GIS implementation

In “Organizational Context, Social Interpretation, and the Implementation and Consequences of Geographic Information Systems”, Sahay & Robey (1996) analyse the implementation of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technologies in two unidentified North American counties. The result of this implementation was closely to each county’s context, specifically the “structure” and the “capability”.

In the North County, the “unified structure facilitated the implementation of GIS as a distributed system because the departments shared a common mission” (266). In the South County, because of the decentralized agencies structure, the Office of Computer Services controlled the GIS and worked on a contractual basis for the users in other departments. Moreover, the users in the North County included many geographers who were used to working with spatial data. This was not the case for the Computer Services personnel in the South County. The structure and capability of the North County allowed its GIS implementation to flourish, and caused South County to falter.

Because people’s backgrounds affect how they use GIS — “People with data processing backgrounds emphasized technical standards, controls, formats, and product appearance in terms of menus and screen layouts. […] Users were more interested in the capabilities of the system to support their needs” (271) — and GIS implementations have different results depending on the context, it seems that standards are especially important. Is it possible that the different counties could yield such different data that they would be incompatible?

Given that this article was written 18 years ago, I wonder how GIS implementation has changed. With the average person becoming more tech-savvy and commercial GIS package being more use-friendly, are GIS implementations easier to carry out? Do the same factors still affect the implementation?


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