GEOG 871
Geospatial Technology Project Management

Strategic Planning


Strategic Planning

Before we begin discussing what the scope of a project is and why it's important, let's discuss how an organization may identify potential projects.

In the previous lesson, we discussed the mission statement, which can be thought of as the reason an organization is in business. Some government, non-profit, and private-sector organizations have both a mission statement and a formal "vision statement". Think of the vision statement as a description of the nature, characteristics, or "personality" of the organization--what it is now or what it strives to be in the future. The Mission statement complements the Vision by saying how the organization will sustain or realize that vision in the future.  It also quite common for an organization to include a set of high-level goals to augment and elaborate on the mission and/or vision--usually about 5 to 10 concise, future-orientated statements that serve to guide and direct the organization's work.

The strategic plan addresses long-term objectives of an organization and ties the organization's mission to its business requirements. Organizations may have a strategic plan which directs activities for the entire organization, but there are often strategic plans that provide a long-term picture and direction for major IT or GIS initiatives as well (e.g., full development of a multi-departmental enterprise GIS program for a large city government). The specific format and length of strategic plans vary considerably, but good ones include the following "strategic foundation" components, including:

  • identification of internal and external stakeholders
  • context—the organization’s mission and goals
  • critical success factors (technical, organizational, or financial variables and requirements with major influence on plan acceptance and accomplishment, e.g., staff skills, senior management support, continued funding)
  • mission statement (and sometimes an accompanying vision statement)
  • high-level goals--referring to a range of technical and organizational development areas that can be addressed by projects

Some strategic plans are more detailed, containing additional information on high-level work initiatives, schedule, cost projections, and a business case which financially justifies the allocation of resources to do the work. A well-crafted strategic plan provides a clear basis for specific projects that are carried out to meet stated goals and to keep project work on track. The strategic plan is also an effective tool to communicate with and engage stakeholders, senior management, and external organizations, the long-term purpose of project work.

Take a look at the following excerpted GIS strategic plan for the City of Rio Rancho, NM. The purpose of this plan was to provide high-level direction for a major citywide enterprise GIS development--which encompassed a range of technical and non-technical project activities. This strategic plan shows how to tie the organization's strategic direction with this major GIS development effort.

As discussed briefly by Schwalbe (subsection 4.2) and Croswell (subsection 2.5.2), there are different methodologies for evaluating current status of GIS in and organization and capturing information useful in strategic planning, One of these is "Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Challenges" (SWOC) evaluation. Note: Sometimes a "T" for "threats" replaces the "C". SWOC evaluation is an organized way to summarize essential points about current status and factors on which to focus project work. Table 3-1 shows the basic format of the SWOC matrix.

Table 3-1: Structure of a SWOC Matrix
Origin type Helpful/Favorable Harmful/Unfavorable
Internal Origin STRENGTHS
(e.g., existing system infrastructure, active user community, staff expertise, training/education resources, sustained funding sources)
(e.g., system functionality or capacity problems, management or staff skill limitations, organizational coordination barriers)
(e.g., external partner participation, outside funding sources, new technology products)
(e.g., pace of technology changes, contractor performance problems, maintaining senior management support, interorganizational coordination)

An actual example of a SWOC matrix for a GIS program, is shown in Table 3-2. This was one output from a GIS needs assessment--for development of a campus-wide GIS program in a mid-size University (to map and manage buildings, utilities, roads, parking, etc.).

Table 3-2: Example of SWOC Matrix from GIS Needs Assessment Project
Positive Factors Unfavorable Factors
  • Existing GIS database and procedures put in place for high-quality GIS database capture and update.
  • Qualified GIS staff in place.
  • GIS program in Dept. of Geography and Geology supports GIS efforts and provides qualified interns for the university's property management and facilities management divisions
  • University enterprise GIS software from Esri provides low cost access to a full range of software.
  • Well-managed IT infrastructure and technical support provides the foundation for robust enterprise GIS.
  • Robust wireless communications provide the basis for field-based applications.
  • Document archives with engineering drawings are well organized--eases task of scanning and indexing.
  • Well-managed, automated asset management system and process--including comprehensive inventory of facilities and assets.
  • Good support from senior management.
  • Office space limitations may present a barrier to expansion of GIS program.
  • No current standards or requirements for contractor submittal of plan/as-built drawings in digital form.
  • Expansion of GIS and document management technology will require additional funding not currently allocated.
  • Workflow and responsibilities for updating GIS database and drawings based on field repair and maintenance activities.
  • GIS geodatabase design and architecture needs some modifications to fully support required applications.
  • Some valuable data is stored on individual spreadsheets or other forms without enterprise access.
  • Advances in GIS and document management technology provide continuing opportunities for new applications.
  • Plans for university growth is excellent basis for expanded use of GIS.
  • Substantial future benefits from expanded GIS use in facilities management, property management, campus safety.
  • Potential applications and benefits for GIS and document technology for a wide range of many additional business areas
  • Reduction in time spent identifying and assessing documents.
  • Web-based applications provide a platform for access to GIS and document management tools, in an easy-to-use interface, for an expanded community of users.
  • Rapidly changing and evolving technology--challenge to adapt and manage.
  • Demand for student interns, with necessary GIS skills, may exceed supply.
  • Providing greater understanding of GIS and training for expanding user base.
  • Full compilation of GIS database for all underground utilities is difficult--source document problems (especially gas and communication lines).
  • Current GIS database design will require modification to support system integration and full range of applications.
  • There is need for a more detailed examination of hard copy plans and as-built drawings to determine specifically which ones require scanning and indexing.