Historically, GIS has been a system of record for many organizations, and the ability to complete any meaningful analysis lived within the GIS department. Mapping software has recently become more accessible and easy to use, and we’ve seen GIS evolve into a system of engagement and insight.
Did you know you can take your GIS even further, and use it to streamline many of your key (and often annoyingly manual) business processes?
Simplify end-user experiences with automated, repeatable tasks
Many of your end-users’ common interactions with your applications can be automated and significantly simplified. Common tasks that can be automated include:
- Data collection: Paper-based data collection -- particularly for users in the field – is still a common process for many organizations; modern GIS tools allow data to be collected seamlessly through easy-to-configure forms. Providing fields for only the information you need simplifies the experience and improves data quality.
- Visual analysis: There are many examples of visual analysis that, if not automated, would be incredibly laborious and difficult for a user to complete. For example, if a water utility needs to shut down a valve, they can quickly run an analysis inside their mapping application that shows them all the water supply sources that the shutdown will affect. To complete this manually would take many hours, and becomes increasingly costly for everyone involved.
- Reporting: When work is complete, there’s often a need to compile all the necessary information into a report; this can happen manually (and usually involves some combination of photocopying and scanning). This can be simplified with web mapping software: by pre-determining report templates, you can automatically compile the required data into a summary report.
Take charge and guide your end-users
Your end-users don’t need a set of complex GIS tools; they only want to see what is required to complete the task at hand. Automating repeatable tasks is one way to simplify the experience for your users, but there are additional steps you can take to improve your business processes.
- Guided interactions: Walking your users through the processes they need to complete increases the likelihood of success, and can reduce frustration. Only show them what they need, when they need it. A great example of guided interactions is walking the public through permit applications. Many local governments offer mapping applications where residents can submit applications online, and by guiding the public through the process, you ensure that you get the right information and that the user understands what is required of them.
- Dedicated interfaces: Offer your end-users dedicated, task-based interfaces; it reduces clutter and allows them to complete their jobs more efficiently.
- Pre-populate key fields: If your users are collecting data through the application, don’t make them complete fields that you’re able to pre-populate automatically. Fields such as who’s running the task, or what time it is, can be populated based on information that already lives in the application.
Validate data intelligently
Data integrity is an ongoing challenge for many organizations, and fixing poor data can eat up precious time. Luckily, there are approaches you can use to ensure quality data.
- Real-time validation: If your users are entering data into the application, notify them instantly if the data is incorrect. Being allowed to enter incorrect data throughout a form – only to have to go back and fix it later – can make for a frustrating experience. For example, a field worker may be completing a water meter install: if they enter the model number of the meter into the application, they can be automatically notified if it’s the wrong meter, or if there’s a duplicate meter number already in use. It saves them from installing the meter, only to find out later that it needs to be replaced.
- Rules-based validation: If you need data to be displayed in a specific format, building formatting requirements at the outset will save you – and your end-user – needless frustration. Rules-based validation allows you to provide instant feedback if a user tries to enter data in an incorrect format. An example of this that we’re all used to is password requirements. How many times have you tried to create a password for a new system, and are prompted that the password requires a capital letter, a number, and a special character? That’s rules-based validation.
Spreading the word in your organization
You can greatly improve the experience for your end-users and increase adoption of your mapping applications. For many, GIS is a foreign concept, but with a few simple tactics you can put powerful tools in the hands of your employees that are simple and intuitive to use.
Now that you know what it means to streamline business processes with GIS, it’s up to you to share this knowledge in your organization.
Why should anyone else care? At the end of the day, it all comes down to efficiency gains, consistency, and ROI. If your organization is following paper-based processes or battling with data integrity, it’s costing you time and money. By automating repeatable tasks and taking steps to ensure the correct data is collected, we’ve seen organizations save hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in operating costs.