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April 12, 2006
GIS Executive Council Attendees
GeoLibrary Board Attendees
The meeting began with a discussion about OIT’s plans to reorganize GIS in the future. It was agreed that this topic was necessary to discuss before working on the Strategic Plan. There was a general consensus that the members of the GIS Executive are frustrated at not being well informed regarding the CIO’s plan for restructuring of GIS. A major concern of all members of the committee was the possibility of GIS staff getting moved from individual agencies to OIT. The majority of staff in all agencies who use GIS are not IT professionals, they are geologists, hydrologists, wildlife biologists, permit writers, engineers, planners, etc. GIS is tool they use to do their jobs. The GIS staff who are IT professionals have an intimate knowledge of the work the staff do who they support, this knowledge is necessary. Moving these GIS professionals into a centralized pool will not work, it will cause a major decrease in support which will in turn have a negative effect on the productivity of the agency scientists, planners, engineers, etc.
They are a lot of rumors going around about GIS staff getting moved, some as soon as July 1st, 2006. The does not seem to be any clear plan on how GIS services will continue to be provided. There are many conflicting plans being heard about what will happen to GIS staff. GIS Programmer and GIS Programmer Analysts are a major part of GIS in the agencies. The GIS Executive Council does not think that OIT understands these staff’s role in the agencies. IT appears to the Council that the decision has been made if they are a Programmer Analyst then they will be moved to OIT. Agencies have Programmer Analysts that do very little or no programming. The primary function of their job is to perform GIS analysis as it applies to the specific discipline they work in. There are other IT job classifications that also perform agency and discipline specific analysis using GIS, it is not appropriate for these staff to be moved to OIT.
The State Agencies represented on the GIS Executive Council do not think that they have been included in the planning on this issue, and do not think that whatever plans exist have been communicated clearly. This is causing a lot of anxiety and concern regarding how staff will get the required GIS support they need. There is also concern that non IT staff like geologists or wildlife biologists who use GIS may be considered IT professionals and moved under the OIT umbrella. There is a consensus that this is a bad idea and will cause severe disruptions and long term diminishing of effectiveness in all organizations where this occurs. There has been an understanding that the CIO’s office will include all agencies and the appropriate staff in the discussions on what will happen with the reorganization of GIS, this has not happened, and there is a great concern that this will not happen.
Christopher discussed his knowledge on the subject. I can understand your frustration. I think there is a lot of other people that share that frustration. One of the reasons I think there has been a difficulty is that the applications ( which includes GIS) are at the end of the runway in the restructuring plan. Exchange was the first thing that happened as a result of the legislative bill that was passed. Operations have been the next area of centralization or the attempt to implement Enterprise Architecture. This includes software, and support services. A great deal of that has been implemented or is in the process of being implemented and there is a lot of things that are currently being worked out, things are being tried, and adjustments are being made. The focus has been on Technical Support staff and the Helpdesk issues. There have been a lot of adjustments to that and I don’t think that the final implementation of that is finished. I think they are still trying to work and figure out what the appropriate balance of that is. From what I understand, the next step in that is to try to look at the actual physical architecture and to see where there might be redundancies and opportunities for consolidation.
The reason we have been focusing on a new strategic plan is to try to identify what our needs and what the resources are that we have to meet these needs. The committee generally agrees that opportunities for centralization exist in the area of software licensing, training, hardware, and data automation and maintenance. By identifying these opportunities the council hopes to be able to influence to direction that the CIO chooses to move. We have been working to identify what our data needs are, what our application needs are, monitoring the usage through the license pool and what the usages are. There have been discussions with David Blocher about what the possible scenarios are for funding
The GeoLibrary Board has stated that they think the GeoLibrary Board and the GIS Executive Council would benefit from working more closely together. There seems to be a lot of redundancy. Members of the GeoLibrary Board have been invited to attend the meetings of the GIS Executive Council. Two members are attending this meeting. We want to try to maximize our resources, since the Committee’s themselves have such limited resources, and the overall money for GIS is very limited. We want to try to work together as much as we can. We have also brought in the University of Maine System (UMS), Matthew Bampton is here representing UMS to try to also leverage their resources.
It has been clear since last fall that would be some consolidation, integration, and reorganization of enterprise applications, of which GIS is one. The sooner we figure out what our needs are the more we will be able to work with CIO’s office and those that are working with Dick Thompson. We need to be able to say, this is what we know about what our needs currently and our future needs, in hopes that we can influence the decisions on the future direction of GIS. We have some time to get this done since applications appear to be the last area of IT that will be reorganized.
The GIS Executive Council is very concerned that there are two processes going on that are not going to convert. One is our very careful and thoughtful strategic plan process here, and another one is this OIT reorganization that is being done, something is happening, there is no question about that, and some thought is being given to which positions will be moved to OIT. It seems that all staff who are IT professionals will be moved over to the Office of Information Technology. The OIT plan and the GIS Executive Council Strategic may miss each other since we think that OIT has made plans to be implemented by July 1.
