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Building a shared vision for your organization’s GIS strategy

One of the most exciting aspects of developing GIS strategies is envisioning the transformative power of geospatial technology with our customers. Whether it’s modernizing asset management practices, improving municipal programs, or enhancing digital customer experiences, the potential of geospatial is immense. The journey towards a successful GIS strategy begins with the cultivation of a shared vision statement. That vision statement needs to resonate across all levels of the organization, creating collective excitement for the possibilities ahead.

From my work with customers, I have learned that at the heart of any geospatial vision is a firm belief that location matters. From the location of infrastructure to the allocation and management of resources to the optimization of services, many facets of business are intrinsically linked to their spatial context.

Crafting a geospatial vision statement that encapsulates this belief in the importance of a geographic approach is a strategic imperative. The vision serves as a beacon, guiding the organization toward its desired future state. It should be concise, inspiring and memorable while capturing the essence of the organization's geospatial aspirations.

Developing your geospatial vision statement

Here are the key components of an excellent geospatial vision statement:

Clearly state your purpose and aspiration

  • Component: State what you aim to achieve and the role of GIS.
  • Example: "To be a leader in creating smart cities by leveraging innovative geospatial solutions…”
  • Explanation: Clearly defines the aspiration and sets the direction.

Emphasize the impact of GIS

  • Component: Specify how GIS helps achieve the purpose in straightforward language that avoids jargon or technical terms.
  • Example: " utilizing real-time location monitoring..." or "...leveraging advanced geospatial data and analytics to enhance decision-making..."
  • Explanation: Directly ties the use of GIS to the overall goal.

Use inspirational action words

  • Component: Use strong, actionable verbs to describe the future role of GIS and what your organization will do.
  • Example: "...enhancing decision-making, optimizing public services and ensuring efficient resource management..."
  • Explanation: These verbs (enhancing, optimizing, ensuring) convey a proactive and future-oriented approach.

Highlight benefits and outcomes

  • Component: Highlight the positive outcomes, value and benefits.
  • Example: "...creating a more connected, sustainable and vibrant community for all residents." or "To uphold our commitment to sustainability by using GIS to enhance environmental conservation and resource management."
  • Explanation: Clearly states the expected benefits, making the vision statement inspiring and outcome-focused.

Here are a few other suggestions on tying in GIS, spatial insight and geospatial data into your vision.

Showcase geospatial technology's benefits

  • Efficiency: Highlight how GIS enhances efficiency in operations, through optimized routing, resource allocation and asset management.
  • Insight: Emphasize the deeper insights gained from spatial analysis, such as patterns, trends and predictive analytics that drive better decision-making.

Emphasize real-world instances

  • Use cases: Provide examples of how geospatial data can be applied in your industry, such as improving public safety in local government or enhancing exploration in oil & gas.
  • Impact: Discuss the tangible benefits, like cost savings, improved service delivery or environmental sustainability.

Reflect innovation and future potential

  • Future-proofing: Address how geospatial technology positions your organization to adapt to future challenges and potential disruptive events.
  • Innovation: Highlight the role of GIS in fostering innovation and improving collaboration between departments on ideas.

Building a shared geospatial vision is a collaborative journey that requires active participation from all stakeholders. Inviting input from diverse perspectives allows us to coalesce around a vision that reflects our collective aspirations. This inclusive approach fosters a sense of ownership and commitment, laying the groundwork for a shared buy-in to the GIS strategy and its expected outcomes. Here are a few techniques that we use with customers to help you cultivate a shared vision for geospatial.

  1. Visioning sessions: Gather key stakeholders from different departments or levels of the organization. Encourage open dialogue by posing questions like "What do we aspire to achieve with GIS in the long term?". Use mind mapping or idea generation exercises to explore various perspectives and possibilities.
  2. Mission-driven approach: Start with a clear understanding of the organization's mission, values and core purpose. Craft your geospatial vision statement around the strategic contribution of spatial data, insight or spatially derived products to support the organizational mission.
  3. SWOT analysis: Evaluate the organization's current (geospatial) state. Use the insights gained from the current state analysis to identify overarching themes or strategic directions for GIS. Translate these themes into aspirational statements that articulate the organization's desired future state for geospatial.
  4. Continuous refinement: Share draft versions of the geospatial vision statement with a diverse group of stakeholders for feedback. Encourage constructive feedback and suggestions for improvement. Based on the feedback received, iterate on the vision statement, reframe it and ensure that it resonates with a broad audience.

By combining these techniques, stakeholders can collaboratively develop a geospatial vision statement that inspires, guides and unites them in adopting a geographic approach. Strive for clarity, simplicity and inclusivity in the final version of the vision statement.

Charting the course forward

Ultimately, a shared geospatial vision statement serves as a blueprint for transformation. By harnessing the power of location and embracing a collaboratively developed vision statement, organizations can chart a course toward a future where every decision is informed by spatial insight. Remember, the journey begins with a simple belief: location matters.

Want to hear more of Allen’s tips and tricks on how to expand your GIS program? He’ll be speaking at the GIS Manager’s Summit on July 14, 2024, right before this year’s Esri User Conference in San Diego, California. See you there!

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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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