Internal group or external consultant: Which GIS works for you?

February 2011 » Columns » CE + GIS INTERSECT
Janet Jackson, GISP

GIS perspective
Jackson: A well-trained and experienced internal GIS group can help win work and keep GIS-related jobs productive and profitable. Your GIS group may have gone away, but hopefully your projects requiring GIS didn’t disappear! However, if you find your company no longer has a GIS division, don’t let that stop you from getting the expert help you need — and that your clients require.

GIS consulting firms are ready, willing, and able to respond quickly to your project requirements. So where do you find an experienced GIS consultant? A personal recommendation works best. Ask colleagues who they used for their last project. Ask how the GIS group responded, communicated, met the deadline, and handled challenges and follow-up work. If you like what you hear, then take the next step with an introduction by way of e-mail or a phone call.

If you don’t have a personal recommendation to go on, then use the Internet and a common search engine (such as Google) to find a GIS professional whose experience matches your project’s needs. Like engineers, GIS professionals have areas of expertise — common ones are utilities, master planning, map making, property mapping, and data creation and analysis.

So whether you’re looking for a GIS professional to assist you with behind-the-scenes GIS data creation or someone to explain how the data in your project can be used to its maximum advantage, there is a GIS professional ready to work for you.

Civil engineering perspective
Lowe
: In today’s challenging economic times, companies are continuing to reduce costs by cutting services and staff, leaving engineers wondering how to provide GIS to their clients. Firms that once boasted of having full GIS departments are now looking at limited services with little or no experienced and knowledgeable GIS staff.

On the other hand, city and county budgets have left their GIS departments depleted as well, making it even harder to use public service as a viable resource. The question then becomes: What is the best way to serve your client in a timely and economical way?

For the foreseeable future, internal GIS expansion for most consulting firms will be a challenge. Firms just are not willing to invest the resources until the economy takes a sustained turn toward real growth. One solution engineers have found to offset this loss is to hire an external GIS consultant who understands the software and knows the local and state system and process. In a lot of cases, this consultant may be a former employee of the firm, which makes the teaming arrangement even more seamless for everyone.

Clients still see the benefit of GIS, and it’s an important service to be able to offer, even if you no longer have the internal resources. By hiring a competent outside consultant, the engineer does not have the extra burden of maintaining an internal group and the external consultant can fill a much-needed niche, resulting in a GIS victory for everyone.

For the foreseeable future,internal GIS expansion for most consulting firms will be a challenge.

What is a GISP?
According to the GIS Certification Institute (www.gisci.org), a GISP “is a certified geographic information systems professional who has met the minimum standards for ethical conduct and professional practice, as established by GISCI.” The governing arm of GISCI is the organization’s board of directors, which includes individuals from the following member organizations:

  • The Association of American Geographers
  • The National State Geographic Information Council
  • The University Consortium of Geographic Information Science
  • The Urban and Regional Information Systems Association
  • The Geospatial Information & Technology Association

The GISCI website includes a list of the more than 4,700 GISPs, searchable by name, city, state, country, and certification date.

 

Janet Jackson, GISP, is certified as a GIS professional and is president of INTERSECT, a GIS consulting firm. She can be contacted at janetjackson1021@gmail.com. Lester Lowe, P.E., is a senior project manager with McKim & Creed. He can be contacted at llowe@mckimcreed.com.


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