Who will make the cut for your next GIS project team?

October 2009 » Columns » CE + GIS INTERSECT
Gordon Rose, P.E.,

Civil engineer’s perspective
Rose: My first thought as to who will make the cut is that it depends on what you are trying to achieve with your project. If this is a stormwater project, then select an engineer with experience in stormwater who knows the type of data that will be needed in the analysis. This could include soil classifications, impervious area, topography, and the existing stormwater infrastructure.

Or is this an analysis of a sewershed for a proposed sanitary sewer outfall? If so, then data is needed on the potential for development within the project area. How much wastewater will be generated in this area within a given time frame? An engineer with experience in wastewater collection and treatment would understand the types of information needed.

If a developer is looking for a site to locate an upscale shopping center, then demographics of the area are more important. How many people live within a given distance? What is their income level? Where are the key transportation corridors? Including a good planner on the team who knows the types of questions to ask and the type of data needed is vital.

Having the right engineer or planner to identify the needs of the project and the client is key. Then the GIS team can identify the correct skills to meet those needs. If the project is data intensive, a database manager would be a huge asset. If presentation and graphics will be key components, then those skills should be identified early on. GIS can be invaluable not only in analyzing multiple sets of data, but also in making it presentable and understandable to the client.

Team members should be chosen for how they meet the needs of the client. Having the right mix can help make the project, and your client, successful. If you do it right, you might even make money at it!

GIS perspective
Jackson: There is no better time than now to re-think how you are using your resources — all of them! Thinking creatively about how to stretch the dollar and shrink your project schedule to maximize profits includes building and sustaining creative project teams.

Your next engineering project might be just the perfect place to start. More and more engineering applications require underlying mapping for time-saving project coordination. Keeping your client’s involvement focused with important project details will be easier if your interim deliverables show the benefits of continued data analysis from project beginning to end.

So what formula of experience, skills, and relationships should you look for when building your next project team? Start by understanding that GIS is a combined-science software program that depends heavily on database management, information technology, graphics, and the basic principles of mapping (coordinate geometry). Next, consider what specific engineering applications you need to meet your client’s expectations. Are you creating or delineating watersheds? Will you be displaying contours draped over aerial photography to create a real-world image of the land? Do you need to show specific soil types in a section of undeveloped land?

When you have chosen your engineer (depending on the core competencies needed), your next step is to add GIS professionals whose experience matches your project’s mapping guidelines. Including a database manager to the team might save you hours of tedious and costly quality assurance and quality control. Adding a graphic designer or GISer with design experience may improve the look of the data or maps and help create a better project deliverable. You might be surprised to know that clients don’t always see the final product the same as the technical engineer.

The right mix of skills, experience, and professional personality on your next team might create the memorable and lasting positive impressions that your client needs to keep you busy project after project.

 
Gordon Rose, P.E., senior project manager at McKim & Creed, has 30 years’ experience in water distribution, wastewater collection and treatment, stormwater management, and planning.

Janet Jackson, GISP, heads McKim & Creed’s GIS activities company-wide. McKim & Creed is an engineering, surveying, and planning firm.

Contact Rose and Jackson at intersect@mckimcreed.com.

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