Here at GISi, we get Yammered. Some of us even do it during work hours – and it’s not against company policy, in fact it is encouraged. As a part of our commitment to Service Excellence, we need to communicate and let each other know when we are doing well. This is premise behind my latest and first project here at the company, the Peer Recognition System.
Yammer Look and Functionality
Yammer describes itself as “a private social network for your company”. It can be thought of as having the layout of Facebook and the following feature of Twitter but with the universe of people limited to just a specific company. As you can see from the screenshot below, the GISi Yammer page has a strong resemblance to Facebook, sporting the similar blue and white color scheme:
Yammer as an Organizational Development Tool
A central goal of GISi is “To Be the Premier GIS Firm to Work For and With”. As a company and as employees we are committed to our organizational development. A part of this strategy is to facilitate feedback, not just up and down the management chain – but from peer to peer. This recognition and acknowledgement of our good works goes a long way to build and improve relationships inside the company. A couple years back, Yammer introduced their “Praise” feature for employees to recognize individuals or groups of people in the company. The praise interface is very similar to how one would post a normal status update on Yammer. You input the person or persons you want to praise, add a little note about why you are praising them, and assign the topics/hash tags to list specific skills or products you are praising them about.
The Peer Recognition System is Born
The employees in our company started using the praise feature immediately after it was released! It was decided that we needed to aggregate all of this good Karma so it could be tallied and reported in an analytical way. This is where I came in. I was given the assignment to gather up all of the kudos/Karma activity and harvest it to be displayed on the employee’s profile page on our company intranet.
Putting the technology together really wasn’t very difficult thanks to Yammer’s Rest API. Here the steps that I took:
Use the Yammer Rest API to cull out the praise data.
Create a database structure to persist the Yammer data.
Then I created a simple ASP.Net web page to display the data that I collected.
Used the Content Editor Web Part (CEWP) to insert the simple ASP.Net page in SharePoint as an iframe.
We broke down the data by the topic (or hash tag) that a person was praised for, inserted their praiser’s profile picture, added a count of the Karma that has been given and received – called the Karma Counter.
Now it’s easy to see who has a stash of Karma in the company. We can just browse over our company intranet profile and admire all of the good Karma we have built up or given out. Check out the final results, looks pretty good, don’t you think?
Another fantastic Esri event and a great opportunity to network with over 1,500 petroleum, gas, and pipeline GIS users; the Esri Petroleum GIS Conference (PUG) didn’t disappoint. Held at the George R. Brown Convention Center is Houston, Texas, the conference had a great mix of events for attendees and we were able to note just a few takeaways.
The show itself didn’t hold any big surprises as Esri continues to emphasize ArcGIS Online as a platform and pitched the intranet portal as a solution for companies who are hesitant to use cloud hosting. They announced native GIS integration with PI, an api used by most SCADA and Vehicle Tracking systems. They also announced the deprecation of the C and Java api’s for ArcSDE, moving to runtime and engine for development. They are moving away from Application Tier of SDE, favoring Direct Connect management instead (this is very apparent in 10.1 desktop). Also ArcGIS Portal has completed the Active Directory integration.
The social was at the House of Blues and, as usual, the food and music were both great – though it was a tad bit loud to carry on conversations at length. Still it was a great opportunity to meet up with old and new friends for a night out in Houston.
This was actually our first petroleum conference, so overall we both felt like it was very insightful. We’ve wanted to really get to know and participate more in the Esri petroleum circles and this conference was the perfect opportunity to accomplish this. For the first time, approximately 15-20% of attendees came from pipeline companies – and these folks added quite a lot to the discussion, which definitely helped make the conference even more of a success from our vantage point.
Esri Petroleum GIS Conference Social held at the House of Blues.
Premier GIS Companies Align to Better Serve Clients in State & Local Government
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – May 2, 2013 – Two Esri Platinum Partners have joined together to better enable state and local government personnel, improve workflows, and leverage technology to gain efficiencies in the operation and maintenance of assets. The partnership between Geographic Information Services, Inc. (GISi) and Cityworks – Azteca Systems Inc. brings together nearly 50 years of combined experience in spatial technology and over 220 dedicated employees.
