Web GIS Explained: Understanding Your System of Engagement

May 23, 2016 — Skye Perry  [11:16]

The term “Web GIS” is being tossed around all over the place right now. But the true meaning of the term may be very different than what you understand it to be. This video covers an explanation of how Esri’s web platform provides for the evolution of your GIS from a System of Record into a System of Engagement. Web GIS is more than maps on the web; Find out how you can utilize an Esri portal to transform your entire GIS roadmap.

Is your utility, telecommunications company, or pipeline operation interested in getting up and running on ArcGIS Online, ArcGIS Enterprise, and/or Portal for ArcGIS? Learn about the ArcGIS Online Jumpstart option from SSP on our GIS Jumpstarts overview page here. We’ll get your team up and running quickly on the leading Esri web GIS platform.


Hi my name is Skye Perry, I'm with SSP Innovations and I'm here today to talk to you about a topic that's really emerging this year. The title is "Why Web GIS", but really is more fundamentally a talk about how we're changing from a System of Record that we've traditionally had to a System of Engagement. We'll kind of break those terms down as we talk through it today. But a really focused thing that, again straight from Esri, emerging throughout the GIS markets; certainly utilities and telecoms, but across all markets really. So let's take a little background step here, we start looking first here at a System of Record.

This is really traditionally what we've maintained and utilized within the course of GIS but it also applies to many of the other systems within our utilities today. A work management system, an enterprise asset management system, perhaps even an enterprise content management system or a document management system if you have those too are all really System of Record. What does that mean? It traditionally means that they are a transactional based system that manages authoritative data around the content that they own, and that's what GIS has been for us. So if we traditionally wrote out there that we have the GIS here as a System of Record, it has been housing a fair bit of our asset management data certainly our spatial and mapping data, maybe inspection data etc. that's existed here in the System of Record.

Now one of the most common questions we often hear in the industry is… well you know over the years, and this has been very common, is that we've taken GIS and we've implemented Esri ArcGIS for Server which of course reads the GIS data and off of that we've put in some type of web application. So a lot of folks say "Hey, I've got Web GIS, I'm all set!", but the question really becomes then when you talk about what these terms really mean. Now is a web application reading ArcGIS for Server off of the System of Record GIS, Web GIS, well maybe traditionally yes but as we talk about System of Engagement and where we're heading in the future the answer is clearly no.

The reason being is that ArcGIS for Server is exposing this same data that we've managed in GIS and the web application is simply a web exposure point for that data, it is a sole sourced interactive location for that data but it's still all one system. So in this context, this is a different exposure point of the same System of Record that GIS has been traditionally. So in that context the answer is really no. So let's talk about what has changed and what is changing in our environment to really drive forward toward a System of Engagement. So as we move over to System of Engagement, the main difference is where as a System of Record is authoritative data management about a given area within the company, a System of Engagement is a different way of exposing that data to be used in new and powerful ways. Now one of the key ways that this, or key aspects of a System of Engagement is that it's fundamentally social. Now that doesn't mean that we're doing social things at work per say, but it's a social use of the data, socializing the data within the organization.

Now before I get too far, I want to be very clear about this, and that is Web GIS lives as a System of Engagement. Now in the specific landscape of Esri, a Web GIS is effectively equal to Portal. Now, my typical disclaimer about when I say the word Portal, we really have two things we talk about in that context, that would be potentially it’s a location that exposes and manages a content management system for the data, now that could be Esri ArcGIS Online which we do a lot of work with and many of you are familiar with, that's Esri's hosted portal we often say that's the lower case p the lower case portal, which is still a portal.

The other product that Esri has now released is called Esri Portal for ArcGIS and that's basically ArcGIS Online but installed on premise, on your own servers behind your firewalls. The entire point of making that distinction is that it's two different products that implement that concept of Portal. The usage, the exposure point of Portal within your organization is exactly the same regardless if it is ArcGIS Online or Portal for ArcGIS, so be very clear about that.

