It has been 31 years since I attended my first Esri Partner Conference (EPC). The EPC has always been an important event on my calendar, and I have many fond memories of witnessing the transformation of GIS and its impact on the world. Perhaps the greatest value of EPC is the opportunity to be taught and inspired by Jack Dangermond and Esri staff while forging lasting relationships with other Esri partners.

This year, the resounding theme at EPC was the importance of our customers and the work they do in their communities. Jack shared his vision of GIS, the Science of Where™, and the transformative impact that location intelligence will have on every aspect of life. His comments were, as always, inspiring and thought-provoking.

I wanted to share a few of the standout points he made:

  • We are part of an increasingly complex world.
  • The pace of change is accelerating at an unprecedented pace as constituents demand more.
  • We facilitate collaboration through the Science of Where®, leveraging the power of GIS and location intelligence.
  • GIS technology is in the best place ever. Solutions are expanding, easier to use and implement, and more affordable.
  • The geospatial infrastructure—GIS mapping, content, and platforms—are advancing rapidly thanks to a union of diverse technologies that create value for users.
  • The web GIS platform is driving this transformation because it is accessible, pervasive, and interconnected; it supports workflows; and it provides meaningful insight for ongoing improvement.
  • The ArcGIS system of engagement, system of record, and system of insight are really one synergistic system.
  • Fundamentally, we provide useful technology that helps clients do their work more effectively and, in the process, do good locally.

Listening and then watching follow-up demonstrations, I started to feel a bit overwhelmed. Then I remembered a story once retold by William H. Baker, professor of management and communication at the Brigham Young University Marriott School of Business.

Many years ago, the federal government placed county agents throughout the country to help farmers learn to be more productive. One county agent in the South went to visit an old farmer in his area, but he found that convincing the farmer to change proved rather difficult.

He asked the farmer, “Wouldn’t you like to know how to get your cows to give more milk?”

“Nope,” the farmer replied.“Well, wouldn’t you like your pigs to have larger litters of baby pigs?”

Again, the farmer answered, “Nope.”

“Well, wouldn’t you like to learn how to get more corn per acre?”

The same answer was given as before: “Nope.”

Exasperated, the county agent asked, “Well, why not?”

The farmer replied simply, “I already knows more than I does.”

I can often relate with that farmer—I know more than I feel like I can actually accomplish. Yet we all want “more milk” and “more corn” for our organizations. We want to improve public asset management. We want to improve constituent engagement. We want to make better data-supported decisions. We want to improve our communities.

But, where to start? As Jack suggested, we live in a complicated world. The pace of technological change, community pressures, and constituent demands are rapidly accelerating. I’d like to suggest the best starting point is always to focus on the last item from my notes of Jack’s presentation: the importance of using technology and data to help individuals and organizations do their work more effectively and, in the process, do good locally.

In a recent article in CIO, Charles Arajuo argues that, “when it comes to big data, analytics, and AI the value does not come from collecting the data, or even from deriving some insight from it—value comes from just one thing: action.” 

GIS is the most effective way to help organize and manage the complexity of asset data. The Internet of Things and citizen engagement initiatives create immense reservoirs of data providing a real-time lens of what is happening. Analytics improve decision-making and planning, creating a system of insight. But, for value to be realized, organizations still need to identify and act on the problems and opportunities revealed by the data.

It also helps to break the approach down into bite-sized pieces. Here are my three suggestions:


Recognize the importance of being agile in your planning and processes. Then, prioritize what matters most for your organization. It’s critical that each department and individual understand and align with those priorities to maximize performance.


Determine where your organization resides when it comes to the system of engagement, system of record, and system of insight. Rather than try to do everything all at once, develop a realistic step-by-step plan to get from where you are today to where you want to be. Every organization should strive for continual improvement and identify and remove constraints that impede success. Cityworks and ArcGIS are tools to help you improve upon your process.


Take that first step. After succeeding with step one, re-evaluate, adjust the plan as needed, and then take step two. Step by step, you’ll get to where you want to be. Along the way, always remember what matters most and refer back to key priorities to achieve your organizational goals and objectives.

We view GIS as a platform for sharing, collaborating, and solving problems comprehensively. As you drive transformation across your organization, Cityworks and ArcGIS fundamentally provide useful technology that helps your organization do its work and, in the process, do good locally. When you take action, you are transforming your public asset management to improve economic vitality and quality of life for your entire community.

Brian Haslam is president and CEO of Cityworks.


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