Making GIS Analyses Measurable
This episode tells the story of ChronoCards – what it is and how its business case was built. Interestingly, its founder is both a self-taught software engineer and a business person. He reveals what worked for him when starting ChronoCards and some invaluable lessons he has picked up along the way – including he deals with uncertainty.
About The Guest
The guest on this show is Mike Davlantes, the founder of ChronoCards. He is a GIS Analyst, a self-taught software developer, and a business person. His motivation to learn software development came from an urge to automate repetitive steps while performing GIS tasks. Mike didn’t want to keep clicking the same buttons over and over again while doing GIS. Later, he transformed his newly acquired skills to business – helping companies to develop geospatial software, freelancing, and consulting.
What Is ChronoCards?
ChronoCards was developed to help in managing GIS teams better. It is a cloud-based platform that provides activity logs, workflow documentation, and reporting tools for ArcGIS Pro. Similar to GitHub which logs and documents the activities of software engineers, ChronoCards logs and documents GIS analyses procedures allowing companies to retain geoprocessing workflows for later reference. With ChronoCards, teams can reconstruct the exact steps of how a task was done even if the particular person that did that task is not available.
How Does ChronoCards Compare To APRX Files History?
We know that geoprocessing history can be obtained from the aprx file of an ArcGIS Pro project. But the big challenge is that there could be thousands of operations to scroll through while trying to find the relevant geoprocessing pieces that you need.
Even after you find these pieces, it is still difficult to recreate a geospatial analysis if the exact steps were not recorded procedurally. ChronoCards solves this problem by adding context to the geoprocessing history.
In ChronoCards, you can filter the history logs by person who performed the analysis, and as well pick out just the time period that you know it was when they were performing a certain task. You can also filter down to the exact layers of a project and see the operations that were done on those layers. With these ways to filter the geoprocessing history, finding the relevant steps is easier and faster.
You will not be stuck scrolling through thousands of geoprocessing history. Rather, you can instantly pull the exact steps of performing a task, see what the inputs and outputs were, and the geoprocessing tools that were used.
Building Workflows with ChronoCards
Documenting workflows retains institutional knowledge that can be used as a company’s standard operating procedure.
Documented workflows contain all the steps for performing a task. People of varying expertise can use these workflows without the need of having to understand all the exact pieces that went into them. Onboarding new employees is also easier when there is a recorded workflow that can be used as a training document.
How Does ChronoCards Support Collaboration among Analysts?
Today, a substantial amount of GIS collaboration happens remotely. But even for the teams that work on-site, there is often a need to communicate the progress of a task among team members.
Usually, teams would have to await a response from the responsible team member. If the member is unable to respond due to whatever reason, it could mean stalling the progress on a project especially if that information is needed before the next part can begin.
In ChronoCards, this information is readily available on the web dashboard. Every team member can see what their colleagues have done at any time they need that information.
How Can ChronoCards Help To Inform Management Decisions?
Quantifying the amount of work done by a GIS team in an organization is difficult. Usually, it is not until there is an end product such as a map or a dashboard that one would have something tangible to report.
ChronoCards provides a way to quantify the actual day-to-day work that is done by a GIS team in a tangible way. Senior managers can use ChronoCards reports to help inform their decisions on whether the GIS team needs extra manpower, or whether a server can handle more web services. Additionally, being able to see when a server is busiest helps in managing downtime especially when maintenance or upgrades are required.
Uncertainty in Running a Business
People like to be in control. But there are things that are beyond our control, which invite a lot of uncertainty.
Running your own business comes with having to deal with a lot of uncertainty. As the founder of ChronoCards puts it,
“There is always a degree of uncertainty that comes with choosing not to work for someone else – and taking a paycheck”
Factors that are out of our control such as a recession or climate change further exacerbate the uncertainty that a business face. As a person running a business, the first step to dealing with uncertainty is to accept the reality of uncertainty – getting comfortable with the thought that things are always going to change.
The next important step is exploring ways to adapt to changes that happen. There is no one who is immune to uncertainty. Rather, successful businesses have learned to live with it by continuously adapting to change.
What Are Some Of The Things You Should Do When Starting A Business?
Starting a business could be one of the most challenging parts of running a business, especially for people who have no prior experience.
There are businesses that failed in the starting phase despite having excellent ideas. One of the pitfalls for tech businesses is creating ‘cool’ features but which are not actually drivers of revenue. A business should go for the features that customers need. One way to know this is by talking to a lot of people before deciding to build something. Getting the insights of various stakeholders may save you a lot of hours building something that people think is cool but are not really willing to spend on it. These hours can be used to create something else of a higher impact instead.
Starting to market early also leverages a business for success. If possible, marketing should begin way before a business has developed a product. It doesn’t have to be a sales pitch every time, just telling the story of your journey may do much to set the stage for business. When you eventually have a product you will already have built some credibility with the audience you are targeting.
Knowing where to find your customers and using the right language can supercharge your success in business. A B2B (Business to Business) business would not market to the same audience as a B2C (Business to Consumer) business. If you are a B2B, it is helpful to place yourself strategically where you can meet the decision-makers in the businesses you are targeting. Showcasing in the conferences they attend is a good way to meet them. Various startup programs such as the ESRI startup program allow startups to showcase their product at ESRI conferences, increasing their chances of meeting the right people.
Packaging your product differently is an extremely important skill in any business. Depending on who you are talking to the messaging you use needs to change. The language to use when presenting a product to senior management is not the same as the one to use when talking to junior employees. Using the right packaging could mean more success in your business pitches.
Finally, keep in mind that starting a business is a journey – with a lot to learn from the process. Acknowledge that you will not have everything figured out at the start, but it gets better as you learn. When faced with uncertainty, it might help to try various things in a certain direction and evaluate the results. Keep doing the things that work and they will help drive you to success.
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