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Developing an Enterprise GIS

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Angela Ionita
Angela Ionita
Senior Researcher
Research Institute for Artificial Intelligence
Romanian Academy
[email protected]

As it is mentioned in a recent paper [1] „…enterprise GIS programmes are still relatively new, and many organizations have just began making the leap. Smaller communities and organizations have also started realising the benefits of implementing enterprise GIS. As with any new, rapidly emerging technology, the next few years should be interesting as we address current problems, find new problems and continue to push the envelope of enterprise GIS”

Although Geographical Information System (GIS) is often viewed as a technology project and an arena or the technically sophisticated computer professional, the development of a successful enterprise GIS is dependent more on proper management participation and supervision than on the technical solution. Therefore GIS implementation should be regarded as continuous innovative process, combining technology, data, processes, human resources and partnerships.

In recent years many large companies, organizations and municipalities have switched from independent, stand-alone GIS systems to more integrated approaches that share resources and applications.

The basic idea of an enterprise GIS is to address the needs of departments collectively instead of individually. The development of one comprehensive infrastructure minimizes potential conflicts and misunderstandings and can result in significant cost savings and performance improvements. In a review of the identities of GIS, Chan and Willimson [2] summarize four perspectives on the nature of GIS: identificational, technological, organizational and productional. In a diffusion study the identificational perspective describes features of GIS and distinguishes GIS from other types of information systems that may or have been adopted by an organization.

These unique features include: data of entities and relationships managed within a spatial framework; and ability to perform spatial analysis.

Rogers [9] defines diffusion as the process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among members of a social system, GIS adoption is typically a contingent innovation-decision [8] as its adoption decision by an organization normally proceeds that of the individuals owing to the high capital outlay required. As mentioned in [1], this type of decision by an organization involves interaction among complex sets of personal, organisational and cultural interests. Further, adoption does not necessarily lead to successful utilization resulting in benefits. They suggest that diffusion should be an umbrella concept encompassing the processes of awareness raising, adoption, implementation, routinization and utilization and an evaluation of outcomes.

The basic mandate for any enterprise GIS application is to ensure that all departments within an organization have access to geospatial information, so that they can operate at maximum efficiency. Some of the benefits, an enterprise GIS can provide, are greater consistency and accuracy from improved system-wide management, more efficient use and sharing of data, reduced redundancy of data across the system, better use of departmental GIS resources and reduced maintenance and support costs.

Combining technology, data and processes
One of the biggest benefits of an enterprise GIS is that priorities can be established and decisions made about the best way to use company resources. Data is one of the most significant investments in any GIS programme, so any approach that reduces acquisition costs while maintaining data quality is important. With so many day-to-day operations of municipalities and public utilities requiring the use of geospatial data, a system needs to be in place for sorting and prioritizing the requests. If funds are limited, acquisition can be geared toward data that fulfills the greatest number of needs. Many GIS goals can be accomplished by using commercial, off-the-shelf applications, but there are occasions, where customized applications must be developed. With an enterprise GIS programme, it may be possible to develop a custom application and then make minor revisions to meet the needs of individual departments.

A large category of enterprise GIS is Business Intelligence (BI) that enables business to run more efficiently by gathering data from across the enterprise and processing it for use by managers and analysts in decision-making. BI is growing due to its great potential to stream-line and enhance business processes. Despite its potential, BI face two key problems, with attendant opportunities:

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