“We are thrilled and honored to become a Cityworks partner” said Lee Lichlyter, President & CEO of GISi. “Their products are the gold standard in the industry for asset and work order management. Additionally, our companies share a common value of putting a client’s needs in front of our own. Government entities across the United States now have world class product and implementation services available to them.”
“GISi becoming an authorized Implementation Partner adds a new level of experience and capabilities to Azteca Systems,” said Brian Haslam, President and CEO of Azteca Systems Inc. “Among Esri’s best-known and most respected partners, the breadth of GISi’s industry knowledge and expertise significantly enhances our ability to ensure the success of our mutual customers. Sharing a common mission to help organizations get the most from their GIS investment, we both believe the best solutions begin with strong relationships and a commitment to GIS. For all intents and purposes, GISi is really an extension to our corporate culture – something I’m sure our customers will clearly see.”
As a Cityworks authorized Implementation Partner, GISi is fully trained and capable of providing services aimed at facilitating a Cityworks implementation, including:
Esri platform installation & configuration
Cityworks installation & configuration
Cloud management services
Integration services between Cityworks and other enterprise systems
Data management & workflow analysis
Capacity analysis & architecture design
System review & optimization recommendations
Facilitate extending existing Cityworks implementations throughout the organization
Identify flexible deployment options for office staff and field crews
Help organizations manage public engagement (citizen request management) through Cityworks
Sean Savage is leading the effort for GISi under the new partnership, bringing nearly 5-years of experience working with one of the most extensive Cityworks Server implementations to date at Oakland County, Michigan. If you would like to learn more about the GISi service options and how they can help facilitate or improve your Cityworks implementation, please call Sean at 205.941.0442 ext. 179 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Azteca Systems Inc.
Since 1986, Azteca Systems Inc. has been providing innovative GIS-centric Management Solutions to agencies that own and care for critical infrastructure, capital assets, and property. Built exclusively on Esri’s ArcGIS technology, Cityworks is a powerful, scalable, and affordable solution for asset management, permitting and licensing. Time-tested and proven technology, Cityworks is Empowering GIS™ at more than 450 user sites around the world.
GISi is an award-winning GIS professional services firm located in Birmingham, Ala., with offices throughout the United States. GISi has a passion for delivering customer driven location technology solutions to federal, state and local governments, and commercial organizations. To learn more, visit www.gisinc.com or call (205) 941-0442.
The Southeast 500 – not a race, but rather the approximate number of attendees at this year’s Esri Southeast User Conference in Jacksonville, Florida (formerly Southeast Regional User Group – SERUG). Overall we felt like it was another positive sign that State and Local Governments are on the road to recovery from previous years of economic challenges. While most of the attendees hailed from Florida and Georgia, there was user representation from every state in the southeast region.
ArcGIS Online continues to be a major focus for Esri
ArcGIS Online was definitely the hot topic for Esri this year. In fact it was mentioned so many times that we may have actually overheard the front desk employees of the hotel talking about it when we checked out on Wednesday. To start the plenary session, Mike Dyer did a demo during his opening remarks, showing how he could import a spreadsheet of conference attendees into ArcGIS Online. He followed by showing the various ways the existing ArcGIS Online applications could be used.
Esri continues to pour resources into this initiative and users appear to understand it more and more. With ArcGIS Online and Esri’s other initiative, ArcGIS for Local Government, Esri has provided a comprehensive platform to solve the most common problems in state and local government:
· do more with less;
· easily deploy maps & apps;
· become more relevant – support the business;
· the need for quick wins;
· suffering from paralysis (have stagnated);
· support for the increasing demand of citizen engagement.
Our biggest take away from the show is that the Esri platform and vision are all there for GIS shops to maximize their Esri software investment and support the business of Government. As a service provider in this industry, this is very exciting. In a very short period of time we can help a local government go from absolutely zero location technology to web and mobile applications. It wasn’t very long ago a jump like that would have taken years let alone months.
