Common problems facing the GIS industry (part2 – process/system focused)

This is Part 2 of a discussion about problems that appear to be facing individuals and organisations within the spatial industry. As per Part 1, I would appreciate your comments, even if you disagree, and your examples of these happening in the real world. In Part 1 the focus was on data issues, in Part 2 the focus now moves to process and system problems.


Multiple stakeholders of a project are rarely on the same page (information is not available, or hard to get hold of), so it is therefore difficult for them to communicate efficiently. Text messages, emails, faxes, letters are often sent between the parties, but there are then issues such as audit tracking and making the right associations between individual bits of communication. Data is often past between project stakeholders on CDs/DVDs – but they frequently just sit on peoples desks, delayed in being distributed to those needing the data, or simply not distributed at all.

More specifically, within an enterprise, but even more so between organisations say in a project alliance, it is difficult for people to communicate the

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‘location’ aspect. This is – where things are happening. For example, on a mine site describing where an accident happened on an ‘incident form’ in words can be hard but also imprecise. Where as, using a map-based interface can make things easier and also add some degree of accuracy.


Data and processes are often owned by a single person or team. Other people and departments have to go through this bottleneck in order to get their required information, so that they can then make a decision or provide a detailed report for authorization.

If data was more freely available within an organization these bottlenecks could be removed. The bottlenecks are possibly even more crucial when talking about data owned and controlled by 3rd party organizations.


Some of the data ‘non-sharing’ practices discussed in Part 1 of this post are said to be due to security concerns. I believe that the technology does now exist to counter these concerns, and it

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can also bring many benefits for people along the way.

For example, data could be distributed by data custodians in real-time, rather than via CDs/DVDs, therefore making datasets more current. If required, technology can restrict who can see and utilize each dataset, and can allow users to see certain information (eg land boundaries) but not the restricted data (eg land owner information).


There are many stories of long development cycles of IT systems. For example, those which take longer than expected, as well as those which do not do what was intended once deployed. Many IT systems are very complex, and perhaps the goals of the systems are not fully understood by all parties before the projects are commenced.


Controversially, it has been mentioned many times, that internal IT Departments within organizations often block projects even though the business sees the benefits and want to progress. IT Departments say there are other more important projects, they don’t have the resources, or they don’t have the necessary skills. Perhaps outsourcing at some level is the answer – be it getting skilled people to do certain tasks through to complete acquisition of SaaS/Cloud based solutions.


It is easy for organizations to have many IT systems and many disparate datasets, but these become more useful to the organization as they are better integrated together. A CRM, a call-desk system, a fault system, a billing system when not integrated makes life difficult, but when they are integrated they become the life of the organization. For example, the sales and marketing systems can be integrated with the spatial information, along with the other operational systems, so that the business can make efficiencies in all areas of business including cost reductions and improved profits.


It is evident that there are systems which are often 10-15 years old which are still in production. These are sometimes provided but not enhanced or maintained by suppliers, or they are often ‘in-house’ developed systems. With the latter, it is often the case that the expertise has left the organisation and changes to the system are no longer possible. Old legacy systems are also problematic when trying to integrate with other corporate systems – this is particularly the case when another legacy system is replaced and you now need to integrate with its replacement. This is often impossible since the new system utilises new technologies.


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