When it comes to data management it's important to listen to the pros. This week we're in Texas, United States to meet a professional who has a few ideas on this topic to share.
Aaron Kreag is the Regional Sales Manager for Cityworks, a company which specialises in GIS-Centric Public Asset Management Systems. His qualifications include intelligence analytics, applied geography and economic geography.
Aaron is experienced in geospatial strategy in the fields of asset management, oil and gas and emergency services and was previously Co-Chair of the ESRI Petroleum User Group Technical Committee. He also served in the US Army for a number of years.
Aaron's post, entitled 'Defining useless - a GIS data perspective', contains some valuable insights and perspectives on the important topic of data management. GIS professionals, data custodians and educators may benefit from reading it.
Over to Aaron.
GIS data structure and management has to be one of the most misunderstood and frustrating areas of Geographic Information Systems. Universities rarely make it a core part of their GIS program and often hand out canned labs with clean data. It really doesn't matter what vertical we work in, some people just do not seem to “get it”. If this is you, I apologize please don’t take offense.
Storing your spatial data in a hundred plus different folders, across multiple personal and file geodatabases and shapefiles, with tens or hundreds of copies or versions, a dozen different coordinate systems and stuff held together with duct tape and bailing wire, this is probably not what Jack Dangermond envisioned years ago.
Please stop it.
How do you know if your personal GIS data strategy is a flop? Ask yourself this question: If you were hit by a bus tomorrow, and the local GIS Analyst with 2 years’ experience shows up; would he or she be able to sit in your chair, open a Google doc with all of your notes and system knowledge, open Arc Catalog and figure out the who, what, why, when, where, and how of your GIS system within 4 hours...8 hours max? If not, you are doing it wrong. If your desktop maps and your server based maps access different data, you are doing it wrong. If your system can only be understood by you, if you lack a centralized data repository, lack coordinate system standardization, or if data consumers within your organization are duplicating effort, lack trust or refuse to use your map applications, or you use complex programming to solve flawed business process…guess what? You are doing it wrong!
I am always looking at things from the perspective that one day; a fellow GIS professional will inherit my work. It’s never perfect, a GIS and related data is always evolving, nor is there some kind of “Golden Rule” or “best practice” and especially in GIS there are always 8 different ways to get from A to B. I am a realist. As a profession we can probably all do better. I challenge you to look at your GIS from the vantage point of both an internal GIS consumer and an outside mapping professional. Remove the silos and duplication, centralize your information, standardize your systems and processes, seek input and buy in from others, remember near term pain can result in long term gain, adequately document your environment and remember at the end of the day you just never want to be “that guy”.
Aaron Kreag, GISP