Over 200,000 organizations use GIS technologies and worldwide revenues are predicted to be worth more than $3.6 billion in 2006, up from $2.8 billion in 2004 (Daratech, 2005). We find GIS installations that range from rather small, isolated desktop mapping applications to highly sophisticated enterprise-wide information systems. Of the many benefits to embedding GIS across an organisation the most apparent are less duplication of effort, improved access to data, greater sharing of experience, and adopting common technology standards and new working practices. An IS/IT strategy, therefore, must extend beyond the technology and data and for many the biggest challenge is the organisational changes - structural and cultural - required to secure key benefits.

Because structural and cultural changes impact on employees and salary costs are the largest expense of most organisations operating in the knowledge economy it is important that you understand something of the people involved in the GI industry. You may be surprised to learn that the highly trained professionals who design and develop solutions represent less than one percent of the workforce. David Maguire of ESRI estimates that for every one of these there are perhaps 10 experienced GIS analysts who create sophisticated maps and write specialist reports and 100 end-users who consume geographical information as part of their job. Furthermore, as the effort required to create and maintain data is reduced and as more powerful and ubiquitous networks open up access to new groups we might soon see 1000 end-users for every 10 analysts or 1 professional.

In this topic we will take a closer look at the changing nature of GIS, the organisational context and the professional status of people in the industry. We start, however, by reminding ourselves that everything we do with GIS requires us to apply knowledge from other domains.


Daratech, 2005. Geospatial Markets and Opportunities. Cambridge, MA: Daratech Inc.