Many public works professionals are already aware of the benefits geographic information systems can bring to their operations. The rapidly developing technology has found a home in government, playing an important role in many facets of operations, from disaster relief to city planning.
But while GIS represents a significant value-add to the public works department, some may encounter difficulty convincing administrators and decision-makers of the value of the investment. The key to securing funding for a GIS system is to align the return on investment of such a system with the needs of your specific government.
1. Know the benefits of GIS
There are a wide range of benefits that GIS can bring to your government, but first you need to understand how these advantages work and, more importantly, how they fit into your operations. Both the breadth and depth of information provided by GIS data can benefit a number of departments in surprising ways. For example, sanitation can use GIS data to improve efficiency by determining better routes for drivers. In fact, GIS and Science reported that one major retailer that implemented these systems reduced the amount of time it took for dispatchers to create routes for trucks by 75 percent, resulting in 12-15 percent less drive time and, by extension, lower operating costs.
2. Identify your needs
For GIS to be seen as valuable to your government, it's important to dovetail the benefits and advantages it can bring with specific needs facing your community. Establishing this beneficial ROI is the principal that's going to bring administrators into your camp when the decision is made whether to adopt GIS-assisted systems or not. It may be that your government is attempting to improve customer service by increasing communication with the community about projects and work being done. Craft the business case which outlines how those goals link with the use of a GIS system in a concise, clear way. Learn the concerns decision makers may have and address those up front.
3. Fit it into the budget
Especially if your government is working with a limited budget, presenting your business case for GIS adoption will depend largely on your ability to demonstrate its cost-effectiveness. This will likely require you to examine not just your day-to-day and monthly operating expenses, but also inspect medium- to long-term budget planning years down the road. Ensure that you tie the benefits of GIS back to the measurable impacts it will have on your department.
4. Present it as an investment
If you don't currently have any GIS-compatible systems or software, your administrator may be worried about up-front capital expenditures required to implement these systems. You can use this opportunity to frame GIS and its many benefits as an investment that will result in significant savings down the road. Demonstrating the ROI as a long-term gain is crucial - you can even map out projected savings over time due to GIS-facilitated outcomes like increased efficiency and reduced operating costs through fuel savings by enabling point-to-point driving.
5. Focus on integration
It's important to establish GIS not as a separate system, but rather as an overarching tool that can integrate into multiple aspects of your operations. From improved decision-making to greater logistical efficiency, highlight the many ways GIS can bring value to your government.