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Encourage adoption and collaboration with websites driven by dynamic location data

ArcGIS Hub and ArcGIS Enterprise Sites are solutions that can give you way more than just web pages. Any organization with a need to improve understanding of a specific topic among internal staff, across departments, in collaboration with trusted partners or with the public could benefit from deploying either one. With these solutions, it’s possible to connect teams privately to a common mission or goal. It’s also possible to inform the public. Review the main benefits of these two types of websites driven by dynamic location data, their users and the resources that can help you learn more about deploying your own.

Recently we’ve been focused on COVID-19 related efforts. The Esri Canada COVID-19 Resource Hub is a great example of how to deploy ArcGIS Hub for this type of website. But it’s important to mention that ArcGIS Hub and ArcGIS Enterprise Sites can support all sorts of projects. Example projects include workforce management for business continuity during and after a crisis, asset maintenance programs, transparent communications about proposed new developments, fire prevention awareness, flood season preparedness and many more. No matter what your priority project is, I bet it could use this type of website to gather relevant information and people across silos, all in one place, and provide real-time information as it gets updated or collected via mobile apps, digital forms and other GIS clients.

It’s key to remember that non-GIS users are not naturally driven to look for open data, maps or map-centric apps when they are looking for information. This might mean that the great app you configured or the dashboard you shared in an email might not be used to its full potential. We have a role to play in making the data we create, curate and share through ArcGIS come to life for these users. Bring an example of a hub or site to your communication colleagues and I’m pretty sure you’ll get them excited about this, even if you don’t have an open data policy!

In the ArcGIS ecosystem, you have two options for deploying such solutions. Many choose to leverage both. ArcGIS Hub is a cloud solution, included at the Basic level with an ArcGIS Online Organizational Account. Most of you already have it included in your licenses. If you need the premium level of ArcGIS Hub, it’s available to you for a fee. ArcGIS Enterprise Sites is the on-premise solution and it’s included with the Portal component of deployments at version 10.6.1 or above. No premium level is necessary to access all functionalities available with ArcGIS Enterprise Sites, but the latest version includes the most functionalities.

Why am I talking about two solutions in the same blog post? A colleague of mine refers to these solutions as cousins because they’re very similar in nature. The configuration experience and the look and feel for the end user are very similar. There are functionality and terminology differences between them, but for the most part, if you learn to use one, you can easily find your way around the other.

You might also be wondering why we’re recommending you use a GIS-based data-driven website instead of leveraging a regular website like the one your organization most likely already has. Here are a few of the benefits of using a website powered by GIS:

Benefit #1: Up-to-date information from collaborators across your organization and beyond automatically feeds the website elements. 

With a regular website, you can embed data-driven information in the form of web maps or web apps like story maps or dashboards directly into a web page. But for charts, graphs, indicators, gauges and other data-driven items, you would need to update them manually each time the data was updated. These days, new data are made available frequently. As such, these solutions let you have full control without needing to go back and forth to your website provider for adjustments.

This is a key benefit, so let me step back just a little to make sure it’s clear.

It’s important to understand that with the ArcGIS ecosystem, data created or updated are made available in near real-time, from all connected clients. This means that, for example, digital forms filled out by staff across your locations, the map-centric app used by your field workers and other edits made by desktop users all feed the elements of your hub or site as they are being submitted or as they sync to the cloud or on your network. Everyone collaborates to make information available to others without further manipulation, saving lots of time and allowing the decision-making process to happen much more efficiently.

Benefit #2: Content permissions can be linked to a user’s identity, allowing you to automatically show items to or hide items from them based on their profile.

In either deployment, you can leverage user types, which bring content management to the user level. User types in the ArcGIS ecosystem allow an identity to be granted to each user. This identity can then be tailored to include specific content permissions. With a hub, you can make entire web pages visible or invisible to specific users. Teams can be set up in Hub and groups in Sites, but the individual custom permissions give administrators more granular control.

I should also mention that these solutions are not only for users within your own organization. If you have a community of practice, which may include trusted partners or stakeholders, those users could use specific web pages privately if they have their own ArcGIS identity. The identity licensing model is a little different between Hub and Sites, but while Hub Premium allows for community of practice members to have their own identity, Sites offers unlimited viewer (view only) user types. Please ask your representative for details for your case scenario to make sure you’re granting the right access to your users.

If your goal is to share with the public, keep in mind that both deployments have this ability.

Benefit #3: Centralize and organize all things location-related in a familiar website format and improve understanding of a topic for various audiences.

App galleries, hyperlinks, URLs in emails and web browser favorites can become hard to navigate and maintain with the quantity of resources we’re exposed to daily. Hub and Enterprise Sites are dynamic website solutions that can be compared to containers where you put all the information relevant to a larger mission or project, instead of offering standalone resources. Different types of items can be used to bring the topics to life: images, text, branding themes, videos, search bars, thumbnails, charts, indicators, graphs, maps, hyperlinks, you name it.

From my perspective, this is a gateway to making your Web GIS reach audiences that would otherwise not be seeking location information, but who could very much benefit from it, increasing adoption in the meantime. In addition, since both solutions result in websites, keep in mind that this allows you to track the performance of your GIS as well.

Who is using these solutions in Canada?

To name just a few…

Toronto Police Services

City of Brampton

Government of Newfoundland and Labrador

Municipality of the County of Cumberland

Resources to learn how to configure your own

If you wish to learn all the ins and outs of these solutions, you can start with our new instructor-led course Get Started with ArcGIS Hub for your Organization. Even if you only plan to use Sites, this course will provide you with best practices for how to use the many configuration options which, as I mentioned earlier, are very similar in both solutions.

Some of the examples above include open data portals for the public. You can turn this option on as part of your Hub. It includes multiple functionalities for your inventory, allowing users to search, view and download data in multiple formats. You can learn more about this option with our Introduction to ArcGIS Open Data course.

About the Author

Carole Arseneau is a Market Research Specialist at Esri Canada. Over the years, she has advised customers from all industries on how to leverage GIS in their organizations. More recently, she’s been conducting market research to uncover details about the various jobs our customers do each day in various industries. This will help inform Esri Canada’s corporate strategy and better support our customers. Carole holds a Market Research certificate from the University of California, Davis, a GIS certificate from Florida State College in Jacksonville and a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology from Laval University in Québec City. Being by the water has always made her feel at home and has given her inspiration to keep a positive outlook in life.

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