5 CHALLENGES IN GIS IMPLEMENTATION — AND HOW TO OVERCOME THEM
The business tools that we use impact everything from productivity to profitability.
The better the tool, the better the results. You wouldn’t print out MapQuest directions when you have Google Maps in your pocket.
A Geographic Information System (GIS) gives software appraisers, brokers and real estate professionals the data they need to make better decisions. But using the tools currently on the market can prove to be a challenge.
User friendly Software as a Service (SaaS)is designed to make things easier for all kinds of industries. Shouldn’t your GIS solution fit that description, too?
In this guide, we walk through five different challenges appraisers and brokers alike face when using legacy GIS solutions. Beyond that, we include a handful of factors to look for in a successful GIS tool.
WHAT IS GIS?
A geographic information system (GIS) is software designed to overlay geographic data across a map. Mapping the data (versus simply viewing it in a spreadsheet) helps real estate decision makers understand patterns, relationships and opportunities.
Mapping geographic data isn’t exactly new; nearly two hundred years ago, a French geographer created a map of Paris to reflect cholera deaths in the city.
Now, GIS is used in both research and business applications. While its use is not limited to one industry, the real estate industry gleans quite a bit of value from GIS software. Real estate organizations use GIS tools to assess property value in relation to its surroundings, identify opportunities for growth and gather more information on specific properties with contextual data.
“Over the years, applications for geographic data in real estate continued to evolve as advanced solutions were implemented around the world,” says one USC post. “By implementing GIS-based management systems, real estate companies and local governments gained access to detailed and accurate information about property uses and boundaries.”
DATA LAYERS FOR GIS INCLUDE:
City and county limits
Zoning districts and overlay
5 PROBLEMS WITH GIS IN REAL ESTATE
1. PROHIBITIVE COST
Smaller businesses and small government offices tend to think that they can’t afford GIS. Instead of software, they resort to using PDFs and manually mapping data.
The software itself can be expensive, but implementing a GIS means dealing with additional hardware costs, employee onboarding costs and sometimes additional data collection. This can lead many potential GIS users to avoid the software before trying it in their context.
Even when an office does start using GIS software, it can be difficult to realize value immediately. Like most B2B tools, one challenge in implementing GIS for real estate is user adoption within the company or government office. The tool can seem too complicated for anyone other than an analyst, so no one gets the full value.
2. INCONSISTENCIES IN DATA
Your decisions are only as good as the data you use to make them. Unfortunately, GIS tools often have inconsistent, inaccurate or outdated data.
GIS software relies on spatial databases, which have many of the same challenges as any other type of dataset. Inconsistency stems from varied conceptualization and categorization and more technical issues like file management or data cleaning.
3. LACK OF STANDARDIZATION
Because GIS tools have developed slowly over time, there is no heterogeneity between datasets and the resulting maps. There are very loose color conventions for geographic information, but adoption of these conventions is far from 100 percent.
There is also quite a bit of variety in how elements are represented on the map: different icons for the same features, for example. And, finally, not every GIS tool has the same data layers. Real estate users have to assess which data layers they will need and ensure the tool has them before jumping in.
4. SILOED GIS DATA
There is no Google Maps version of GIS. Instead of one large data enriched map for the United States, for example, there are different GIS systems for different cities (if they even have one). The lack of integration between these varied systems means that it’s difficult to visually compare data across geographic areas.
For larger operations especially, this can prove limiting. For smaller offices, it means quite a bit of time lost on analyzing information across different areas. Instead of being able to assess distinct properties at the same time, real estate professionals typically have to double back to make comparisons, costing hours of work over time.
5. AREA LIMITATIONS
Because GIS data is siloed, businesses and professionals are typically limited to specializing in a smaller area. While GIS can be used to find new opportunities, the scope of these opportunities is relatively limited to a specific city or county. Going beyond that typically requires an entirely different GIS platform.
FINDING YOUR GIS SOLUTION
None of these challenges are insurmountable. The real estate industry needs a simple tool to speed up the analysis of property and their interrelationships. So how do you decide which GIS tool will work for you?
These are a handful of factors to look for in your GIS solution:
Real estate software doesn’t have to be expensive to bring benefits to your business. Find a tool that fits your budget.
A plug and play, cloud-based tool is a surefire way to find value faster. But make sure the solution is consistent across the board.
Instead of interrupting your workflow, make sure your GIS tool links directly to the records that you need, lending to standardization
There’s no room for legacy tools anymore. Your GIS solution should always be on the path to improvement (like bringing siloed data together).
If you have to see tax parcels or need to be able to measure area, your GIS tool should have those layers.
Today, FuseGIS makes getting value out of GIS simple. We’re looking forward to bringing fresh insight to the real estate industry. With a simple interface, affordable pricing and a cloud-based product, our tool benefits large real estate developers and small government offices alike. Drop us a line to hear more!