It’s Time to Create a Business Solutions Group

Posted on March 16, 2017

This post is by Nick Kittle, Chief Innovation Officer and Brandi Rank, Business Solutions Administrator with Adams County, CO.

It’s time. It’s time to talk about rethinking your “GIS” team concept. You know…those “power user”, map making, app loving, information producing heroes languishing away in the bowels of your IT department or scattered like lonely tumbleweeds in the far and distant corners of your organization. It’s time to rethink the roles, the recruitment, the structure, the training and the talent. It’s time to rebrand. It’s time to rebuild. Its time for them to transition to a Business Solutions Group.

What is a Business Solutions Group? Well, we are glad you asked.

Instead of “making maps”, the Business Solutions Group focuses on process improvement, business system recommendations, support, spatial analysis and data maintenance all together.

In fact, the unique perspectives of your professionally-trained GIS staff will put innovation on the fast track.

Let us tell you a quick story to set the stage: Five years ago, the GIS employees at Adams County were underutilized and constrained. No one knew what to do with them, but as the world becomes increasingly location-based, the departmental GIS employees were always getting asked to work on small parts of projects here and there…but not always as a partner, more of an afterthought. 

Sound familiar? This translated into short deadlines for basic, typically unimaginative, one-off “map” projects and technical solutions that didn’t always meet the users need. 

It was clear this model wasn’t working, but it wasn’t until about 5 years ago where this group of disjointed departmental GIS professionals decided to join forces. It quickly became obvious that the questions being asked by individual departments were creating a pattern of need, and a pattern of opportunity, so the solution to one division’s problem could be integrated and used by another.

This allowed them to implement solutions across departments, substantially increasing their effectiveness in serving customer needs, but the team still had residual issues with department control preventing them from focusing on turning data into actionable information. The customer connection was there…maybe a little too much.

Then the county formed an Innovation office focused on performance, innovation and sustainability. So here it was. The moment and the opportunity presented itself to transition to a new paradigm. So this “GIS team” partnered with innovation to reimagine their roles and shed many of the inappropriate and sometimes cumbersome data entry and department-specific functions that plagued their time and prevented them from activating transformative projects.

By transitioning these departmental functions, such as addressing and HUTF funding reports, back to the departments, the team finally had permission and the capacity to “go do great things”, and was free from the shackles of departmental silos or Information Technology control.

They transitioned to a team that can identify and improve your processes before applying technology, then train you how to use it. They transitioned into a full-service, customer-focused, process improvement team that uses technology and geospatial data to augment the department and citizen experience.

So, what has this Business Solutions Group done in the last four years? 

  • Asset management system increased usage exponentially (over 500%) in the first year
  • Led a team to create and implement a utility billing system from the ground up
  • Won the Excellence in Operations Management award from Cartegraph for innovative Stormwater Asset mapping practices
  • Facilitated process mapping and process redesign for seven major business processes. 
    • Out of those seven, six of them have been implemented and technological changes have memorialized these innovations into the standard operating procedures of those business groups.  One of the processes showed a reduction in time from 85 days to 16 days, with a measured decrease in non-productive time from 58% to 0%
  • Primary contact for all departments for Accela, BuildingEye, Cartegraph and MapItFast applications
  • Used MapItFast to pioneer geospatial weed spraying and invoicing with Parks Department.
  • Critical role in Electronic Document Review implementation for Community and Economic Development
  • Became the first county in the country to implement easy-to-use mapping technology (BuildingEye) which has hundreds of regular users and have decreased the volume of one off requests from the public
  • Presented at five conferences at the local and regional level and all four Business Solutions Group employees have received individual accolades at the county level
  • Maintained an overall satisfaction rating of above 95% from the clients during this transition

These results are what happens when you tear down departmental silos and activate and pool your talented, but often-times forgotten, GIS professionals.

While many of you will not have an innovation office, finding and releasing these employees is one of the best moves your organization can make.

If you are interested in forming a Business Solutions Group of your own and would like to learn more about our journey and how it can work for you, reach out, because this model is wildly successful and will continue to generate next-level results for years to come. It’s time to embrace the future and shake up traditional thinking, pool your talent, and focus on delivering amazing results. It’s time to develop your organization’s Business Solutions Group.

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