It is very important that the GIS Executive Council have a list for each Agency that specifies the Job classifications that use GIS, and the number of staff in each of these classifications. This will enable the Council to communicate to the CIO that most of the GIS usage is by none IT staff. This will also assist the Council in making the case that a person using GIS in one agency is not able to be provide GIS services to another agency, for example, a hydrologist using GIS at MDEP cannot provide the services to MDOT that an road design engineer using GIS provides.
It is unfortunate that we have such a small representation of the membership of this Council here today and that has been a real problem for the last several months. Matthew and I have been struggling to write this plan pretty much by ourselves because there has been a real lack of other agencies that are available and willing to put time into it. The further along we can get in documenting the needs of all members of the GIS Executive Council the better we can communicate this to OIT. While we still will not know what the outcome it going to be, Dick Thompson will listen. I don’t think he is going to make decisions that are going to be extremely disruptive to our agencies. I think there is going to be some rocky places, there is going to be some times perhaps when things don’t go exactly they way we want. While I encourage you to put your concerns in writing and send them to Dick Thompson, I also think it is critical that to have a single document that contains that needs of the agencies. Some agencies will have their concerns sent to Dick Thompson from their Commissioner. That’s very good idea and anyone else I would encourage you to do the same thing. To some extent it’s hard to have concerns because we have no information to base them on. What you can say is that; I would word it very clearly, I would not state that the agency has GIS people that are biologists, geologists, planners, etc, I would state that we have a lot of biologists, geologists, planners, etc that use GIS and you want to make sure that these staff continue to have access to the GIS tools and services that they need and that they are able to stay in your agency because they need to be there. I think that Dick Thompson is going to be respectful of that.
On the issue of the GIS Strategic Plan the intention is not to go into this plan in detail at this meeting. The most important thing is that the more we can document what our needs are and what our concerns are the greater our chances are of having those needs met. Having a good plan will increase the chances of being able to implement the plan. The Strategic plan at this point in time is very in-complete; because something is not in here do not assume that it’s not important. Members of the Council need to review the strategic plan send in any comments or concerns that you have to Christopher and Matthew.
There is an opening on the GeoLibrary Board for a state representative, for a state agency representative and it would be very helpful to get that filled as soon as we can. The GeoLibrary Board would like to have that filled as soon as possible. Elizabeth Hertz is currently on the Board representing state agencies, and there is an opening for an additional state agency representative. . Dave Blocker is representing the CIO’s office. Let the record reflect that the GIS Executive Council has agreed to send forth a nomination for Christopher Kroot to serve on the State GeoLibrary Board.
Next Jim Page discussed The GeoLibrary Board.
The GeoLibrary Board wants very much to work collaboratively with the GIS Executive Council and try to see if we can come to some common visions about where they are going and where we are going to try to share resources. There is a lot of commonality; one major area is that we both have a very common problem and that is the lack of resources. There may be a lot of opportunities to share operational resources that we are currently using now, this in part may be able to implement some of the visions that the GeoLibrary Board has. It is important to continue to have members of the GeoLibrary Board attend meetings of the GIS Executive Council.
Elizabeth Hertz has been designated to serve as the sort of meeting by meeting liaison between the GIS Executive Council and the GeoLibrary Board. Marilyn Lutz and Jim Page attended today’ meeting to learn about the strategic plan and to see how the councils activities fit in with the GeoLibrary Board, and to introducing themselves. They are specifically looking for areas where we can cooperate and especially areas where we can with respect to funding resources; but also that we don’t trip over each other’s feet in talking to our common constituents. Which is always a problem they are never happy about, especially when it comes to funding.
Working collaboratively with the GeoLibrary Board is very high on the Councils agenda; a nomination has been made for the opening for a state agency representative; the next item is discussing how we can work more closely together.
The GeoLibrary Board is a creature of the Legislature; it receives its mandates, its directions and its limits by legislation and the interpretation of that legislation. It has emerged over the last couple of years to as an interface between the State and the various other stakeholders with GIS; major stakeholders throughout the State. So for example one area that obviously you folks are reaching out to the University System; we have a University representative who is in fact Marilyn. We want to make sure that what Marilyn and Matthew are doing is coordinated, and not all of a sudden showing up at the Chancellor’s Office one day with one plan and in the afternoon with another.
The GeoLibrary Board has been positioning ourselves, as you know, we were fortunate to receive bond funding a couple of years back 2002; about 2.3 million and with matches we have managed to stretch that out somewhere between 5 and 6 million. We have positioned ourselves this year to pursue both the Legislative and bond agenda but political realities are such that that’s really not going; that’s not very feasible for 2006. It’s very unlikely it will be feasible in 2006 given our meetings with the Governor’s people and legislatures. So we are really doing early work now and I hope we are doing a reasonable job in setting ourselves up for the earliest possible bond offers – that’s our major focus. We have a list of projects that we have prioritized (10) to bring under that.
