There has to be a lot of enlightened self-interest to get everyone moving in generally the same direction. Then a really strong business case has to be put together and supported by the key players. That's just one of the things an enterprise GIS director has to manage."

Sharing and Security

The duties and responsibilities of a GIS director or GIO vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but generally involve similar tasks, such as coordinating enterprise GIS strategies, fostering cooperative agreements among government entities, coordinating state map development, supporting homeland security GIS efforts, negotiating and managing enterprise GIS vendor agreements, managing data elements for critical infrastructure, and implementing standards and best practices for all GIS-related activities within a jurisdiction.

Homeland security and public safety are vital, said the NSGIC's Johnson. "There is renewed emphasis in making sure the best, most up-to-date and most accurate critical infrastructure and emergency response kinds of GIS data are always available. A lot of resources are now coming from that area to produce and maintain data for that community of users."

Developing GIS standards is also a high priority for many jurisdictions. "We need to share data, and we need to have standards and interoperability at the data level," said Pennsylvania's Knudson. "So even if I'm using different software than you, I can take your data and use it when I need it."

Knudson is focusing on developing a strategic plan to create common enterprise assets and technical resources to help reduce the load on individual agencies. At some point, each agency deals with an address, whether it's where someone lives or where a service is provided. Translating that address to a location on a map, a process known as geocoding, is performed at every Pennsylvania agency. "But we're doing it 10 different ways. It doesn't make sense to continue doing that. We want to come up with a consistent, efficient method for handling everybody's need for geocoding," said Knudson.

"We have multiple agencies creating the same data. Then it's difficult to know which one is the best one, which one is the official one, who's maintaining it, what state it's in, etc.," he said. "We want to create data once, have just one version, and then use it everywhere."

James Querry, GIS director for Philadelphia, also is trying to standardize the geocoding process in his jurisdiction. Querry has been tasked with creating a unified land-records system that connects disparate departmental databases. Information in those databases previously could not be integrated because it lacked common key fields and existed in different formats.

"You have very rich spatial data sets that don't have a lot of information attached to them. The information lies out in the departmental databases," said Querry. "Often the only time to connect them is through an address, but a single parcel could be represented by a different address in each database for a lot of different reasons. This project will standardize addresses, and through geospatial processes, allow someone to find the current and correct address."

This type of increased efficiency is what makes the director position so important, said Querry. "One person gains an understanding of what's happening across the entire enterprise and can leverage assets -- whether that means people, technology, programs or data -- to the highest extent possible."

Justine Brown  |  Contributing Writer