We felt like users are really getting it and conversations we had in the hallway and breakout sessions were evidence. Esri’s messaging of targeted, focused applications is starting to resonate with users. There were conversations about users creating web maps for specific projects or to support a specific business function. In fact we had one conversation with a user and their journey from custom applications that had handcuffed them in the past to becoming a pure out of the box shop. This is a result to the work that Esri has done by creating targeted focused applications and making them available to the user community. Overall, the break out sessions, plenary, and socials were intimate and a fun atmosphere of learning.
GISi team pictured left to right: Kevin Stewart, Rachel Ankersen, Sonny Beech
The Geospatial Information & Technology Association (GITA) has been in a flux of change as they move from a paid staffing model to one that is volunteer-driven. While GITA National is mapping out an ambitious plan going forward, GITA Southeast is forging ahead with an equally aggressive plan that includes events and activities that focus on education and the industry’s best practices.
GITA Southeast territory includes the states of Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee. Quarterly, GITA Southeast hosts a popular venue called “Lunch and Learn”. These events, scheduled during the lunch hour, are a great way to get out and meet new people who share a passion for our industry. Typical programs include skills training, product application training, and professional development.
The April 2013 Lunch and Learn, “Using GIS to Support the Disaster Preparedness and Disaster Response of Electric Utilities”, held at the Esri Atlanta office focused on gaining insight into work done by Photo Science in support of Georgia Transmission Corporation (GTC). Presented by Donald Enderle, he demonstrated how the use of GIS will better support disaster preparedness and response. Efforts that support disaster preparedness were highlighted such as the use of Vulnerability Maps and associated reports, staging site analysis and tabletop drill exercises that address those ‘what if?’ scenarios. Mr. Enderle also highlighted how the use of facility maps and Disaster Response Plans become critical tools for the utility industry.
The highlight of the presentation came when Mr. Enderle demonstrated how it was possible to overlay existing weather event data to visualize impact of a new site location. He walked our group through the overlay of the April 25–28, 2011 tornado outbreak (the largest tornado outbreak ever recorded) onto a new area – Atlanta, GA! Being able to demonstrate the ‘what if’ scenarios will go a long way to assisting the industry implement better, more responsive plans when disaster strikes.
In the works, GITA Southeast is planning a networking event at one of the Atlanta Braves games over the summer, a fantastic opportunity to meet and greet those developing innovative ideas in our industry.
To participate in this networking event or to sign up for GITA Southeast’s next “Lunch and Learn” go to the GITA Southeast website at: gitasoutheast.org.
If you provide a product or service, things will invariably go wrong. A deadline will be missed, the product will break, or an expectation won’t be met. It goes without saying that we must direct most of our attention toward doing what we say we will do. If we continuously miss commitments and make it hard for our customers to do business with us then we won’t be a business for long. However, how do you continue to deliver service excellence when thing go wrong? Here are a few thoughts:
Run Into the Fire
It is often tempting to avoid the conflict or dance around the issue at hand. This just makes things worse in the long run. As the service or product provider, begin the process of dousing flames of anger and disappointment with blunt truths and full disclosure. This may cause the flame to flare up temporarily, but in the long run you will build trust and have a much better chance of salvaging the relationship.
Tell the Truth
Do you want to do business with a liar? Enough said.
Bad News gets Worse with Age
When you know there is a problem, tell the customer sooner rather than later. Don’t try to buy time. Getting out in front of the issue helps you minimize the impact on the customer and gives you a better chance of developing a joint solution. Obviously, our customers don’t need to know all the gory details behind the sausage making process. However, when you know something is going to go completely off the rails, err on telling the customer.
Change your Shoes
We are in business to serve our customers…so serve. That means that we need to set aside our own self-interests and look at the situation as if we are in our customers’ shoes. Have empathy and work hard to minimize the impact on your customer first and yourself second.
When things really go bad, get in your car or buy an airplane ticket and go see your customer in person. This is one of those running into the fire actions. It won’t be fun, but good things usually happen when you go see customers.
Take the Opportunity to Keep your Mouth Shut
When things go wrong, there usually is plenty of blame to go around. This isn’t the time to blame the customer. Let your customer vent. Hear what they are saying. When they are done, begin the process of building a plan for resolution. If you try to start working on the plan too early, or (even worse) you insist on pointing out what the customer did wrong you are only going to meet resistance. Give the customer some time to “get it off their chest”. There is a time for everything under the sun…but this is the time to shut-up and listen.
