New York State Office of Cyber Security
Geographic Information Systems Clearinghouse
Revisions to the NYS GIS Coordinating Body
August 27, 2003
Each year, the GIS Coordinating Body conducts a day-long assessment and planning session prior to their quarterly meeting scheduled in June. Normally, this involves a review of the achievements of the past year and a prioritization of tasks for the coming year. This year, however, we knew that changes were needed, as there had been concerns in the preceding months from a number of key stakeholders. The issues included:
- A proposal by one of our local government Coordinating Body members to start a new GIS Association for the state, possibly to address many of the same issues handled by the Coordinating Body.
- Concerns of several of our local government members that the program had not been doing enough to address the needs of local government, and in particular, was not providing resources (i.e., funding) to local government GIS projects.
- Overall concerns that OCSCIC was only interested in supporting GIS projects related to emergency response and critical infrastructure, and was no longer interested in the other elements of the Statewide GIS Coordination program.
- Concerns that new data security requirements and the removal of some data from the GIS Clearinghouse may impact GIS data sharing.
In light of these concerns, and since it had been 7 years since the formal start of the GIS Coordination Program, we decided the time was right to ask ourselves how we could remain relevant, and to consider whether some organizational changes were needed.
The session was planned for June 4, 2003. Katie Jordon of the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations agreed to serve as lead facilitator. We invited all of the members of the GIS Coordinating Body, as well as the Chairs of the Work Groups and Advisory Groups to attend the session. Our invitation made clear that this was an important all-day meeting and that we would be considering the relevance of our program and whether or not we needed to make any organizational changes. Response to the invitation was very encouraging. Several of the invitees were unable to attend, but sent written comments for consideration by the group. The local government representative who was organizing a state GIS Association also agreed to lead a candid discussion on how his proposal could mesh with our existing program.
The session took place on June 4, 2003 from 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. at the OCSCIC office. Fourteen people participated, plus Katie Jordon as facilitator. Although there were a number of absences, the key participants were there, and we felt confident that we had the “critical mass” necessary to effect any needed change. The meeting was conducted using a combination of large group discussions and smaller break-out sessions. The break-outs were done in 2 groups, with each group being asked to recommend revisions to the membership composition of the Coordinating Body. This had been a key discussion point in the earlier large group discussions.
Two significant outcomes are worth detailing here. First, there was broad consensus that although there were a number of changes to be dealt with, the Statewide GIS Coordination Program in general, and the GIS Coordinating Body in particular, continues to be essential to the state as GIS becomes an even more prominent technology across all sectors. The rapid success of the program in its first years is strong evidence that there is a need for a state-sponsored organization to ensure that the basic resources needed by all GIS users are made available. The proposal by one of the Coordinating Body members to start a new GIS Association was discussed at some length, with the conclusion that the association would compliment, rather than compete with, the Coordinating Body.
Second, there was agreement that the representation on the Coordinating Body needs to be revised. The present 15-member structure, with equal numbers of state, local, and private sector/academia representatives does not match the composition or needs of the GIS community statewide. We asked that each of 2 break-out groups propose a revised representation structure, and the results were surprisingly similar. When the two groups rejoined, we combined the proposals using a consensus process, with the following suggested breakdown of who should be included as representatives on the GIS Coordinating Body:
State 4 (including an OCSCIC representative as Chair)
Local 7 (a combination of municipal & county, rural & urban)
Academia 2 (University & Community Colleges, K-12)
Private Sector 2 (including 1 utility company representative)
Federal 1 (from an in-state Federal agency field office)
This new suggested representation would include some sectors previously left out, and would place greater emphasis on the local government sector, where there has not been enough focus in the past. This suggested representation is much closer to the composition of the GIS community statewide.
Another, related issue discussed at some length was the implementation of term limits for Coordinating Body members, some of whom have served since the inception of the Body in 1998. It was agreed that we should recommend terms of 3 years, with one third of the terms expiring each year. Members could then be nominated to serve an additional term if there were not other equally suitable nominees from their respective sectors. The current process whereby OCSCIC alone selects and invites members to serve on the Coordinating Body would also be replaced by a Nominating Committee, charged with presenting a list of suitable candidates to OCSCIC executive management for approval. A group of volunteers was chosen to more fully develop a nominations process for consideration by the Coordinating Body.
Several other significant decisions were made by the group. The sector-based Advisory Groups will be retained, and are likely to be expanded to include sectors added to the proposed new representation structure. It was felt that these Advisory Groups are an effective forum to ensure that issues addressed by the Coordinating Body have been adequately reviewed by stakeholders in the affected sectors. The group also decided to make the Work Groups more ad hoc and task-specific, rather than continuing their current status as “standing” work groups. Work Groups will be charged with making recommendations on specific actions, and will be “decommissioned” upon completion of their tasks. If future needs arise to revisit those or similar issues, Work Groups could be recharged as needed, perhaps with different volunteer members. An extensive list of issues was created at the June 4 session, which will be reviewed at the next Coordinating Body meeting where recommendations will be made on assigning priority issues to Work Groups for action. Finally, the group reviewed the existing Mission Statement and decided to broaden it further by making several revisions.
The process of bringing together the key stakeholders and engaging them in a frank and open discussion on the relevance of the GIS Coordination Program and potential restructuring of the GIS Coordinating Body had the effect of reinvigorating them and reaffirming the value of the program. If there were no other benefit, one could fairly call it a success on that basis alone. There are other positive outcomes, as well:
- Recognition that although there are some new priorities, the program continues to be highly relevant and important.
- Signals to the wider GIS community that the state continues to be committed to supporting statewide GIS coordination.
- A more appropriate mix of representation on the Coordinating Body, including sectors not previously represented.
- Agreement that if a new GIS Association is formed, it can be complementary
to the GIS Coordinating Body and may actually widen the level of participation
in the activities of the Coordination Program.