Location, location, location…and document management software? Three ways it can take GIS to the next level in government

Early in 1995 and with a new governor, the State of Maine embarked on an expansion of its GIS (Geographic Information System, for those who aren’t familiar). Then governor Angus King had a vision. He wanted to use maps to prove that Maine had great locations for new and relocating businesses.

Being that it was ’95, using this kind of government software solution was super high-tech. I was an installer on the project, and I can remember all the excitement around creating maps with software that showed high-speed Internet, parking, highway access, building availability, etc.

Fast forward to today. GIS has really hit its stride in government, helping policymakers, crime analysts, public health officials, land records – the list goes on and on. Heck – it even has its own national day – GIS Day! But just like any software application, GIS can only do so much. For those who want to help take GIS back to its high-tech glory of the 90’s, here are three ways document management software can take it to another layer, um, level!

1. Matching locations and documents

Making sense of a location means matching it with information in other documents like historic maps, engineering studies, surveys, photos, drainage plans, the list goes on and on. So to plan a project, you need handy access to all the supporting documents that go into the comprehensive view that a GIS system can create.

Think how fast a GIS-driven government department can move if the map is the link to all their supporting documentation! An integration to the right document management software can make this possible by giving users a familiar GIS interface to retrieve and store supporting documents.

2. Bridging data and processes

It’s common to use a GIS to plan staff assignments for tasks like inspections and repairs of things like streets, signs or new buildings. But like any data system, a GIS doesn’t route tasks and provide reminders; it records data. To manage the tasks, many agencies have purchased separate work order and asset management databases.

Unfortunately, that’s like having two islands of data– and no bridge. Geographically-based data on one side, task management data on the other. Because one of its strengths is integrating systems, document management can provide a link between special databases like Accela and Cityworks and ESRI GIS.

3. A data highway

Finally, with two sources of data, there is still the automation problem. Oftentimes, a GIS is deployed on websites so citizens can access land records or request services like street repairs. The problem is that these Web-based front ends still have the same old paper-based systems behind them. So although citizens can make requests faster than ever, staff is still stuck on a different island under all that paper.

By integrating GIS with document management, Web-based requests are routed electronically to the right staff to get the job done. This also applies to internal processes like plan review, building permits, variances and many other processes that begin with maps. The nice thing about it is that the routed requests also carry the supporting documents with them, electronically of course, so they are available to staff.

The then-governor of Maine was forward-thinking when it came to using GIS technology at that time. With so many technology options available today, there are even more opportunities to solve problems in new and different ways. It’s the perfect chance for government – and others – to take advantage of GIS and complementary products like document management to be the next technology leader.

Terri Jones

Terri Jones

Wondering what goes into a document management or ECM software deployment in government? Terri Jones, Hyland's government marketing portfolio manager, has your answer. In her 10 plus years in both state and local government, she's managed IT departments, implemented ECM strategies and written legislation and program policies. If that isn't enough to prove her IT expertise in government, she has also designed and implemented data systems and websites to manage compliance and funding in excess of $90 million annually. Have a question for her? Contact her at terri.jones@onbase.com.

1 Response

  1. Ken Usman-Smith says:

    In the early 1990’s at Rochdale in the UK I also was part of the implementation of a GIS solution in the Planning Service. This was cutting edge and resisted at senior management level, as it was suspected to be too expensive and unlikely to give an ROI.
    I called the group the ‘Digital Mapping Group’ and never mentioned GIS to ensure funding was not pulled! We raced on with what became a core system that all in Rochdale MBC use today. By the time senior management realised it was fully operational and creating a benefit to all, the ROI was obvious. No matter where they worked, planning data was ‘hung’ onto a MapInfo base and was totally visual, which to planners is essential.
    But that is of course only data, and data is someone elses extracted view of whats important to ‘the file’. Its no replacement for accessing the core paaper file, although we have used HTML to link scanned documents such as Tree Protection files to GIS internally, but its incomplete,only showing us what is possible, a teaser!
    But we also implemented On Base in the mid 1990’s and the bridge between it and our legacy systems is being built this summer.
    And that will include a link to the GIS we have as well as data base.
    So we are in for a very interesting Autumn in the UK (and Fall in the USA) as the lessons we learn are shared across the ON BASE Government family, and beyond.

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