Implementing GIS

Caitlin Dempsey


Implementing a GIS is a complex and involved process. Many factors such as user base, monies, accuracy desired, and area of interest need to be assessed before implementing GIS software.

Choosing the right GIS Software

When choosing a GIS, always try to find software completed with applications specifically built to fir the specific needs of the final users. You have to make sure that you are considering all the options, the pros and cons, before picking the GIS software.

 It will become much easier to reduce costs of operation and, at the same time, your final products will seem totally customized to the needs of your clients. Take a careful look at what your goals are going to be, scope potential projects in the future of your company, know your business, and then go for the GIS that fits your needs.

Any GIS user should consider a few elements before deciding what might be the right tool for them.  For example, select a software built on an open database platform if you want to be able to easily integrate your geographic datasets into other existing applications.

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Of great importance is also the idea that your GIS should be able to integrate new applications and grow at the same pace that the rest of the organization. You should be able to organize your data quickly, accurately, and reliably.

Directly related to this idea is the notion of a system that should also be extensible, in order to be modified and adapted by simply using some of the standard programming languages. When a GIS is easily extensible, IT staff can quickly adapt the GIS software to the real needs of the company and the users.

We can’t forget the amount of data that you are going to be use, because your system should manage that amount of data without limiting the resources for other applications. You should make sure that you select a GIS that is strong enough to work with data provided from different sources, with different formats and in a great variety of sizes.

One of the most important considerations to think about when trying to get the best GIS for you, is asking yourself what you are going to be using the GIS for. Your line of work should make a big difference in the decision of which GIS vendor can provide the best quality product for your needs. Always look carefully at what you want to do and how you want to accomplish that goal before choosing between GIS vendors and products.

Try to get a GIS that meets international standards, so you will be able to work with data coming from many different systems, giving to your projects another value, such as the interoperability with different vendors and clients.

Finally get a GIS that enables to share your data through the internet. Nowadays, it is totally necessary to have access to a web GIS application, especially if you want to share and distribute your data with a vast number of users. Internet provides user friendly interfaces that will help to your company to look much more interesting to your potential new clients.

When choosing among many different GIS software available in the market, users first should ask themselves what they really need. Specifically, users should pay attention and wonder about things like:

Do I need a web application or will a desktop application do the job? Will I need a centralized database because I own large amounts of data?  Would I like many users to access the data at the same time?

Do you prefer to have an Open Source solution? Open Source projects can provide free support and update services, but on the other hand, the action of finding support and services can be time consuming and not as effective as the corporative traditional solution of paying a company for the product that you need.

In short, the right GIS for you is the one that meets your needs, fits your budget, covers the future expectations of your company, and it can be easily updated to keep growing with your company, and expanding as your company does. Just a simple advanced research of your goals and of the capabilities of the different GIS products in the market will save you time and money and will enhance the projects that your company will be offering to your clients. Keep these ideas in mind when choosing your GIS, and your success is guaranteed.

Further GIS software resources:

Assessing the Benefit of a GIS

How do you quantify the benefit of using geospatial technology in an organization?  

Dr. Richard O. Zerbe, Jr. of the University of Washington, on behalf of the King County government took a stab at a complex analysis of the benefits of having a GIS as compared to pre-GIS costs in the report entitled, “An Analysis of Benefits from Use of Geographic Information Systems by King County, Washington.”  The focus of the March 2012 report was to assess the return on investment (ROI) of the county’s GIS.  

The King County GIS Center has 28 staff members, with an additional GIS staff members spread throughout various agencies within the county, serving an area of 2,130 square miles and a population of 1,931,000 (as of 2010).  The study looked at the benefits of using GIS as compared to not using geospatial technology, looking at changes in productivity and cost-savings.

The study contains a description of the complex calculations used by the consultants to assign dollar values in its assessments of the benefits of having a GIS.  The study concluded: “King County’s GIS program is estimated to have earned $776,361,408 in net benefits from 1992 to 2010.”  During that same period, the total cost for King County GIS, including capital development, central GIS operations and maintenance, and agency GIS end-user costs from 1992 to 2010 was measured at $201 million.

The thirty-four page study is a good case study for those that are looking to understand how to quantify and justify the benefits of having a GIS, especially in this age of renewed scrutiny of government spending.

GIS implementation in a Developing Country
Case study detailing the implementation of a GIS in Bhutan. Overviews how base maps were created for the Land Use Planning Project (LUPP) with funding by the Danish development assistance (DANIDA).

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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.