A Needs Assessment Process For Designing Geospatial Data Management Systems Within Federal Agencies

A chart illustrating the steps in a process for designing, or redesigning, a geospatial data management system, beginning with an initial Needs Assessment process

FIGURE 1. The needs assessment process is intended to be implemented as a first step to
designing, or redesigning, a geospatial data management system.

Until there is wide adoption and implementation of geospatial data management standards among federal agencies, individual agencies can benefit from innovative tools and workflows that allow them to manage and deliver geospatial data in the most efficient manner possible. A new publication by Center researchers presents a needs-assessment process designed to:

1. Prioritize agencies’ geospatial information needs

2. Identify agencies’ capacity to manage a centralized geodatabase

3. Determine agencies’ capacity to deliver Web-mapping services to the public

4. Identify barriers, such as data security and limited financial resources, that constrain agencies’ ability to design and manage a geospatial data management system.

The authors further present a case study application of the process to programs within the National Park Service (NPS) Conservation and Outdoor Recreation (COR) Branch, which serves as an ideal testbed for the process given that it is composed of nine different programs, each of which has distinct congressional mandates, programmatic needs, clienteles, cooperating agencies, and types of spatial and tabular data. Throughout the application, the authors highlight how the process enabled researchers and agency leadership to make critical decisions regarding the design of a new interoperable GIS that would meet the current and future needs of the agency.

Citation: Smith, J. W., Slocumb, W.S., Smith, C., and Matney, J. (2015). A Needs-Assessment Process for Designing Geospatial Data Management Systems within Federal Agencies. Journal of Map & Geography Libraries. 11: 226-244.

Abstract: Many federal agencies face challenges with designing geospatial data management systems. This paper presents and documents a needs-assessment process that can be employed to prioritize agencies’ geospatial information needs; identify agencies’ capacity to manage a centralized geodatabase; determine agencies’ capacity to deliver Web-mapping services to the public; and identify barriers, such as data security and limited financial resources, that constrain agencies’ ability to design and manage a geospatial data management system. The paper details the needs-assessment process and documents its application to the National Park Service (NPS) Conservation and Outdoor Recreation (COR) Branch programs. The NPS COR Branch is comprised of nine disparate programs, such as the National Trails System and the Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance program, each of which has specific geospatial data management and delivery needs. The needs-assessment process, tested through its application to the NPS COR Branch programs, provides a comprehensive and logical workflow for system developers and administrators to use as they create or refine geospatial data management systems.