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A guide to prioritizing geospatial-related business opportunities

In this blog post, Allen Williams discusses the importance of a systematic approach to assessing and ranking GIS-related projects. With an emphasis on collaboration, transparency and accountability, he outlines practical criteria that leaders can use to confidently allocate resources to initiatives that align with organizational objectives.

Successful geospatial strategies require you to understand where the high-value business opportunities are hiding in your organization. As a leader, you recognize that GIS has become a cornerstone technology in many organizations. In both the private and public sectors, geospatial data and analysis play a vital role in the decision support process.

Given the importance of GIS to your organization, the identification, vetting and prioritization of GIS-related business opportunities should be an element of your overall GIS program. It’s imperative to adopt a strategic approach in evaluating and prioritizing. In other words, if you want to engage in effective long-term technology planning, you need to scope, assess and rank business opportunities to help determine their value, risk and strategic alignment.

This blog post aims to provide you with a high-level approach and criteria that you can use to evaluate and rank GIS-related business opportunities. Many GIS teams that I work with have difficulty managing the demand and setting expectations with their internal customers. A well-defined prioritization process enables you, as a GIS leader, to manage risk effectively and ensure that your resources’ GIS-related efforts are aligned with business plans.

Ultimately, the goal of GIS opportunity prioritization is to establish and maintain a structured approach to evaluating, prioritizing and approving GIS-related investments. 

The objectives of a structured prioritization approach are:

  1. To evaluate opportunities using a well-defined approach that is value-focused, collaborative and transparent.
  2. To allocate GIS project funding based on organizational objectives, business needs and strategic contribution.
  3. To hold stakeholders accountable for the business justification and claims on expected outcomes.

The first step is to create a control point as part of your request intake process. In your day-to-day operations, your GIS group receives work requests, and—if you’re like most of my customers—you have more demand than available resources. Requests might be for new apps, maps, operations dashboards, reports, field solutions, drone data capture, system upgrades or integrations.

Some of these requests will require more of your team’s involvement than others. To create a control point, you need to establish a threshold of time and effort that, when exceeded, cause the larger, more complex requests to be prioritized.

Once you’ve triaged a request, you need to use a simple but effective method to evaluate the requirements of the project. I recommend using a scorecard technique where you can consistently capture the appropriate details for each request, then use a set of prioritization criteria to evaluate them. The criteria are generally grouped into value, risk and alignment categories.

Here are some of the criteria I recommend adding to your scorecard:

  • Common value criteria
    • The level of service improvement
    • Impact on service effectiveness
    • Degree of leverage potential
    • Business impact
    • Revenue enhancement
  • Risk criteria
    • Degree of technical complexity
    • Clarity of requirements
    • Business change readiness
    • Involvement of business resources
    • The amount of specialized resources & skills
  • Alignment criteria
    • Alignment with business vision
    • Organization-level mandate
    • Information technology priority
    • Level of contribution to one or more department objectives
    • Ways the request or its outcomes support your team’s short-term goals

The criteria you choose will depend on the nature of the requests you typically receive, as well as the nature of your business. Try out a few to start. You can adjust or add to them as you get more information over time.

After establishing your criteria, assign a weight to each request based on its importance to your organization’s specific goals and priorities. This weighting system will help you ensure that the evaluation process remains consistent and aligned with your overarching business objectives.

Then, having evaluated and scored each opportunity based on the established criteria, it’s time to rank the opportunities in order of priority. This ranking will provide the insight you need to allocate resources and funding to the highest-value GIS initiatives.

Remember that the prioritization process is not static. It’s essential to regularly review and update the rankings based on changing business priorities, technological advancements and emerging opportunities. This dynamic approach will ensure that your GIS program remains agile and responsive to the evolving needs of your organization.

Finally, communicate the prioritization decisions effectively to all stakeholders involved. Provide clear explanations for why certain opportunities were ranked higher than others, emphasizing how they score relative to other projects in terms of value, risk and alignment.

By adopting a structured and transparent approach to prioritizing geospatial-related business opportunities, you position your organization to successfully leverage the power of GIS technology and drive meaningful impact. Remember, it’s not just about identifying opportunities. It’s also about strategically investing resources in those projects that align most closely with your organization’s vision and goals.

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About the Author

Allen Williams leads the Management Consulting Practice at Esri Canada. He focuses on helping organizations build transformative geospatial strategies and roadmaps, giving them practical steps to maximize the value of location intelligence. Allen has worked with organizations at all levels of government and a broad range of industry sectors. He helps customers develop long-term geospatial strategies and governance programs resulting in modernization and innovation.

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