For all of us, the past few months have been hard. It is a rarity when the word “all” includes the entire world. I am hopeful that, by the time you read this, the worst impacts of COVID-19 to you, your loved ones, your teams, and your community will have passed.

In an incredibly short time frame, the COVD-19 pandemic has changed the way we all live, work, and interact. When we first heard of social distancing, few of us understood what was about to happen. It has tested our resilience individually and collectively. At times, our emotional reserves seemed depleted. But finding ways to recharge is important. As we consider how our Cityworks community has faced major challenges in the past, it provides strength. Since the launch of Cityworks nearly 25 years ago, we have faced uncertainties and fears that resulted from the September 11 attack and the war that quickly followed; the 2008–2009 economic recession; catastrophic hurricanes that crippled thriving communities; devastating tornados, winter storms, floods, fires, earthquakes, and other disasters that ravaged communities and entire regions and impacted critical services and infrastructure. Each event tested our resilience and forced us to re-examine how we provide and prioritize essential services.

The most incredible thing for me to witness has been your resilience serving your community. You are boots on the ground making a real impact. It is an honor that the GIS-centric approach—Cityworks with ArcGIS, and partner solutions—has been an important tool to help you in the way you are responding to your community’s needs. Time and again, no matter the situation, you rise to the challenge to help your community recover, adapt, and thrive.


In the fight to understand and contain the pandemic, GIS has been central from the beginning. Esri has been tracking the spread of COVID-19 to help governments around the world take action. Through the news, online resources, and social media sharing, the general population has been exposed to more ArcGIS maps and dashboards in the past month than they have probably seen in their entire lives.

In a recent video, Esri CEO Jack Dangermond highlighted how GIS intelligence is leading the pandemic response. “It’s organizing all the content and applications, bringing organizations . . . together to enable more systematic and uniform decision-making and response,” Dangermond explained. “GIS provides a framework and process for this, bringing all observations [and] measurements together, analyzing them in such a way that people can understand things and communicate about them, and then respond.”

Cityworks users across the globe are standing up public portals and online dashboards to maintain business continuity and public communication. They are using GIS-centric mobile solutions to protect the health of their crews while they provide essential services. They are collaborating across jurisdictions and implementing project tracking solutions to streamline FEMA reporting. Meanwhile, GIS intelligence continues to inform leadership at every stage of the crisis in order to help the community reset with cautionary processes in place.


The challenges we all face today are disruptive to traditional ways of providing essential service and interacting with residents. But as we see time and time again, challenges present an opportunity to evaluate our process and change our mindset to improve how communities function.

At the Cityworks user conference in December, Kristen Cox spoke to us about the theory of constraints. Whether we are working during a pandemic or in a time of economic abundance, every organization has a chokepoint in its process. It is tempting to throw more money, technology, training, or planning at the problem. But the chokepoint presents an opportunity to think deeply and explore new ideas.

We have yet to fully see all that will unfold in the wake of this pandemic, but one thing is clear: GIS intelligence can help us identify constraints, explore new ideas, and reprioritize accordingly. As Cityworks users, we are facing challenges together. By sharing with and supporting each other, we can better serve the communities where we live and help them to move forward to build a more resilient and sustainable future.

Brian Haslam is the President and CEO of Cityworks

Lead image from iStock


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