Prior to developing our first GIS system, we asked potential users many questions. Key questions included: Are they experts with computers or nontechnical users of data? What data needs to be accessed and what conclusions will be drawn? What methods will be used to search for the data? How do we keep proprietary information safe? What types of automated analysis would help? Once we had these answers, our goal was to create systems with current and relevant data that were also scalable to incorporate new ideas and solutions.
We standardized on the ArcGIS software provided by Esri. Using the ArcMap and ArcServer software, we cataloged our land holdings (owned and leased property, tenants, easements, and tax parcels) into a single database and published the data internally to a web-based application called VMap. With the new database and application, we were able to leverage further internal databases and files related to land management. For example, in the web app, we linked approximately 100,000 pages worth of documents to our properties. We launched VMap with approximately 30 initial users. Today, VMap has well over 300 users.
Over time, we’ve continued to develop and incorporate additional datasets as well as build additional data focused web applications.