

GIS datasets can describe locations, layer context and help make better public policy. But they don’t address government transactions with constituents and aren’t at the heart of digital transformation that seeks to create seamless, end-to-end digital (read, paperless) processes.

That’s why the next revolution for GIS isn’t getting people to acknowledge GIS as essential technology for government. Thanks to the great work of GIS professionals and the power of the Esri platform, we’ve already won that battle.

Now, we need to connect GIS to other solutions, bringing that geospatial context and data to other solutions that handle day-to-day government work. Perhaps most importantly, this means connecting to the components of digital transformation – online services and applications, process automation and meaningful user experiences for constituents and government staff.

How content services will power the revolution

If your most-pressing IT initiatives include improving agency efficiency at the transactional level, your GIS solutions need to be connected to a content services platform that offers a content repository, automation tools, mobile access and case management capabilities. A content repository stores the digital equivalent of government file cabinets, but makes that content accessible anywhere, anytime on any device.

You can also utilize process automation to make your government processes run faster, saving staff time. Meanwhile, mobile access leverages smartphones, laptops and tablets to make digital content readily available. Case management is another unified solution platform that brings together content, data and processes to create better user experiences and tools.

Connecting GIS to content services is the best of all worlds for government staff. Here are some additional ways that I would be connecting my Esri solution to my content services platform if I worked in government today:

Converting government content to a feature layer in a GIS solution

I used to have rooms full of paper, and if that had been stored in a content repository and connected to my Esri GIS solutions, all my projects and project documents would have been accessible from the map and could form the feature layer that plotted all of our projects. And, importantly, it would do this without having to force staff to create a GIS dataset to plot their locations.

The normal scanning or archiving into my content repository, which we did to go paperless, would also create this feature layer. It is a huge staff time saver and suddenly makes your GIS solution even more intelligent and important. Other examples could be agenda items under consideration, inspection photos, project contracts and many more typical government documents. These could be your next great GIS feature layer without any additional staff time to get there.

Leverage GIS data sets to improve government processes

In the early days of my GIS usage, it was a quest to figure out who had shape files, data sets and imagery. Now, we have datasets everywhere. And, arguably, an overload of data (which makes GIS even more important so that we can understand the implication of data).

If I had those datasets, I would use an integration between my GIS platform and my content services platform to save my peers time spent on filling forms with data. Using electronic forms from content services – and prefilling them with data from GIS sets – saves time and increases the value of those datasets. It also brings them into other parts of daily government business for amazing efficiency.

If my inspectors could have used a tablet, an electronic inspection form and had it prefilled with known data, they would have been excited about the time savings.

Bridge the gap between the desk and the field

Fieldwork has drastically changed since my days in government. Smartphones and tablets can now eliminate the need for staff in the field to carry huge paper files. Access to files that you did not know you needed when you left the office is so important – it makes every hour in the field as efficient as possible.

With content services, you replace paper forms and avoid data entry back in the office, you have better security for those files and you avoid the costs of filing, storing and creating those files. To that, add mobile Esri solutions. Now, a field worker not only has all the content needed to work in the field, but also a geospatial context as well.

So when first responders are speeding to a fire, they might use an iPad to bring up content describing the fire location – building plans, permits for hazardous materials and photos of the location. With Esri connected to content services, this search for content can be done from the map.

Inspiration at #EsriUC 2018

In previous blog posts, I wrote about how inspiring the Esri GIS platform is. And each year, when I attend the huge Esri User’s Conference, I am inspired by the impact of GIS on our world.

As a GIS professional, you’ve already changed your organization by applying the power of GIS to your organization’s activities. This year, for an encore, explore connecting content services to your Esri GIS work and take the next step towards powerful solutions that cover content, processes and maps. Your policies, services, programs and communities will be better for it.

Come join the revolution in booth 1114!

Terri Jones

Terri Jones

Terri Jones is an enterprise advisor with Hyland’s Global Services team. Before coming to Hyland, in her 10-plus years in both state and local government, she’s managed IT departments, implemented... read more about: Terri Jones

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