Technology Q&A: The evolution of Geocortex and Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS
If you’ve been following our blog, social channels, or have chatted with us in recent months, you’ve probably heard us talk a lot about our Geocortex Essentials 5-Series. Geocortex Workflow 5 was the first product in the series, and for the first time, Geocortex was able to be used inside (not just alongside) Esri applications.
This represents a major shift in Geocortex technology, with a commitment to continuing to offer products that can be used by a broader Esri audience. We sat down with Drew Millen, Director of Products at Latitude Geographics, to learn more about the Geocortex Essentials 5-Series, and what it means for Geocortex and Esri customers.
Latitude released Geocortex Workflow 5 in 2017. Can you tell us a little bit about this product?
Drew Millen [DM]: Geocortex Workflow 5 is the first standalone product in the Geocortex Essentials 5-Series: a next-generation suite of products inspired by popular capabilities in Geocortex Essentials 4. Workflows help organizations turn even the most sophisticated business processes into a set of simple, guided end-user interactions.
Not only does Geocortex Workflow 5 transform how organizations approach process automation inside their GIS, it helps organizations avoid re-writing applications for new versions of Esri technology. We worry about compatibility with upcoming versions, so you can stay focused on what you need to get done.
As you alluded to, a major evolution in Geocortex Workflow 5 when compared to previous Geocortex products is that organizations can choose to deploy workflows in multiple viewer frameworks. Workflows can be deployed to both your Geocortex and Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS® applications.
What’s been the reaction from customers so far?
[DM]: It’s been great! Since our beta launch in August 2017, we’ve seen nearly 1,500 unique users sign into the Geocortex Workflow Designer, which represents nearly as many unique organizations. More than 25% of those users have been power users, logging in more than 10 times. These are great signs for a product that’s still in its infancy - we can’t wait to see the workflows they’re building!
We recently conducted a survey of Geocortex Workflow 5 users and found that most are using the product to simplify the user interface in their applications. This is achieved by providing step-by-step interactions to your end-users, instead of presenting them with complex interfaces containing unnecessary tools.
It’s also great to see that customers are deploying workflows in Geocortex and Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS apps.
Can you tell us about the decision to offer products that can be run inside Esri applications?
[DM]: Over time, the Geocortex brand has become largely associated with our viewer technology, and for good reason: we offer world class viewers that leverage the latest Esri technology. But our customers know that Geocortex also provides a rich array of capabilities that add power and functionality to those viewers.
While Geocortex viewers are ideal for many applications (especially those that require sophisticated functionality or need to be maintained for a long duration), we recognize that Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS is a popular, lightweight framework that’s ideal for many types of applications.
Our guiding principle has always been about enabling organizations to get even more out of their ArcGIS investment, and by providing powerful capabilities that extend Web AppBuilder we’re able to do that for more customers and more application types.
We saw an excellent opportunity to provide the powerful functionality Geocortex customers know and love to the broader Esri community, without requiring the substantial investment required to adopt a new viewer framework.
What does Geocortex Workflow 5 allow Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS users to do?
[DM]: Geocortex Workflow 5 is focused on helping organizations improve efficiency and end-user success. Our experience shows that when organizations reach the limits of Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS, they typically start building custom widgets.
With Geocortex Workflow 5, instead of writing code to build widgets that satisfy complex application requirements, you can choose from 175 pre-built activities that chain together to automate virtually any task. The library of pre-built activities even includes specific activities for working with Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS, such as activating and passing data between widgets, and working with Arcade, map layers, and other elements of your apps.
Geocortex Workflow 5 also offers dynamic forms that allow you to deliver a better experience for the users of your applications. Forms don’t just capture user inputs; often certain elements must hide or appear based on user interactions. Cascading dropdowns and an advanced event-based system make it easy to deliver forms that engage your users with extraordinary flexibility.
If I’m a Web AppBuilder user, why would I choose Geocortex Workflow 5 instead of building my own custom widgets?
[DM]: One way to think about Geocortex Workflow 5 is as a “widget builder”. It provides GIS administrators a way to build widgets without any programming, and without deploying code onto the server. Workflows make it simple to rapidly prototype, iterate, and test functionality in your Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS applications.
One of the benefits our customers enjoy with Geocortex Workflow 5 is that once a workflow is authored, it becomes a self-documenting, visual representation of the task or business process being automated. This makes it easy for others to understand and work with your workflows.
Ultimately, when you compare building workflows to developing custom widgets and functionality, it’s about saving time and resources. Organizations that leverage workflows to deliver custom functionality save a ton of time during development and ongoing application maintenance.
Does Latitude have plans to offer more products for Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS users? What’s next from Geocortex?
[DM]: Yes, we have big plans - Geocortex Workflow 5 is just the first link in the chain. In July 2018, we’ll release Geocortex Reporting 5, which enables Geocortex and Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS users to design and deploy production-ready, printable reports inside their applications. It simplifies the often-manual process of gathering, organizing, and sharing important GIS data in reports.
Application administrators can add the Geocortex Reporting 5 widget to apps built with Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS and allow their users to generate reports from ready-made templates they’ve designed in the web-based report designer.
In our experience, reports that organizations need come in all shapes and sizes – from basic mailing label reports to inspection compliance reports for governing bodies like FEMA – and they can range substantially in terms of complexity. It’s typically difficult to design reports for every need in an organization, expose them inside your apps, and allow them to be populated with data dynamically. Geocortex Reporting 5 makes this task incredibly easy.
We’ll also be unveiling Geocortex Printing 5 in early 2019, which offers a high-quality, easy-to-design map printing solution for Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS. The focus will be on enabling large format, high-resolution -- and overall great-looking -- print outputs.
Geocortex Essentials customers have benefitted from these capabilities for years, and we’re excited for Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS users to discover their power. To make things easy, we’re introducing an edition of Geocortex Essentials specifically for Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS that will allow organizations to purchase Geocortex Workflow 5, Geocortex Reporting 5, and Geocortex Printing 5 under one affordable license.
Do you envision offering Geocortex products that run in other ArcGIS products, such as ArcGIS Pro?
[DM]: One day. Our current focus is on building great products for Geocortex viewers and Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS, but at the same time we’re engineering the underlying APIs to be portable for use in environments like ArcGIS Pro in the future.
We’re currently exploring the types of markets and customers that would benefit from these capabilities in other ArcGIS apps.
What does the introduction of capability-based, 5-series products mean for Geocortex Essentials customers in the near future?
[DM]: We believe It means great things for existing Geocortex Essentials customers. First, we’re committed to continuing our investment in existing Geocortex Essentials components, such as Geocortex Essentials 4.x and Geocortex Viewer for HTML5.
These “entitlements” mean that Geocortex Essentials effectively becomes a collection of the standalone capabilities, and organizations can license the collection based on how they plan to use it: in Geocortex viewers, in Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS, or in both.
Before we finish up, where can people go to learn more?
[DM]: There’s a ton of places you can go. A good starting point is geocortex.com, where you’ll find details about all of our products, solutions, services, and customers.
Beyond that, our blog is always being updated with relevant information, our YouTube channel is continually showcasing new Tech Tip videos and webinars, and we attend lots of events around the world that can be found on our events page.