Intergovernmental Information Systems Advisory Council

III. SET GOALS

The most successful and cost effective GIS implementations are those that proceed, according to a well thought out plan, toward clear goals, while maintaining and increasing political support. To help with this you should include some goals that can be achieved relatively quickly and will clearly demonstrate the value of your GIS efforts. However, it is easy to get side-tracked onto hot rush projects or be lured into scattering your resources among an ever growing list of potential GIS uses. The most successful implementations achieve balance between these short term demands and progress toward long term goals.

E-mail comments or questions to IISAC at iisac@state.mn.us.

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Intergovernmental Information Systems Advisory Council

IV. BUILD SUPPORT

This section defines political support broadly, to include support within the various departments of your local government and support by elected officials.

In the case of governmental departments, learning the uses they make of spatially linked information, difficulties they encounter, and the major resources they consume can guide your efforts at persuasion. Concentrate on department heads. Try to show how GIS can help them in these areas while not threatening key arrangements and relationships within the department. Visits to similar units of government that are successfully using GIS can be most persuasive, with conference attendance and vendor demonstrations also being useful.

It would be ideal if you could include some elected officials in these activities. This level of knowledge and involvement by one or more elected officials could be of great value. However, officials are unlikely to spend as much time or get as involved in details as representatives from government departments. In any case, try to learn the pet projects of the various elected officials. See if there is a realistic way a parcel-based GIS can help them. Given the amount of local governmental activity that involves land records and the location of people, infrastructure and assets, you are likely to find a way.

If you can generate significant interest or excitement about what GIS can do among department heads and/or elected officials, try to include them in the GIS Committee. Get them to commit to a certain level of involvement and specific support and resources. In any case, give them a role in planning for GIS.

E-mail comments or questions to IISAC at iisac@state.mn.us.

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Intergovernmental Information Systems Advisory Council

V. IDENTIFY NEEDS

Planning should begin with an assessment of needs. The larger your governmental organization and the broader its activities, the more formal and detailed this should be.

Begin with a survey of potential users. If possible and politically wise, contact every department or office within your governmental organization that uses land records, maps, or information about where people or things are located. Ask them about at least the following topics.

Distill the spatial information needs from responses to these and related questions. Summarize the needs identified. Which of these can be satisfied by a GIS? When you have answered these questions you know the outlines of your GIS needs. Next you will want to know what the satisfaction of all these needs will entail.

During the needs assessment, emergency services should not be overlooked. Coordination in the planning of parcel-based GIS and the E911 system can benefit both.

E-mail comments or questions to IISAC at iisac@state.mn.us.

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Intergovernmental Information Systems Advisory Council

VI. IDENTIFY RESOURCES TO MEET NEEDS

You will need access to GIS resources to accomplish your objectives. Your options include:

  1. Doing all GIS processing, data conversion, and viewing & mapping in-house.
  2. Doing much GIS processing, data conversion, and viewing & mapping in-house and obtaining the balance from others.
  3. Obtaining GIS processing services and/or data from others while developing viewing & mapping capability in-house.
  4. Obtaining all GIS services from others.

Most NAIS respondents do their GIS data conversion, processing, analysis, query, and map creation in-house (option 1). Many have also contracted for some of that work (option 2). Contracting can be particularly useful to satisfy extraordinary or one-time needs that do not warrant an investment in hardware, software and staff. Contracting may also be the solution for units of government that do not have a level of need that justifies even a minimum investment in GIS processing capabilities.

This minimum would include a powerful PC, PC based GIS processing software, and a full-time GIS professional to do the work. Do not get involved in GIS processing (data conversion and the creation of GIS data sets) if you cannot devote at least one full-time staff member to it.

If you can satisfy your needs for base maps and other GIS data sets from other units of government, consortia, or consultants, your implementation may require only GIS viewing and mapping software running on PCS and a smaller amount of training for your staff (option 3). This option reaps the benefits of cooperative arrangements and saves the considerable cost of investing in your own GIS processing capabilities and engaging in data conversion. It is most likely to work for:

These options should be reviewed for cost, ability to meet objectives, and ability of the investment to maintain significant value as needs and technology evolve over time. Most local governments have found that the combined approach (option 2) is best for them. It keeps significant capacity and control in-house, while adding the flexibility provided by the use of outside data sources and contractors.

A conservative approach for many local units of government might be to begin with option three, progress to option two and then, if justified, to option one. Advantages of such a "pay as you go" approach include giving staff and decision makers more time to learn about the benefits and requirements of GIS, by doing useful things with it, before they must commit to developing GIS processing and data conversion capability in house. Postponing the GIS processing investment may mean that more processing power can be purchased for the same money at a later date. It may also mean that the earliest GIS datasets can be developed faster and better, by an experienced contractor, if the alternative would be using relatively inexperienced organizational staff.

The disadvantages of this incremental approach may include delays in obtaining authorization and money to hire an outside contractor, and reduced control over the development and availability of the GIS datasets.

If your identified needs are very narrow, it may be most cost effective to remain with option 3, obtaining all your GIS data and processing from others while maintaining a stand alone capacity to view and map GIS data.

E-mail comments or questions to IISAC at iisac@state.mn.us.

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