As many government officials can attest, leading a consolidation effort can earn you enemies rather quickly. But Max Samfield, deputy director of the Houston Planning and Development Department, avoided some of those problems: He opted for a hybrid approach that requires city agencies to add basic data to a new enterprise GIS, but lets them choose whether to publish more specialized data to the system.

As is typical before a consolidation, several city agencies collected and maintained their own GIS data, usually with spotty accuracy. Other agencies bought GIS equipment occasionally, but lacked the staff and expertise to bring it to fruition.

Samfield's solution was to create a repository of newly accurate GIS data delivered to end-users from a central server farm. Agencies then use that scrubbed enterprise GIS data as a foundation on which to build more layers of data using their own specialized information. Agencies can choose to import the scrubbed base data into their own internal map-creation systems, but publishing those additional layers for other agencies and citizens to view is optional.

Samfield had several goals for the new system. First, he wanted the agencies to find the enterprise GIS so efficient that they'd publish their generated layers in the enterprise GIS rather than their internal GIS. Second, he wanted agencies to use the enterprise GIS to create their maps.

Now Samfield's plan appears to be working. Due to wide participation among agencies, dozens of GIS maps are available to city employees and citizens through a delivery mechanism called My City.

Accuracy Carrot

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Andy Opsahl  | 

Andy Opsahl is a former writer and features editor for Government Technology magazine.