There really was a mountain to climb

When we were approached to look at a client’s geospatial service, we took a business-first approach to the problem. The consumers were getting a less than poor quality service. The maps were good, but the time it was taking was frustrating and the variety was sparse. Due to this lack of performance, consumers were resigned to not bothering to ask for new product.

As a result, there were parts of the business that were suffering. Users had taken to going out into car parks with smart phones and using on-line services, then coming back into the office with the results. It was probably one of the most frustrating processes we had seen.

After speaking to the users, our attention turned to the processes. It turned out no one had visited the process for about a decade. Sourcing map data was literally down to motorcycle couriers picking up DVDs, and bringing them in. Collection from goods-in could take a few days.

Finally we looked at the technology. It appeared it was reasonably up to date, although it was again the processes that were letting it down. Data for creating maps was put through one system, then another, then finally copied over to the users. This took months to process, the process irritated by low-performing infrastructure.

Working out the Best Solution

The whole service was in need of a new approach. We decided to start again with the process, technology, and data – essentially the whole service was to be re-designed from the bottom up. Starting with the processes, we had to work out better ways of getting map data in. Larger collections, such as Ordnance Survey presented a challenge, but some of the more specialised data were a lot smaller. A catalogue was needed. Customer engagement was totally missing and was progress updates. 

The department was small, although made up of very enthusiastic people. However, all customer relations, map creation, error correction, quality control, and basically everything was done by one very knowledgeable but over stretched team member. We had to look to change this too.

As for the technology, advances in storage and computer meant the ageing systems hadn’t kept up. Old practices with old technology slowed the process down overall. Again, something else we needed to look at.

Deciding to change the customer relations, processes, import, data, systems, and applications, we drew up a plan to turn this into a state of the art service.

The plan was ambitious

We knew immediately the plan had to be ambitious to be delivered on time and on budget. We began by working out where the service will fit within the business architecture, as it was currently part of another system, and we wanted it to be a product in its own right. At the same time, the vendor was engaged to come up with a technology design that will improve processing and storage performance, constrained by the client’s internal platforms.

Meanwhile, negotiations took place between the map vendors and the group involved in importing data to come up with solutions to download electronically, rather then keep bringing in DVDs. A new customer relations capability was created and responsibility shared out amongst the team. Using a newly created Geospatial Operations Guide ensured all team members could do any task relating to creating maps.

We also created presentations and other marketing materials to tell the business of the new service. In the background the vendor worked with storage engineers to create capabilities that would improve data delivery times from months to minutes.

In the meantime, the legacy map service was still running and had to be kept up to date as much as possible.

A Successful Outcome

The project was for twelve months, as we were fully aware of the sheer scale of the task. But the outcome was a revolution in the domain of geospatial. Not only was it possible to create different maps to very high resolution much quicker, but the catalogue of available maps was the largest seen in the business.

Performance for the users proved to be outstanding. Fractions of seconds instead of minutes was a big improvement.

When customers approached the service for a new map, they were pleasantly surprised when it was revealed it could be delivered in twenty-four hours. Maps not available directly, could be downloaded and created in just over two days. A massive improvement over the nine months it previously took.

While the system integrations were troublesome, we were able to develop some unique solutions to enable smooth transition to the new service.

Provantage are very proud of this achievement and enabled us to use a wide range of skills, such as service design, technology design, process modelling, customer relations development, presenting, and many others