Why is GIS still stuck in the 1990’s

When I was doing my undergraduate degree and started working as a (Geographic Information Systems) GIS professional over 20 years ago GIS was considered cutting edge across a range of industries from retail, to environmental management and defence. It drove so many issues from store location, weed management and mining analysis.

At Lend Lease back in the late 1990’s we were able to differentiate ourselves as leaders in the retail property sector because of the GIS investments and prowess particularly around trade area analysis and competitive modelling. It enabled us to have a point of difference against the larger Westfield group for leasing managers and fund managers alike.

We are now in 2015 and the best use cases of GIS are still store location, environmental location and demographic analysis. Every vendor case study I see has store location and resource management just as it was in the late 1990’s. Every user and even (sometimes with a gentle arm twist) laments the lack of progress in GIS.

The contrast to the explosive growth of other technology is overwhelming. In that time we have seen the rise of the laptop, Microsoft Office, email, the Internet, iPhones, Tablets, SaaS, Cognitive Computing yet GIS still appears to be stuck in a time warp of the 1990’s.

Even though I was primarily an Atlas GIS user, I was smart enough to realize that ESRI dominated then as it does now from an enterprise perspective; it has many challengers across the environmental, education and broader enterprise industries perspective but no-one has been able to match the depth of ESRI. For mine, that is the heart of the problem. I am a big believer that innovation comes from competition. Too many GIS markets that lack innovation, lack competitive scale from the platform, data and users and this is the central handbrake from the industry.

Of course there is Google Maps. Alongside ESRI this has been both a blessing and a curse for the industry. It has opened up location and mapping to be a central part of professional life and of course personal activities, but it has not lead to enough evolution.

Focus Point

The promise of mobility, analytics, IOT and many other facets of the Digital experience rely upon location as the central core. The location industry needs to wake up from the peak 20 years ago and help drive the relevance of GIS and location for enterprises large and small. Without it, the digital experience will not be enough.

If you require further information, please contact Phil Hassey,  Founder capioIT. capioIT is an advisory firm focused on helping organisations to understand emerging technology as the world becomes Digital. Phil may be contacted by email below,


About capioIT - Phil Hassey

capioIT is an advisory firm focused on helping organisations to understand emerging technology in emerging markets. CEO Phil Hassey established the company in 2010
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