When it works, we don't notice

A response to Grant Reid’s comment on the CERA SDI whitepaper.

Grant Reid wrote: “Hi Martin, I'm curious, how did the internal perception of GIS team change after they made this useful data available to the public? For example, did funding for GIS increase? Did people start bringing new opportunities to the team?” 

Great question.  Firstly, many commentators like to point out that the situation at CERA was unique.  My response has always been: ‘Maybe; but success demands no explanation, and failure not alibi’.

There is a paradox with stuff working as expected which is; you just don’t notice it i.e. we tend to only notice our own bodies when something is wrong or unexpected i.e. a sore back.  Likewise, how many of us congratulated the Council’s water supply network this morning while in the shower?  We expect it to work so we don’t notice it when it does.  But we sure notice when it doesn’t work.

Why do we constantly hear complaints about IT?  Based on the proposition above, that constant complaint is because what is delivered does not meet what is expected (cost, time, functionality, availability etc.)?

So in answering your question, yes I think there was a perspective shift at CERA.  While there were always complaints about many of the CERA systems; you never heard a peep about the spatial data infrastructure (GIS).  It just worked; as expected; on demand; anywhere; anytime.  Even in outrageous circumstances (six million page requests in 14 hours after one major land-zone announcement or delivering on some analysis and maps requested at 4.00 pm for a meeting with the Minister the following morning).  CERA was never able to adequately articulate requirements; what they might be needed next week, next month or next year; except that once they knew what they wanted they would want it almost immediately.  The capability to deliver that level of service on demand WAS the requirement.  And that is what the SDI delivered.  

So to the ‘but CERA was unique’ folk; that agile capability is now the expectation, the benchmark for any organisation wanting to compete and/or thrive in a 21st century knowledge economy.  IT Change leaders face a stark choice; get on the bus or get left behind. (in that context, we specialize in bus timetables and route guides!)

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) was established by the New Zealand Government in April 2011 to coordinate the response and recover effort to the devastating earthquakes of September 2010 and February 2011 in Christchurch NZ.  

Download the spatial data infrastructure (SDI) whitepaper from the 'Resources' page.