Leave the Contract in the Drawer
When the contract comes out, you are way past the point of delivering service excellence. You are trying to win a battle. So you have to ask yourself a few questions: Is this a customer you want to have a long-term relationship with? Do they have a point? Did you mess up? If the answer is yes, then leave the contract in the drawer. Pulling out the contract turns the situation into a legal issue and it hurts your ability to salvage the relationship. There will invariably be times where you have disagreements on project scope or a product’s capability; however, whenever possible, deal with these disagreements through ongoing expectation management and discussions…not the terms and conditions.
Make Bad News Good News
Let’s say you have decided to trade in your 5-year-old car and buy a new one. Let me ask you a question on these two scenarios:
Scenario One/Dealer One: The car you currently own has performed great. You have had 5 years of trouble-free service with the car and the dealer you purchased it from.
Scenario Two/Dealer Two: Five years ago, shortly after you bought your current car something went wrong. In fact it went wrong because the dealer messed up. You were disappointed and livid and you let the dealer know. The dealer, however, listened to your issue, admitted their mistake, and fixed the problem. In fact they exceeded your expectations in the process of fixing the problem. You got the car back and have driven it for 4.9 years of trouble-free service.
So my question: who are you going to buy your next car from, Dealer One or Dealer Two?
I bet you picked Dealer Two. At first, this might seem illogical because, after all, at some point in the experience you were very upset with the dealer. However, they made it right. We inherently know that it is impossible for things to always go as planned. And when they do go wrong, we want someone to be there to own and fix the problem. My point is to be like Dealer Two when things go wrong.
Let me reiterate, compensating for poor operational or product performance by getting good at begging for forgiveness is not a business strategy. It is a bankruptcy strategy. We have just a few chances to recover from our mistakes. If we can’t deliver, the customer might think we are a nice person/company, but they will eventually dump us for someone who is competent.
In my years of working in complex and highly technical service oriented industries where things often go wrong, I have learned the above concepts through the school of hard knocks and from some very intelligent and street-smart people. To include my buddy Mike Sorrentino, Jim Morgan, a former CEO of Applied Materials, Roger Cameron from Cameron-Brooks, and several “salty” bosses from Navy and private industry – Thanks for teaching me these concepts folks. They have served me well. For those reading this article, I hope they serve you well too.
If your organization is evaluating the feasibility of a GIS solution or already has a mature Location Analytics platform, calculating the derived benefit to the bottom line is powerful and constructive exercise. The goal of this post is to help build the business justification with ROI (Return on Investment) as the quantitative yardstick for measuring the cost/benefit and value achieved from a GIS solution.
There are many tangible and intangible benefits derived from the problems a GIS solution will solve. Qualifying and quantifying the results of the ROI exercise and then documenting them is a common practice and many tools are available to assist with the calculation.
Building the business case
A business case is best described as a financial story based on facts, structured assumptions, and logic. It provides a vehicle by which the financial impact of the options can be examined and conclusions drawn.
A bank wants to analyze its customers and loans by location, product, industry, risk and risk exposure. The bank would like to assist a manager’s ability to visualize their accounts in an easy to use dashboard. After review of their capabilities, a spider chart was produced with current and desired functionality.
By Risk Rating
By Collateral Class
By Catastrophic Scenario
By DPD (Days Past Due)
The bank had considerable gaps between where they were and where they desired to be as an organization. They wanted the ability to overlay a map of customers along with a hurricane’s path or see what customers or facilities are within 25 miles of the San Andreas Fault or below 25 feet above sea level along coastal areas. Working with senior management, gaps were prioritized and then assigned a value. Results were tabulated and reported back to senior management using a standard ROI template.
The above use case has been oversimplified but building justification can be boiled down to a few basic steps. The outline below uses a five-step process derived from standard practices around calculating ROI. These steps were adapted from “The Business Benefits of GIS: An ROI Approach” but summarized for a more agile approach.
The 5 steps are:
Determine the need and benefits of a GIS solution
Outline and prioritize business requirements and opportunities
Assess budget and project timelines
Document and present results
Step 1 – Determine the needs and benefits of a GIS solution
Does your GIS solution align with your organization’s strategic objectives?
