Strategic collaborations: What to look for in GIS/engineering teaming partners

February 2012 » Columns » CE + GIS INTERSECT
Janet Jackson, GISP

Engineer's perspective
Success in partnering usually starts with a careful selection of teaming partners based on the particular needs of the client and the partner's ability to fill a void in the newly assembled project team. In the GIS world, this means seeking out teaming partners with technical talent, state-of-the-art knowledge and software, and the right project experience. Equally important is the partner's overall track record; firms need both the specific experience and a satisfied clientele list to gain the confidence of the project team and the potential client.

Don't be afraid to let the other firm take the lead. True, your firm might have extensive resources and a great reputation; however, your office might be 500 miles away from the new project location. Think about being a sub-consultant for the smaller local firm —€” the one the client is familiar with. These days, firms with local knowledge and local relationships are usually the ones that secure the opportunity. Your firm's depth and breadth can provide the manpower and resources when needed.

Don't be afraid to let the other firm take the lead.

Finally, be open to opportunities at all levels of the project. Think about the total package and think hard about who can fill the missing roles. Just like GIS, a niche field, you might need to seek out professionals in land surveying, financials, public relations, and construction services. Strategic collaboration is a winning solution for your firm and your next potential client, so choose wisely.

George Galambos, P.E., is a client services manager with CH2M HILL ( He has worked with multi-discipline/multi-firm teams on a variety of municipal engineering and planning assignments. His forte is helping clients develop and execute projects involving the planning, design, and construction of potable water and wastewater infrastructure.
Contact him at

GIS perspective
Because teams are as unique as projects, your search for teaming partners should begin by closely reviewing the project proposal to look for clues about what type of team is needed to win and do the work. If the proposal has a Criteria for Selection section and offers points for meeting specific criteria, then start building a GIS/engineering team that meets or exceeds that criteria. If the client is seeking a project team that has proven experience and expertise in the service areas described in the scope of services, then find project partners that can thoroughly describe their professional experience and expertise, including how it relates to this proposed project and how the client will benefit. Pick partners that do more than list their past work experiences; they need to be able to thoroughly describe, detail, and deliver answers about their previous experience.

Pick a partner that has a good relationship with the proposed client.

We all know that many projects are won because of a good client relationship. So if it's possible to pick a partner that has a good relationship with the proposed client (and has all of the other qualifications), then do it. Be sure to make good use of the positive client experience by including details that show the client you know how he or she likes things done.

Teaming should be a positive experience for the entire team. Remember to keep detailed notes about who, what, where, when, and why things went wrong or went right! At the project's conclusion, it might be helpful to share your notes with the entire project team and decide if teaming again is in everyone's best interest.

Janet Jackson, GISP, is president of INTERSECT (, a GIS consulting firm. She travels the country talking about the importance of intersecting GIS with other professions to create effective solutions for clients. She can be contacted at

Upcoming Events

See All Upcoming Events