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5 Key Factors for GIS-Based Decision Support Systems

The Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is initially intended to automate mapping and spatial analysis. The nature of GIS, which associate attribute data with graphical entities, has opened new perspectives and motivated goals aiming at positioning GIS as the key component to be integrated in the decision-making process.

The integration of GIS components into the decision making system can help improve the performance of operational business processes. This reposition of GIS requires functional evolution tools, but also a change of the implementation strategies. These strategies should be more flexible and participatory. The composition of the project team, skills and overhaul capabilities of the internal processes of the organization, also play a key role in this development.


GIS combines technical information with graphics which enabled the creation of legacy databases and spatial analysis tools development. As computers are becoming more powerful and location-based data are being used more often, GIS is targets as the spatial component in the information system that help decision-making process.

However, the new targets were not always met. The implementation of a GIS is a complex process. This complexity results from the interaction of a large number of actors and dynamic systems. Delays in implementation increase the risk of GIS projects, which may face competition from parallel initiatives driven by different departments or business units.

In practice, GIS is used primarily for mapping such as a base map including referential and environmental data. Using spatial analysis applications is opportunistic. Several factors contribute to this situation:

  • Organizational factors – the culture of the organization and the strategic position of GIS in the information systems.
  • Functional factors – when a company’s activities beyond the scope of IT’s strategic skills, operation, maintenance, training and development of business applications will be outsourced.
  • Technological factors – the features of spatial analysis are limited and GIS solutions are poorly integrated into the information system.
  • Data factors – The data necessary for analysis are not available or the quality of spatial data is not in line with the analysis processes that are required for decision-making.
  • Human factors – the critical skills for the use of GIS in decision support processes are external to the company.

Integrated GIS support systems for decision

Three technological characteristics are essential to the formation of GIS in the future:

  • Basic features of spatial data associated with a spatial engine which is ability to structure and analyze spatial data.
  • The capabilities of interoperability within the information system.
  • Integration of help features to the decision, in the context of problem solving.

The decision-making process is usually complex. In order to build a GIS-based decision support system, organizations are required to invest time and efforts for the long-term approach to build a GIS database as well as flexible tools which are available to the team who responsible for performing analysis, identifying alternatives and recommending decisions. But these components are not always available in the systems currently. This situation reinforces the perception of excessive complexity of these systems.

However, if organizations are able to overcome those technical barriers, integrating GIS information system in a pattern of decision support system can facilitate the development of responses to cost reduction and service level improvement, which are the major constraints faced by many organizations.

Organizational factors

The objectives pursued in the implementation of GIS solutions are closely related to the economic model of the organization. If the business model determines the orientation of the GIS project, structure and culture of the organization will determine the terms of its development and deployment.

Although GIS have a transverse nature, their use is limited in many cases to a service or a business function. This can cause the emergence of parallel GIS initiatives with various scopes, driven by different departments and units. These initiatives share common requirements in terms of data and basic features, but often involve the use of heterogeneous configurations, or redundant.

The strategic nature of the aid applications with the decision can contribute to change this situation. Achieving this type of application involves a multidisciplinary process that requires the participation of stakeholders from various services of the company and external stakeholders. GIS can play a greater role if policymakers have a clear perception of the benefits.

The financial indicators are not sufficient for the evaluation of such projects. Other indicators should be included, particularly for those companies concerning customer satisfaction, optimization of internal processes and improving knowledge of the organization’s agents.

Functional factors

Outsourcing operations of information systems is usually the IT managers’ response to the situations that company’s activities beyond the scope of their strategic skills. Information systems are not always considered within this scope and accordingly, the operating functions, maintenance, training and development of new business applications are outsourced.

The Geographic Information Systems have not escaped from this trend. If outsourcing can reduce internal costs, the change has not always responded to new business requirements, especially in the case of complex problems of decision support.

The outsourcing process has been accompanied by the creation of an intermediate level between functional departments and outsourcing service providers. The information system urbanization steps are also taken; they were essentially an approach focused on the standardization of data models, but have not addressed systematically, and the dynamic aspect of application integration.

GIS remain poorly integrated information systems. Their applications are interfaced occasionally, mainly through file sharing, business applications.

Technological factors

To adopt GIS analytical capabilities to the decision-taking framework includes three phases – analysis, design and choice.

In the first phase, if there are restrictions applied to make GIS in a static modeling environment for the purpose of system efficiency, GIS will be less flexible regarding the rapid representation of alternatives or preferences of decision makers. However, the capacity of GIS integration, especially with multi-criteria analysis systems, allows the definition of platforms capable of supporting all phases of the decision support process.

The evolution of software architectures, with the availability of specialized application servers, is helping to create the necessary infrastructure for the implementation of these environments. This is part of a process of gradual improvement of information systems, which implies a higher quality of service, optimized monitoring of business processes and ultimately the creation of knowledge bases serving the organization of agents and users.

Data Factors

System operators have a large amount of data. These data are generated and maintained internally on heterogeneous systems to support different services of the company. So homogenization of technical architectures and application integration must be accompanied by correction of the data and the mapping of conceptual models.

A major availability of geographical reference data and socioeconomic data will facilitate both the construction of GIS platforms management and decision support. However, a work of varying importance depending on the case, consolidation of business data will condition the effective implementation of these solutions.

Human factors

The idea of change is implicit in most information systems projects. This concept is generally associated with the preparation of the training plan for the deployment of the new application. The change should also address how to consider GIS tools, not as an automated mapping system designed primarily to facilitate technical communication, but as an integral element of decision support systems.


Today there is a growing interest in integrating GIS technology to form an integrated platform helps the spatial decision. Use cases include for example, the development projects of the territory, infrastructure projects, or development.

The repositioning of GIS in the information system will at the same time, new elements to aid communication and consultation. This repositioning requires a change in the implementation to make GIS solutions more flexible, more emerging and easier to be shared by the entire organization.

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