Are you working in an organisation that you feel could really benefit from GIS, but don’t know how to go about selling it to the right people? Here are a few ways that I’ve found useful for promoting GIS to the decision makers:
- KISS – The key to selling any new concept to a busy business exec is to Keep It Simple, Stupid. You might only get one shot at this, so start with a teaser. Prepare a 5 min presentation with plenty of additional material to embellish if necessary. You can always reschedule another meeting in the future, and tailor the content in response to your first. Your main aim at this stage is to get approval for further research.
- Use consumer reference points – Your manager might not know it, but he’s probably more GIS savvy than he realises. Has he ever used Google Earth? Satnav? Mobile phones? Over the last 5 years we have seen a proliferation of GIS related applications in the domestic market. From hand held devices such as GPS, mobile phones, and satnavs to desktop and online applications such as Google Earth, Twitter, or even Facebook; make the most of any examples that your audience might already be familiar with.
- Be industry relevant – Make your examples as relevant to your industry as possible. Identify the problems you see the company facing and explain how you think GIS can assist. If you’re not an expert, don’t panic, and don’t pretend to be one! There is a wealth of resources on the internet to research; all you need is a bit of free time.
- Bring everything back to the bottom line – It’s all about the bottom line! Don’t just focus on how much a system might cost to implement – balance this by illustrating the potential return on investment, e.g. through efficiency savings, improved decision making and better risk management. Esri’s own Business Benefits of GIS site is a great resource, although very detailed. You might also consider using a pre-existing strategy approach, e.g. you own organisation’s, or Exprodat’s GIS Maturity approach.
- Generate buy-in before doing demos – Demoing a system that doesn’t solve a real business need could do more harm than good and make you look technology-led. So, don’t start building flashy demos until you’re starting to get management buy-in. As you discuss the potential of GIS in your company you will probably identify priority areas where GIS can provide clear business benefits. Holding back on the technology now will help you build relevant and compelling demos later.
- Use simple tools – Having identified which area to focus your demo, you now need to select the right technology. Make your system simple enough for decision makers who don’t have time to learn complex technical applications. There are many products out there aimed specifically at entry-level users. Products like ArcGIS Server, MapIT or ArcGIS Explorer (a great free entry-level alternative) provide customisable GIS interfaces to make GIS specifically task orientated. Use these tools to demonstrate that GIS does not have to be exclusive to the specialists.
These are just a few starters to get you thinking – if you’ve been through the experience of implementing (or trying to implement) GIS in a business or organisation, please share your experiences and hints/tips here.
Posted by Tom Stephenson, GIS Technician, Exprodat.