It would be helpful to send this list of projects to Christopher Kroot and Matthew Bampton so they can circulate it to all the members of the GIS Executive Council.
The GeoLibrary Board also has had opportunities to pursue legislative bills for dedicated funding support; you all know what the odds of that passing are. But we have had a couple of champions in the legislature and while we regard that as a long short it is not something we are entirely giving up on. So we are pursuing a number of projects; the portal is one; we are going to be in discussion with USGS on representing the State on the 50 State Initiative which you are familiar with that; we are looking to take; because of our board variety of stakeholders and what we believe can be politically effective for that and hopefully so, I am taking the lead for bond or legislative funding and that’s the primary issues.
The other piece is, in addition to carrying out these projects and acting as a center piece for coordination at the state level is working on acceptable statewide data standards, and an initial project in this area was the development of standards for parcel automation. The Geolibrary Board provided grants to municipalities for parcel automation, the data has been included into the GeoLibrary. The GeoLibrary Board is now part of the State process looking at a number of other areas to coordinate the development of standards and the acquisition and/or automation of data. All of these items overlap with the concerns and objectives of the GIS Executive Council. We all know the political and financial challenges; the closer we can work together on this the more we increase the odds of getting the resources required.
The political advantage the GeoLibrary Board brings to the table such as it is, there are real estate interests; there are private GIS vendor interests; Univ. of Maine, State agencies; there are municipalities. No one can than say, oh that’s just the University wanting something more, or that’s just a state agency wanting something more. When we can get the whole group together and arrive with a common message we can be pretty effective.
The GeoLibrary Board has awarded a contract for the development of a Geospatial Portal which is under construction now, and I think it is scheduled for completion in May, 2006.
The next item on the agenda I just want to mention that it came up at the last GeoLibrary Board meeting that I was at; there are some members of their Committee are very interested in trying to pursue a statewide GIS infrastructure that would include the public and academia and environmental groups and people outside of just the state or the Univ. of Maine System. There really hasn’t been a lot of exploration of how to do that; or exactly what that would look like; but more at the stage of saying that it might be worthwhile to explore those possibilities. That the technology that exists may provide some opportunities to realize that and so that’s what that bullet item is about. I don’t think we need to take a lot of time to discuss that now unless someone has some burning comments. I just basically wanted to put that out there for people to be thinking about.
Dan Walters and staff at the PUC have collaborated on a choice of a vendor to assist us with developing an IMS project that involves securing data obtained from utilities so that we can use it in-house and various other locations on the state web. Some of that same information, the public part, serve to the public. We had two very good proposals. It was difficult to review but a vendor was selected. We are ready to launch things, but are on temporary hold, in part because the contract is either bogged down or stuck somewhere.
Anything from the Technical Committee?
Blue Marble did a presentation on some of there products for about an hour. One of the interesting things is that they do a provide a class; they teach about projections, datum’s, and other stuff. A lot of GIS users could benefit from this type of class. There are some members of the GIS Executive Council that are interested in the class. One of the things Blue marble is trying to gage is the level of interest in teaching something like that. If there is enough interest within the state they have the ability to teach a class for approximately $500.00 per person.
The University of Maine System has a professor Joe Sukaskas who has a PHD in Geodetic Science. The GIS Executive Council may want to explore the possibility of looking at some of the resources within the UMS campus consortium for GIS classes. I’m sure that Joe at UMA could deliver a splendid product.
It would be good if I could sit down with you Joe and explore what you think might be the rough agenda or an outline for a class. Than we could circulate that to the Executive Council and see what they think about that and what the cost would be. Than we could compare that to Blue Marble’s offering. Certainly money is a factor. If we can come in with something that’s going to save us money than that would certainly be important as long as we don’t have to sacrifice the content.
One thing that we have spent a little bit of time working on very recently in some of this draft for strategic planning is the notion of developing resources in-house GIS training. The idea of customizing training for state needs is perhaps valuable because of experience of the consortium of 6 UMS campuses ( UMA, UMF, UMFK, UMM, UMPI, USM). This consortium has a entire GIS curriculum that contains many classes that could be modified for State needs. The Consortium has campuses scattered throughout the state which would provide access to state employees. The idea of actually increasing the reach of any training that we prepare outwards meets other parts of the state, communities or constituencies that have a hard time traveling to a given location. The consortium is willing to talk about and think about trying to leverage more bang for the buck by using in-house resources.
Have there been any significant changes in the pool of licensing? Pretty much the same, ArcView licenses are being under utilized; ArcInfo we have some extra licenses, Extensions we are maxed out on.
Two companies provided demonstrations on internet mapping software.
ESRI presented a demo on ArcServer
Orion Technologies presented a demo on Onpoint software.
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