Aberdeen map

You asked, we answered: Our GIS team on lessons learnt, web mapping and QGIS

Back at the start of the summer, we shared our story about moving to open source systems – and it received quite a response from the GIS community online! Thank you to everyone who liked, shared and commented on the article. We had a number of questions on the back of its publication here and on social media, so we thought it’d be useful to collate all our responses in the one place.

Here’s what you asked and what we answered. If your query hasn’t been tackled here, please leave us a comment below and we’ll get back to you.

Can you explain, in more detail, the process you went through?

We undertook training on Python and PostGIS via courses provided by external trainers, as well as free online and book-based learning.

We then looked at each old process individually, taking the time to fully understand each one before planning what the new process had to do. From here we wrote the new process and tested it, made changes, tested and repeated until the desired output was reached. Everything was documented internally and archived so at any future point anyone could look back and understand what had been done and why which will reduce time scales for updates in the future.

Some product outputs changed. These were discussed and agreed with the business and resulted in more complete views.

Did you have a business case for this project?

We had no official business case as such. However, some of the benefits that we wanted to achieve were to reduce our licensing costs, the time taken to produce outputs, reduction in human interaction and to align with our organisation-wide strategy of using open source whenever possible.

What lessons were learnt from moving to open source?

I think it’s fair to say that this was a bigger piece of work than we expected. The actual re-writes and upskilling were the easy parts – finding the time to do it was difficult on top of our everyday work! Understanding the previous code was also tricky. We also didn’t consider the degree of parallel running that was required – on occasion, for up to a year.

Is there any intention of levelling the playing field in relation to fees for GIS data?

We’re currently undertaking a wider review of our non-statutory fees, of which GIS forms part. Any changes to our current fee structure will be published through our usual channels – we’re on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or keep an eye out on the news section of our website.

Do you contribute to open source projects?

Alongside sponsoring events that the community are involved in (for example, FOSS4G in Edinburgh later in 2019) we’re looking into creating a proposal for how we build on this across the organisation. As soon as we can blog about it, we will do!

What do you use for web mapping?

Previously the GIS team provided this service for users here at Registers of Scotland, but this is now done via ScotLIS, our land information service, and other associated internal tooling. The GIS team may create more web maps in the future if and when required by the business.

Had you considered using any other software?

We chose software that aligned with a decision taken at the organisational level before the current GIS team were in post. So whilst we didn’t consider different software, we made sure the software we did use allowed us to achieve our goals.

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