Maturity and Integration with GIS

Andrew J. Marr
Spatial Information Research Centre, Department of Information Science, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand

This paper discusses the results of research into organisational GIS implementation and development. Consideration is given to the construction of a surrogate numerical indicator for the maturing use of GIS and the closely related process of data integration. The research incorporates parallel studies of conventional information technology with recently collected data on GIS organisations to provide support for the concepts and techniques used.

In New Zealand as in other parts of the world, GIS has become a firmly established production tool in regional and local government. Local authorities possess large amounts of spatial and non-spatial data, and GIS usually offers a variety of benefits over more traditional and less automated methods.

From the analysis of these organisations, trends were identified that suggest the existence of a maturity process in the use of GIS and its management. GIS maturity is the degree to which systems are actually used, which in turn, relates to the number of users. This description implies that as the number of users increase, involving a variety of organisational departments, there is also an increase in the level of data integration.

Some of the observed patterns relate to a move by some organisations to a totally integrated information system. This is typically observed in those organisations perceived to be at a high level of maturity. A result of this integration may be that GIS becomes less of a single system, and more of an incorporated tool responsible for spatial problem solving.

Analysis of literature and collected survey data suggests that while most organisations see integration as desirable, there commonly exists several factors that place severe limitations on its application. These may include:

For an organisation to mature, it is these types of constraints that must be overcome. Methods to solve these problems often involve comprehensive prior planning and the formation of an information policy clearly stating the organisational objectives. Such a policy may define relevant data standards, maintenance schedules and data protocols.

While relatively little research has been carried out into GIS maturity, fundamental and widely acknowledged work has been carried out into the maturity of non-spatial information systems. This work identifies phases that an organisation is likely to pass through starting at initial implementation and ending with IT maturity. It is asserted that this work provides a suitable foundation for the formation of an equivalent GIS model.

It is proposed in this paper that based on the assessment of GIS implementations in New Zealand local authorities, there exists a similar process of maturity for GIS. A surrogate numerical indicator for the maturing use of GIS is constructed and compared against collected survey data. The presentation of such an indicator allows for the comparison of organisational implementations and potentially the level of GIS integration.