Content and Context – GIS Makes the Case for Going Enterprise

Last week’s Esri International Users’ Conference was one of the happiest and most energetic software conferences ever. And why shouldn’t it be? The breadth of GIS usage, especially for government, has grown, and the variety of ways to use GIS and the opportunity provided by Esri’s ArcGIS Online will bring another wave of growth. From health policy, utility asset management and humanitarian relief to traditional infrastructure, drainage, floodplains and more, GIS and its dedicated users have changed the way we can understand the world. And, in doing so, they are changing the world.

But how?

As the ECM world knows, content, and access to content is critical to good government. The GIS world, through the expansive tools offered by Esri, provides an amazing context for all the information that government gathers every day – whether in the form of datasets or documents. If you can store documents and information in an ECM solution, host it in a cloud environment, serve it up to mobile workers and use Esri GIS to provide the data in a way that is actionable, you can change the efficiency and effectiveness of government. This is especially true when you regard both ECM and GIS as enterprise, must have applications.

Take Horry County, SC. This year, Horry County won a special achievement award and presented their solution during Monday’s plenary session. The presentation, titled “A Day in the Life of Horry County” and presented by Tim Oliver, Horry’s GIO and assistant CIO, showed how every county worker uses the tools offered by their Esri GIS applications and their ECM solution to get their jobs done.

The key areas they focused on included:

  • Community development – providing their inspectors with document access while using the iPad-based GIS parcel map to locate and update information on parcels.
  • Disaster preparedness – accessing key documents like evacuation plans while using maps to plan routes away from the coast to safety
  • Property records – property assessment in the field can leverage parcel maps and documents stored in their ECM solution from an iPad.

These are great examples, but what was even more critical in their opinion?

The context provided by the GIS platform.

For example, building permits are stored in their ECM solution and can be retrieved through a GIS map application. Using that context, public safety can predict where crime may happen since deliveries of building supplies follow immediately after permits are issued. Theft from construction sites is also a common occurrence this can help with. The context of the map allows public safety to better deploy resources for their county. Horry County calls this “actionable intelligence,” providing a context for action using their GIS, their data and their documents by combining them into an understandable picture for decision-makers.

Equally exciting and powerful was a live demonstration of their use of iPads, GIS applications and ECM to equip field workers with the tools they need to respond in a crisis. Thanks to this comprehensive solution, first responders can retrieve building plans as well as information about hazardous materials. This enables them to report back on critical field conditions to a command center that cannot see those conditions but must deploy resources to respond appropriately. Field workers can use this information and observed conditions to provide information on evacuation or additional dangers. They do this by taking pictures with the built-in camera or drawing locations on the map itself, knowing that the command center can see these changes in real time.

The Esri Users’ Conference is always full of great ideas that send you back to your community inspired and excited to use data in a meaningful way. And with Horry County’s example, meaningful context provides a clear action step for county decision-makers and staff.

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