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Project Management/GIS Integration

This section describes how Expert land trust users can integrate GIS with a project management database

Most uses of GIS in land trusts are for support of particular projects - from property acquisition to landscape-level conservation planning. But such projects also take place within an overall organizational need for tracking performance. This leads to two important needs: systems for managing individual GIS projects, and systems that feed into overall organizational management.  LEARN MORE about file structure and GIS project set up...

Project Tracking

GIS projects need two kinds of management - information about what is being done in the GIS and information about how the overall project workflow is proceeding. Information about a project generally involves documentation of data and documentation of how GIS project files are developed and used. For the former, ESRI GIS software users have access to the ArcCatalog component of ArcGIS, which allows the viewing and entry of metadata, along with other functions.  For tracking how a GIS project has developed (e.g., the ArcGIS .mxd file), the choices are more limited - either use a text based system (e.g. word processing documents describing each project), or develop a custom database application for GIS project tracking (at right is an example of such an application).

Information about workflow is often tracked in spreadsheets, time accounting software, or occasionally in full-fledged project management software (such as Microsoft Project). These identify tasks, time required, costs of items and time, and then allow you to generate management reports to ensure the project stays on track - however, these applications are usually more robust than needed for most land trusts (though useful for very large trusts).

Project Management/GIS Integration

A GIS can be used to generate very important information for tracking work and accomplishments. But it needs to be paired with other database software to be effective in project tracking and reporting.

One approach is to custom-design a project management database application, importing into it GIS data that will support queries and reports. For example, The Bay Area Ridge Trail Council in the San Francisco region commissioned the non-profit GIS group GreenInfo Network to develop an application using FileMaker software that enables its staff to log information on their progress in completing each of several dozen "gaps" in the 500 mile trail (sections not yet complete). Each of these gaps is defined in the GIS according to several variables (public/private, type of trail, etc.), all of which are imported into the database which also has entries for progress, major milestones, target dates, funding, etc. The database reports provide a powerful management tool to ensure that proposed work is systematically completed, on time and on budget.

The database is also used to generate reports for the entire trail, describing a variety of metrics, such as trail length and status in each county, lengths in each legislator's district, etc. 

The advantage of this approach is the user-friendly customization in the database application -- the disadvantage is the need to periodically import GIS data to refresh the application dataset.

It is possible to use ArcGIS to develop database reporting as well, by using the "geodatabase" feature.  This data framework uses a Microsoft Access database to manage GIS data - Access can be programmed for reporting or other related data entry.  While Access is quite powerful, many non-profits may be challenged in programming its interface and queries.

In both of these cases, working with a database consultant may be the best approach, as database application design can be very challenging. 

Regardless of the path taken, a carefully designed database can make your GIS far more effective than if used alone. For funders, trustees, other staff, and even the public, the ability to quickly present numerical data paired with rankings and other information can greatly improve your image and your effectiveness.

© Land Trust GIS 2006