GeoWorld September 2012

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so while business users are entering information, they can easily switch over to a reports view and pull out the data they need. It makes it easy to submit real- time progress reports and greatly enhances the end- user experience. A Natural Extension of Data and User Skills When the Tri-State project first started four years ago, Web GIS wasn't where it is today. Through the course of a few release cycles, Web GIS became a key compo- nent, because it offered something that most people can understand: maps. People use maps all the time to get to where they need to be. Maps and related technology tools are used to find nearby restaurants with good reviews, directions to weekend destinations and weather fore- casts. The same premise can be applied to most data; so, after the correct tools exist, users naturally gravi- tate to and understand the application. The most-common requirement is to create and edit data faster and easier than in a standard spreadsheet application. Going from location to location in a map makes navigation very quick. Understandably, data aren't always inserted sequentially, but Web GIS tools improved regional reviews with panning tools that eliminated the need to search through a data table. Experienced workforces tend to understand the business they're in, but a map associated with data takes the information's value to another level. Rather than a simple form and database, the user experi- ence is improved, because maps can be zoomed and centered on useful data points. New find-and- search features make it possible to see locations and related points. Data are joined geographically, so complete discovery is possible, and combining data points in a tabular format makes it possible to com- bine search functionalities. Editing on the Web also is familiar to users. By creating an easy-to-use Web form similar to an order form, users already have an idea of what to do. When a feature is selected, a form pops up for immediate data capture. Users never leave the map screen, so their location is saved and they can continue to work. Also, to speed the data-capture effort, domains and fields are pre-populated with defaults that can greatly increase user productivity. By using a Web GIS application for the data-capture effort, data are available for the whole organization to view. There's virtually no delay from the time that data are updated to when they're available to the rest of the organization, either on a map or tabular report. Having many small modules allows for easy user training and increases the usability of each module. Another value of Web-based GIS is the ability to embed spatial-analysis tools. Users can create "heat maps" to see where there's a lot of activity. The ability to click on a map feature and have it linked to a document repository with images and work requests also is a major advantage to end users who don't need to search for documents. All these factors allow users to open a single applica- tion to edit data. Once in the GIS Web application, they have the data they need. By using a Web-based GIS application for data collection, users can be more efficient, and there's added value for customers. Since the initial data- capture application at Tri-State, the GIS team has continued to deploy new components and add-ons with success. As Web GIS becomes more widely adopted, busi- ness users have become more efficient at using the provided applications and managing their own data in an enterprise database. As more users begin to use GIS applications and more systems are integrated through a Web GIS front end, the importance of GIS to organizations will continue to grow. If GIS teams are going to keep up with expected growth, then Web GIS applications are going to be required. Brian Gustafson is GIS developer, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association; e-mail: SEPTEMBER 2O12 / WWW . GEOPLA CE . COM 17

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