Information Sharing & Priority Setting: The Rhythm of State GIS Coordination

By Molly Schar | January 7, 2019

For state Geospatial Information Officers and statewide GIS coordinators, engaging with GIS leaders is one of the biggest parts of the job. The most common mechanism is regular meetings with state agency GIS leaders, although the frequency and formality vary greatly by state.

Frank Winters, New York GIO, noted, “New York has a Geospatial Advisory Council which meets quarterly. The council has representations from every sector but is intentionally weighted to local governments. Since New York has centralized IT support, much of the engagement with agencies is done through normal IT governance.”

“In Vermont, we meet monthly. We have a charter signed by agency secretaries and we have annual business plans,” said John Adams, Director for the Vermont Center for Geographic Information. “The group includes 11 voting representatives from different agencies/departments, with more people attending depending on the agenda. Standards and policies are primarily worked out by subgroups. For the past year, we’ve been having ‘GeoEnlightenment’ sessions an hour before each meeting, which typically involves a guest speaker. These have been well received.”

“In the state of Montana, we hold monthly meetings with state agency GIS managers and leads,” explained Erin Fashoway, Montana State GIS Coordinator. “Our discussions include agency technical needs, presentations on agency’s successes and failures, Montana Spatial Data Infrastructure (MSDI) data updates, and reviewing state policy/best practices, as well as the non-technical issues such as software contracts. We are about to go through the process setting goals for the upcoming year.”

Jim Steil, Director of Mississippi Automated Resource Information System, noted that following a couple of years of dormancy, the Mississippi GIS Council is meeting on a monthly basis. “We are prioritizing projects as I meet one-on-one with council members,” he said, adding, “Both our state user group and clearinghouse hold informational meetings and maintain relationships at the managerial level.”

Similarly, the Kentucky Geographic Information Council was recently reconstituted after a three-year down period. “The council meetings are held quarterly, but the executive committee and subcommittees meet on a monthly basis,” said state GIS Operations Manager Kent Anness. Council members have the ability to affect policy and funding. The meetings are quite formal, but the subcommittee meetings are not.”

“As the enterprise GIS entity situated in Kentucky’s IT organization, we are in constant communication with the primary GIS contacts within each executive branch cabinet,” said Anness. “Coordination and ongoing communication have been key to successful service delivery.”

In Missouri, “GIS is part of our consolidated IT division, which supports 14 different state agencies. While each of the agencies has its own application development team, specialty areas like GIS are defined as functional areas and support all agencies,” explained state Director of GIS Tracy Schloss. “As part of the state’s IT structure, work is focused on support of state agencies, as opposed to GIS activities across the state with local governments.”

“Outside of the formal quarterly meetings of our state GIS board, our office coordinates a very informal bimonthly state agency GIS coordination meeting. Its purpose is primarily informational and collaborative,” said Arkansas GIS Office Deputy Director Jonathan Duran. “Anything rising to the level of policy or standards would be handled by the GIS board, where three of its 12 members represent state agencies.”

“The Texas Natural Resources Information System and the Texas Department of Information Resources created the GIS Solutions Group to help define and address GIS activities and solutions for Texas. The Group, made up of multiple state agency representatives, helps define enterprise GIS technology, infrastructure, and strategic goals needed to do state business and support emergency management functions,” noted Texas GIO Richard Wade.

“Here in Florida, we schedule big hurricanes to hit frequently - it gets everyone’s attention,” joked Richard Butgereit, former Florida Division of Emergency Management CIO. “But seriously, the most successful and sustained effort is our quarterly meetings between key agencies. Interest in various framework data layers has expanded the group over time.”

Florida GIO Ekaterina Fitos added, “As Florida does not have a GIS council, we recently developed a state GIS leadership working group to meet monthly for a couple of hours to go over enterprise level topics and assist with items like strategic planning and standards, and provide a venue for managers/key contributors to discuss items of interest.”

“In New Mexico, we have a committee under the IT department that gets together every month to share information. We have an open door policy and the meetings often have a mix of federal, local, county, academic, and tribal interest,” said Leland Pierce, Wildlife Biologist for the New Mexico Department of Game & Fish and Member of the New Mexico Geospatial Advisory Committee.