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WhiteStar Navigator

Twenty Years an Esri Partner

Selina Sandoval

WhiteStar recently marked twenty years as an Esri Business Partner. We had the opportunity to have breakfast and chat with Jack Dangermond, the billionaire, philanthropist CEO and owner of Esri at the recent Business Partner Conference.  Dangermond has strongly supported his business partners - Esri provides the software tools and we provide the domain expertise and customization to make both of us successful. 

This anniversary represents a tremendous milestone for WhiteStar and our customers as Esri offers us a common set of tools.  As an Esri partner, we have access to all of the latest and greatest innovations and can develop software and data to meet customer needs.   Esri notably invests hundreds of millions of dollars every year evolving its flagship ArcGIS line of products - from the desktop to the enterprise to the Internet. 
Dangermond often emphasizes the need to be a “node in your network.”  I credit much of WhiteStar’s success to that idea, that we are all interconnected and can meet and serve each other’s needs if we only reach out to one another.  Having a common software platform helps enormously. 

Partnering with Esri enables WhiteStar to develop a rich and full featured set of curated data libraries for use by our customers.   We use Esri tools in-house to build data to the highest possible quality standards and with full topology.  Esri’s vast installed base then allows us to seamlessly market our data to thousands of customers around the USA and Canada.  

The tight integration between our data and their software provides an excellent user experience for our customers who in turn can then add their own data layers, integrations, and applications. 

In those early, heady days of GIS, the Esri User Conference was an energetic event held at a central hotel in Palm Springs. The group then numbered several hundred enthusiastic power users. Twenty years of interaction with those GIS leaders has driven an incredible amount of worldwide change, and today that group fills the entire San Diego Convention Center and numbers more than 15,000 attendees. It’s an extraordinary testament to the power and longevity of GIS.

WhiteStar VP of Sales, Adam Cordova, Esri CEO, Jack Dangermond, Whitestar CEO, Robert C. White Jr.

WhiteStar VP of Sales, Adam Cordova, Esri CEO, Jack Dangermond, Whitestar CEO, Robert C. White Jr.

Building a Business Case for GIS Data

Selina Sandoval

Every year WhiteStar hosts one-hour breakfast sessions in six cities in Colorado, Texas, and Oklahoma. This year’s theme was, “Building a Business Case for GIS Data Investments.”  

Commonly, customers must show the financial impacts of a contemplated asset purchase to upper management, taking ROI and Internal Rates of Return into consideration as well as other specific business benefits.

Customers customarily evaluate the total cost of software and business services, but seldom give any thought to evaluating data in the same way. These costs can easily amount to several hundred thousand dollars per year for a relatively small area and ultimately represents 80% or more of the cost of your GIS implementation. Why have data expenses been ignored? 

It’s likely that a land software vendor is your first point of contact deploying GIS in your organization.  Since they want all of your budget, they often obscure or minimize the cost of data. It’s a bit of a shell game, they hope you won’t notice, and further hope you can build your critical projects with some scrapings from the Internet.  We think customers will come to distrust vendors in the long term as they purposefully concealed a major cost center.

We find it best to address all costs and processes in an upfront manner. WhiteStar provides a variety of tools to help you do this on the data side, particularly if you are contemplating downloading and maintaining “free” data. The costs for even a state area can exceed several hundred thousand dollars per year in an organization not geared towards creating and maintaining GIS efforts.  

If you are purchasing competitive data from another vendor, then it makes sense to truly compare quality and not just prices as is the naive approach.  We would say that more than 25% of the time, customers expend large amounts of time and resources before returning to WhiteStar to obtain curated, updated, accurate, and maintained data staffed by knowledgeable professionals who are willing to answer the phone and research your questions.

Our website has a variety of spreadsheets to help you build business cases for data such as ROI - Return on Investment.  The WhiteStar Grid Spreadsheet  example is a project spreadsheet showing the costs for building high quality data from raw BLM data. (Some software vendors will suggest you use the raw BLM data for projects, but we strongly suggest otherwise.) You will want to plug in your own numbers, to show your own internal scenarios which are available from in-house cost accountants or your own experience.  

We suggest using these tools to build a solid case for investing in data licenses with a schedule for establishing a projected Internal Rate of Return for presentation to management of an overall business case.

MAPPS: Geospatial Legislation and You

Selina Sandoval

WhiteStar is a long standing member of the only national association of firms in the surveying, spatial data and geographic information systems field in the United States - MAPPS. The group is bipartisan, and meets formally twice each calendar year to discuss legislation having an impact on mapping and mapping programs in the US.  We just held our winter meeting in Tampa.  The organization’s leadership works full time between meetings on issues guided by the MAPPS board of directors and members.   National parcel mapping, cadastral mapping, lidar, 3D Elevation data (3-DEP) and geological mapping (and its associated funding or lack thereof) are a few of the topics of interest to industry, WhiteStar and its customers.  

For example, did you know that the US has no GIS database of the real estate property it owns?  Without such information, every agency from the Post Office to Defense to the USGS and BLM in the Department of Interior have literally no idea of the precise properties each owns, whether it makes financial sense to own them, or if they’re duplicative of other facilities.  Some baby steps were taken in the last Congress towards with the passage into law of H.R. 6451 and 4465 strengthen the Federal Real Property Council to identify properties for collocation opportunities and a Public Buildings Reform Board to identify properties for disposal.  These were signed into law by President Obama in December, 2016. 

For the past several Congresses, MAPPS and its members have been working for the passage of the Federal Land Asset Inventory Reform (FLAIR) Act.  The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has repeatedly (108th-115th Congresses) designated "Managing Federal Real Property" one of the high-risk areas within the Federal government most prone to waste, fraud and abuse.  Senator Murkowski (R-AK) introduced the last incarnation of the FLAIR Act, and included it in the energy bill that passed the Senate, but unfortunately time ran out at the end of the session for House and Senate conferees to agree on an energy package.  We expect the bill will be reintroduced, and we are particularly fond of the strong GIS language in the last version and hope to see that again.

There is also no nationally coordinated parcel dataset for the USA.  It is a national disgrace that such a dataset does not exist to support infrastructure, emergencies, disasters and other applications. One wonders how FEMA can fulfill its mandate at all, and we all know what a failure the National Flood Insurance Program has been without proper maps and data.  WhiteStar has a team of people actively culling and obtaining parcel data from every available county in the United States.

In March, MAPPS members including yours truly will go to Capitol Hill in Washington, DC to work with Senators and Representatives to garner support for important initiatives that the MAPPS Board of Directors has identified such as the FLAIR act and the National Parcel Dataset Initiative.  We hope that the new administration will listen more earnestly to arguments about waste reduction and efficiency improvements.  

Recently I was appointed the chairman of the MAPPS Cadastre Task Force, so I am actively seeking your input on what you think is important for the health of your business in the current session of Congress.   

"From oil and gas well location surveys to topography, boundaries to pipelines, remote sensing, LiDAR data, digital imagery, and hyperspectral data to support oil and gas exploration, development, decommissioning and monitoring projects, MAPPS has been in the forefront of utilization of geospatial technologies, sound energy and infrastructure policy, and the need for a current, accurate inventory of government-owned land and buildings."

                    John Palatiello - MAPPS Executive Director