So Portal is equal to Web GIS and this is what drives a System of Engagement, so why a System of Engagement? The main difference is that we are taking the data and allowing it to be shared and exposed in new ways within your organization and it's not just GIS data, we might be using Portal to expose many other endpoints from maybe other systems like Work Management, Enterprise Asset Management, but also from the end users. Think about all the excel spreadsheets you have in your organization, the unique data that is managed by department. Whether it's real estate, customer information, whatever that is, there are spreadsheets and remote databases across your organization, those are data points that can also be shared via Portal, but would never be included in the System of Record. So as we do that, it's content sharing which drives pure interaction.

Think about Facebook in this concept; how much data is owned by Facebook? Zero. It's all sourced by the users. Facebook provides the platform, the System of Engagement, to utilize that data to share it to drive pure interaction and really the key exciting part for me is derivative works. So often we see that some piece of data out there is utilized by another user to create yet a new work, which is then further derived from. It's an exponential type of exposure point. But to drive this home maybe even a little bit more let's look at some specific aspects from where we've been in a System of Record to where we are going in a System of Engagement.

So let's talk about first client server. Client server, common term, this is the way we've interacted with our System of Records for years. Think about Esri ArcMap, Esri ArcCatalog, even ArcGIS for Server and a web application can fall in to the client server model. As we see that shift into a System of Engagement, we're taking that and moving it toward web services and applications. How is that different? Instead of using a client server implementation architecture, we're now exposing the data points as web services.

Why is it important with this services oriented architecture it means that we're exposing points that can be consumed by many different consumption points. Consumption applications like web applications, consumption of other client server apps can consume that, end users can consume that using out of the box tools like arcgis.com, like collector, like explorer. So we're fundamentally changing the way that we're interacting with that data from client server to web services and apps.

Next component, we've spent so much time and data models don't go away to be clear, data models will always exist within our System of Record, but as we expose those they become web maps. Now a web map is an exposure point again that is shared within the Portal, it contains many different services. So now as a user coming in thinking about that pure interaction, the unique social aspect to it, I can find web services that I want to use in my own derivative work, I can find web maps to use as a basis for my derivative work. I may create those into a new web map which is then shared and exposed to additional pure interaction and further derivative works. So again, a change that is very much in line with this concept.

Next piece here, we've traditionally built very large custom applications to interact with the System of Record. Now as we shift toward this System of Record, we're changing the way the data is exposed and therefore we change the way the data is consumed and that moves toward configurable applications and templates. Key difference is these are much smaller, time to deploy has gone from months to days, the usage is much more focused.

So we've got configurable applications you're putting out, the concept of templates, you probably know this, Esri has an entire suite of solution templates that we use day in and day out, you should check them out too, specific to electric, gas, water, telecom and many of the other verticals that Esri works with. But these are small templates, fundamentally can be implemented within a Portal to consume your web services and your web maps, you start seeing how these parts play together. And it really drives faster usage and more agile usage of the data, again fundamentally social, implementing new applications, derivative works, it really all works together.

Final point I want to drive home here is that our proprietary data, we think about System of Record, authoritative data management, is driving proprietary data meaning that system owns that data. Now as we take that proprietary data and shift it across in to open and shared GIS services, we're now exposing that data for the derivative work, we're driving it toward encouraging using that data by other users by driving new creation, new work around it, which is a circle that keeps inventing itself as we move toward Web GIS. So the real fundamental shift is that we're taking what we've done historically and we're not changing the value, we're simply leveraging it and we're leveraging ArcGIS for Server.

What we're taking is maybe this concept of a traditional web application and again we're shifting it in to a Portal which is more of a content management system (again content sharing, pure interaction, derivative works), we're changing the way that data is consumed. Now as this data is exposed and used in that way, the end result is going to be is a huge drive toward new usage in the data that can really transform the way you do business. We can give examples, but the key part that I'm always excited about is that there are so many areas that you haven't even thought of today as to how this data could be used and how it will transform the way different departments interact and work together. For us as GIS professionals this is especially exciting because the foundation of it is geospatial, and that is Web GIS and that is Portal.

So what we see holistically is a large shift, a transformation from System of Record to System of Engagement, the System of Record doesn’t go away, but the System of Engagement utilizes our System of Record being GIS, many other Systems of Record throughout your organization, and the end content pieces from users throughout your organization to drive GIS usage and create works we could never have dreamed of. So think about this, think about embracing new users, embracing new data points, and embracing Portal to get you there; and that is Web GIS. Thank you.

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Skye Perry

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