The first step in calculating your ROI will involve looking at what’s driving the need of a GIS solution. You’ll need to assess your organizational pain points and weigh them against your goals and objectives. During this step you must consult crucial stakeholders and identify the improvements and benefits of a GIS solution. Key decision makers must be identified and should be made aware of the ROI study. Their involvement and approval is crucial to the ROI process
Step 2 – Outline and prioritize business requirements and opportunities
Defining the scope of the project is next. Getting agreement on what problems the GIS solution will solve and the functionality needed, along with knowing what is nice to have versus what you need to have, should be documented. The pain points should be objectively laid out and prioritized with the end users and business partners. Also you should outline the opportunity costs and what the risks are of not having a GIS solution. The intangibles are much harder to quantify but a value should still be placed on them. Critical objectives should be benchmarked for a before and after appraisal.
Step 3 – Assess budget requirements
After the scope of the solution is agreed upon, the cost of the project should be estimated. The steps are the same if the GIS solution is already in place and you are just adding features or functionality.
The ROI model allows you to break out the elements associated with the specific projects in your portfolio to allow comparison between the benefit value of a calculated base case without GIS and a calculated case with GIS. To complete the template, it is necessary to revisit the original opportunity list.
Step 4 – Estimate benefits
In order to estimate a type of return on an investment in location analytics, a value must be assigned to derived dividends of the solution. Mapping out capabilities at the start (current) of the project and what’s expected to be achieved (desired) allows you to see the “gap” and assign that gap a value. Working with senior executives and your organizational goals, you should be able to team up and assess the value of reaching your desired capabilities. It’s a great exercise to get buy-in and prioritize which capabilities add the most value.
There are many different ROI templates available for free on the web and you can dive as deep in the financial weeds as you want. How deep is dependent on what level of detail your management requires. Using these templates and mapping capabilities you should be able to use the estimated benefits to assign a quantitative value with the templates. Based on the results of the analysis, it may be necessary to adjust the budget or seek additional examples of quantitative benefits that can be modeled in order to make a strong argument for GIS.
Step 5 – Document and present results
The final step will have you compiling your templates and creating reports with the purpose of demonstrating to senior management the value of funding a GIS solution for location analytics. There are many different styles you could use to format your report but I suggest you start with an outline containing the following key components:
Executive summary -It should be a high-level overview of your findings and a proposal for moving forward. It should be written with your senior team leadership in mind.
Background and history – Describe the need or shortfall that started this project and why your organization decided to look at this type of solution.
Purpose and scope – Next you need to provide an outline of the justification for this project and a review of processes and capabilities.
Proposed project – The next step is to describeas the solutions to the problems outlined above. It should be detailed enough to accurately describe what features and functionalities will be included.
Cost and time frame – The almighty budget and dollars will receive the most scrutiny. Time frame and internal and external resources should be included in this section. This is the most challenging section of the report and should receive the most attention. If this part is not deemed accurate then it will put the entire solution in jeopardy.
Recommended action – The purpose of the final section is to summarize the results and make a recommendation to senior management that the program should be funded as proposed in the report. This final section should be very focused on your key arguments and should be no more than a few paragraphs.
Glossary of terms – The last section should content an appendix with a glossary of the terms used in your report. Your glossary should include both GIS terms and ROI financial terms. Most likely the report will be presented to both audience and there is a good chance that only readers will only know either financial or GIS terms, not both. So it will be useful to keep everyone on the same page.
A positive ROI tells a compelling story, especially if the advantages line up with your organization’s mission and strategic direction. Both tangible and intangible benefits can be achieved along with better access to data and improved quality of a data for decision-making. Without ROI estimation, senior leadership can only focus on how much a GIS solution costs and not the organizational advantages. Estimating the value of your GIS solutions provides an effective framework and roadmap for the location analytics solution.
If your organization is about to evaluate a GIS solution, our team can provide help in calculating its ROI. We offer a few free hours to help guide you on your project and get started in the right direction. If you would like more information, feel free to fill out the form below and we will be in contact with you shortly.