UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Organisational issues in the implementation of municipal geographic information systems Shapira, Daṿid


GIS represents new ways of collecting, storing, managing, analysing and presenting spatial information related to urban planning. Manual procedures that took hours or even days to complete can now be undertaken in often a fraction of the time. As well, GIS offers planners the opportunity to ask questions and investigate spatial phenomena in ways unheard of in the past. Many of the benefits that GIS holds for the planning field have been recognised. These include the ability to query spatial databases and overlay different types of cartographic information. On a broader scale, GIS allows planners to share information, resulting in reduced duplication, waste and redundancy. These are only a few of the advantages that GIS represents for planners. Ironically, the adoption and acceptance of such systems by planning agencies has not always been wholehearted. Because the technological issues behind the operation of GIS are often quite complex, its functions and capabilities are seldom correctly perceived. Many misunderstandings persist among planners and municipal officials about the capabilities of GIS. There are a great many obstacles to the proper implementation and adoption of a municipal GIS. Technical problems can exist throughout the process, but can usually be surmounted given proper equipment and effective technical support. Still, a vast array of managerial and personnel issues have the capacity to affect the success of a GIS implementation scheme: lack of management commitment, ineffective user training, lack of expertise and awareness of GIS capabilities, and an unmotivated staff. The fact that planning processes operate on a level that tends to be less concrete and dichotomous than GIS can also affect its use and acceptance among planners. This thesis examines some of the key issues raised by the obstacles to GIS implementation, and seeks to underscore the critical nature of those obstacles that are organisational in nature. The main findings of this research can be summarised by three categories of critical issues: (1) organisational issues—solving organisational challenges requires a deeper understanding of how the introduction of technological innovations will affect workflow processes, departmental relations and organisational hierarchy; (2) educational issues—end users and managers require a heightened awareness of geography and the true capabilities of GIS in order to use these systems to their fullest potential; (3) political issues—GIS challenges existing organisational structures by empowering those who can operate GISs and allowing them access to a multitude of information.

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