With 1 month of the New Year under our belt, it’s a good time to take a step back and look at the state of the GIS community. From my perspective, and I think many of you would agree, it’s easy to see the current state is change. The multidisciplinary nature of GIS has always made it a dynamic industry. Today we are seeing greater change, at a more rapid pace. There are 3 main areas where change will provide the greatest impact to a GIS professionals day-to-day activities.
The largest driver for change is the evolving user expectations. We live in a time where information is always available, easy to access and presented in a format that anyone can understand. A GIS that is tied to a desktop is no longer relevant. As a younger workforce enters the workplace, the expectation that spatial data products are available anywhere, on any device is becoming commonplace. There will always be a need for paper maps, but the use case is becoming less common.
The final change is the role of a GIS professional. User expectations and evolving technology naturally lead to new skillset requirements. In addition to core GIS concepts, professionals are now required to have a base knowledge of advanced IT concepts and be able to communicate those concepts and requirements clearly to ensure the system is fully optimized, and users’ needs are met. While many teams have functioned with separate IT and GIS departments, the most valuable person in GIS today is the one who can straddle both worlds.
These changes will lead to a more robust, resilient system with greater functionality, and simplified integration capabilities.
All that said, we haven’t even touched on the regulatory, political, and the myriad of other drivers that are transforming our industry. At the end of the day, adding value by building out useful solutions is all that matters. Navigating change is easier done by recognizing and working with the forces that are driving change. There is an advantage to knowing when, and most importantly why, you should implement a new technology. GIS programs that have a champion for change, and a partner willing to assist them with navigating the digital transformation will gain efficiencies and buy in from other departments within their organization, ultimately elevating the role of GIS, and your organization’s spatial data.