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Making the case for GIS

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#1
rudy

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Hello All -

Our organization currently produces maps using graphic software programs. Updates to the maps are fairly inexepensive; the cost of digitizing film based product was incurred years ago. But now we are considering employing GIS to produce some new products - and I keep running into the issue of cost.

One source of digital data that we might access is relatively inexpensive and is royalty free; however, it would require much data editing to make it truly useful for our purposes. Other data sources can be accessed but then there are the associated licencing costs.

The software we would be looking to use would be the ESRI suite of products, primarily because that is what our partners use. However, the annual licencing costs are much more expensive than the simple one time purchase of some graphics software.

And then there's the one-time cost of training staff in using GIS (how much can I expect this to add on to the initial cost - 20%?).

In short - when I crunch the numbers the cost of working in GIS as opposed to using graphics software makes it prohibitive. Any suggestions on how I could sell this to the higher ups? Are the benefits of using GIS for this project enough to outweigh the costs ($100k more on this project alone)?

(My apologies if this topic has been covered before - any referrals to previous postings are welcome.)

#2
ELeFevre

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If you're considering going with ESRI, you should also consider the potential benefits of becoming an ESRI business partner. You may want to send Charlie a PM and see if you can put you in contact with someone who deals with this sort of thing.



#3
Charlie Frye

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This is a one of my favorite questions; it's challenging and the answer is always tailored. Personally, I get this question several times a year from all manners of clients and potential clients. Your concerns regarding the implications of adopting GIS over tried, true, and most importantly, functioning graphics based workflow are valid and there's no one best answer.

Here are some reasons others I know of have gone to GIS (I don't have time to thoughtfully enumerate them all, realtive to your post, though I think there'll be plenty of others here with insights):

1. Data reuse: From a maintenance perspective, making a change/update in one place and having all dependent products updated for the next production cycle is nice. This also implies designing data for reuse as well--a skillset not to be underestimated in adopting GIS. Of course this is versus opening dozens or hundreds of graphics files to make the same edit over and over again. GIS isn't perfect here, but it has continued to improve.

2. Growth: If part of your company's growth plan is adding new titles and products managing multi-use/purpose data in a GIS is more cost effective. Learning how to manage data and make changes and additions effectively is a bullet everybody bites--whether it's subcontractors or building expertise through training and experience.

3. Nature of your products and your experience in producing them:
  • Are you typically producing one-off custom products. If so, the tool you already know will be what you most likely turn to for each new map. Me, I never learned a graphics package well enough to make a living at it--but I did help design and then learn several GIS packages.
  • If you're mass producing standard products, particularly map series, it pays to have spatially continuous data, making sheet edge information management possible. GIS is the only way to do this.
4. The single biggest reason, though, is automated text placement. For every new map you make, manual text placement will occupy between 20 and 50% of your workflow. Our average customer cuts text placement time by 80%. One of our really high profile cartography clients now places 80% of all their text completely automatically. The average site breaks even the first year on the investment in training and in the second year can effectively plan on shorter production cycles, making for more products faster, which means marketshare.

Granted, if you're new to GIS, you've got more than a year of ramp up time to consider. For most businesses it would be catastrophic to just adopt GIS wholesale. It usually happens on a project by project, or even task by task basis starting with small tasks. I suspect some carto-talkers could tell you of their initial forays into GIS, why they're not fully using GIS yet, or why given their business and skillsets, why they haven't and may never go the GIS route.
Charlie Frye
Chief Cartographer
Software Products Department
ESRI, Redlands, California

#4
frax

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Just because you have the need for use/reuse of digital data in a GIS environment, doesn't necessarily mean that you and your colleagues need to do it - you can also outsouce and buy those services from someone else, that is an expert in that.
Hugo Ahlenius
Nordpil - custom maps and GIS
http://nordpil.com/
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#5
rudy

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Thanks for all your comments and thoughts, especially yours, Charlie. Although we are not using GIS now I come from an environment where GIS was the mapping tool and can appreciate it's effectiveness and efficiency.

Data reuse is a big one here - we are forever recycling our map products into new ones or customized ones. To save time, everything is enlarged or reduced, depending on the request. And when a request comes in for a map that requires 2 or more bases, there is considerable amount of time spent assembling the pieces. This doesn't happen often (maybe because it is too much work) but I certainly appreciate the single database source that GIS uses.

You're other points are well taken but I was never sure how time automated annotation placement saved. I hope that this is an honest opinion and not one that a software vendor would provide in the hopes of selling more product. I also know of those in the business who have whole-heartedly embraced the automated text placement - and it does work. But when you are a small company, spending a few thousand more to get it all set up properly in GIS isn't always feasible.

Trust me - if finances weren't an issue, I would move the shop over to a GIS platform almost immediately. In any event, I suspect that it will come - the boss recognizes the value of it - but it will come, as you say, on a project by project basis.




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