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GIS is Institutional Knowledge Capture.

Bradford Folta – Owner, Honey Badger Analytics LLC.

GIS is often thought of this amazingly large, complicated, data intensive, database driven, IT possessive, blah, blah, blah.

A lot there to think about. GIS is capture and maintenance of a workflow that over time leads to capture and maintenance of Institutional Knowledge. I would argue GIS is one of the first ways to truly capture and share this knowledge; Anyone can adapt, update, or maintain data and visualizations in near real time.

No more reports, no more paper maps, no more chasing the paper that burned up 20 years ago. Data from almost any platform in one place, that let’s users pull together exactly what they need for their own visualization.

Think about it. Back in the day, knowing everything about your position and the various parts, the data, and so on is what kept us (person in the job) safe. The whole cog in the system mentality.

That’s what it use to take, but now we have a system (like GIS) that allows us to share and see information, protocols, and metadata in such a rapid way that there is no point not to migrate or double down on it.

But with knowledge and sharing comes protectiveness. People sometimes feel that sharing knowledge makes them easily redundant. This can be true in some cases but in many it actually makes their position more valuable. Take for instance a GIS person at a company. From my point of view, GIS should be accessible organization wide and done by everyone.

Why should a company keep a GIS person then? To which I retort, who is going to train and support the other company users? Who is going to take care of the systems day to day or do the heavy lifting in GIS processes? Obviously the GIS person. Same with all the other positions. People are needed as they are the experts in their workflows and can make the GIS great, not just good.

Jumping topics for a second, we need to stop thinking of GIS/CAD/Insert Program as linear workflow calculator and especially stop thinking in a data-centric process. Typically following this order: Data identification –> data collection –> data visualization –> analysis –> report/maps. What we need is to think more cyclical, system-centric, setup that brings all parts together and maintains/adds/updates them as the time goes on. Compiling all your information into one place like that of a SharePoint, or similar. This way people can see and work with verified data and may offer other company staff time savings as the information they are seeking already exists!

Merging the topics, when we plan out an organization like a business or community, different people with different skills bring what they can to the table to build the business or community. They become the experts in their particular workflow and those combined individual workflows when conglomerated help build the overall organizational structure. Together, said workflows build something bigger than their individual parts.

Where else could we apply this kind of thinking? hmm….. How about GIS? Application of this thinking to GIS not only does the same thing in terms of creating, sharing, and maintaining data/workflows, but it mitigates knowledge loss when someone leaves or we lose them. What becomes important is not what details the person knows about a single system but what they know about the technology supporting and driving that system.

With a system-centric approach we end up creating a place where institutional knowledge is cultivated and grown. Your staff then become cultivators, maintainers, and harvesters that take the organization further. GIS in essence becomes the ecosystem that we are integral to support and maintain.

So for the first Honey Badger post, I want you to think about your GIS or any system in terms of what it is, where it is, what it could do, and where it could be. These will lead to a better GIS and a data driven world!

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