Tag Archives: GIS Software

Abandoned 1Malaysia Futsal Courts – Lesson for GIS Project Planning

Expecting IT system to continue operating indefinitely at optimum level without on-going operating expenditure (OPEX or OE) funding is just not realistic

Many IT facilities are in similar sad state of disrepair

Malaysia The Star daily recently reported that millions (of Ringgit or RM) go down the drain when most of the 1Malaysia futsal court facilities around the country were left unattended for long time and is in a sad state of disrepair. It was reported the crew visited more than 100 of 1Malaysia futsal courts around Selangor, Melaka, Negeri Sembilan, Johor, Perak and Kedah. Many were found neglected with some clearly never having been maintained since the day they were constructed.

According to the paper there are 2200 (later was corrected by official there are about 646 futsal courts and the rest are multi-purpose halls) 1Malaysia futsal cum basketball courts that have been built around the country for the community at about RM150,000 (app. US$46,000) each since 2009 as part of Youth and Sport Ministry’s noble initiative to promote futsal, basketball and other sports among youngsters.

This interesting report caught my attention and also sparked some discussions on social media. I’m not a futsal player and did not really check any of these facilities. However if we ponder a while and look around us, it is not difficult to uncover many IT projects/facilities that faced the similar faith.

Ironically (for the benefits of those that are unaware), any facilities (regardless of futsal courts or IT labs with hardware and software) need ongoing up-keeping to ensure the facility is always in proper working condition. From IT perspective, this refers to maintenance or upgrade of computer hardware, storage, software version, etc. It does not take a genius to figure out that a sudden rush of adrenaline to allocate development expenditure (DE) funding to build but forget about the on-going operation expenditure (OE) funding is the culprit behind these failures. Initiating an IT capital expenses (CAPEX) project without proper care given to aspect of on-going ownership, managing, maintaining and operating cost (OPEX) is not sustainable. Bottom line, expecting the IT system to continue operating indefinitely at optimum level but without on-going maintenance allocation is just not realistic.

Back to the 1Malaysia futsal court issue, according to the daily,  there is no plan by the Sport and Youth Ministry to repair the damaged courts, as it will cost about RM18.7 million annually and the ministry failed to get funding from Economic Planning Unit (EPU) for the repairs.

Again this is nothing new to us. As IT savvy Malaysian, we are used to see many agencies have to abandon their aged IT systems after a once upon a time glorious official launch of the then state-of-the-art system due to lacked of maintenance. No wonder we are famous with first world infrastructure but third world maintenance. Malaysia Boleh ! (Loosely translated as Malaysia Can Do, or Malaysia Capable – a common slogan in Malaysia to instil never give up attitude).

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Cost Component of GIS Implementation

Cost Components of GIS Project

GIS project is costly and involve lot of resources. However, if implemented successfully it will bring you many folds of benefits in making the right decision and even saving lives. Unfortunately many GIS project started without proper budget planning. Ends up the projects are either stranded half way or being compromised by substandard implementation due to insufficient funding.

There are many reasons that might fail a GIS project. From budgeting perspective, under estimating the budget amount is one of the most common mistakes made by GIS implementation team.

Hence, let’s spare a moment to dissect the cost structure of a typical project and make sure you have at least taken the following into consideration when doing your next GIS project budgeting. Similar to any project budgeting, it is imperative to understand the basic components/ ingredients needed to start a GIS project, namely:-

  • Software – GIS, RDBSM, Operating Systems
  • Hardware – Workstation/Server/Storage/Backup/Plotter/Mobile devices
  • Services – Application development, system architecture design, database design
  • Training – Important for proper transfer of technology and knowledge (ToTK)
  • Data Acquisition, Data Conversion & QAQC – Raster to vector, vector to vector
  • Maintenance for Software, Hardware & Data – Else your solution will not be upgraded
  • Infrastructure – Site preparation, cabling and networking (if involving new office unit)

These cost components are equally important, inter-related and inter-connected. To some extend it is almost impossible to cut budget at certain specific scope, without impacting the overall performance of the GIS system.

I’m sure you have heard a lot of the following scenarios:-

  • Project A is not well accepted because the overall system is slow and the users are frustrated. While the software normally gets the blame, but in reality most of the speed performance issues are related to under estimating the hardware specification.
  • Project B purchased the most sophisticated software and hardware but did not budget effort for implementation services. Worst still, the in-house staff are not yet trained to handle the new system. Ends up the hardware and software remain unwrap and become a white elephant project.
  • Project C started off and finished well within project timeline, budget and quality expectation. However without the maintenance budget the system becomes out-dated due to constant advancement in hardware and software. After 12 – 18 months, the commissioned system is at least 1 version behind the latest technology release cycle and not able to maximize all the improvements and new features that come with the latest release. Eventually the system becomes obsolete due to lack of maintenance/upgrade.

There are many more similar cases that you’ve experienced before. It is sufficed to mention a few to elaborate my points. Hope this will help you to plan ahead better. Wish you all the best in your GIS implementation journey.

GIS Implementation Strategy – Lesson from Low Cost Carriers

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Low-cost carrier’s (LCC) chief element strategy is to fly large numbers of passengers on high frequency, short hops at bargain fares. LCC is able to serve this low-cost segment in the most efficient and economical way by providing fast turnaround time on the ground, standardize all of its planes to lower the cost of training, maintenance and inventory. LCC also opting for reliable, large aircraft manufacturers that offer range of aircrafts with different seating capacity model without ending up with collection of aircrafts from different manufacturers.

It makes a lot of business sense, else you will have to have different crews/hanger/tools to maintain/ stow/fly different aircrafts, different sets of training facilities, as well as different ground infrastructures needed to stow the aircrafts. Worst of all different aircrafts might have different operating procedures and might not able to integrate with each other.

In GIS implementation it is also important to consider the scalability of the GIS software in your implementation, else you would end up having Fokker/McDonnell Douglas in one department, and Airbus/Boeing in another department when you scale up your GIS implementation i.e. after your GIS application is gaining more popularity. Over the longer run, maintaining different incompatible software systems will make your maintenance cost shooting through the root. Worst of all, these different GIS software might not able to integrate well with each other and you are not able to standardize the workflow to maximize your ROI.

It is quite typical that GIS project started with desktop GIS level by a group of specialists to support a single department’s needs i.e. to support simple mapping application and to perform competitive analysis for marketing department. Soon other departments would like to leverage on the capabilities to perform planned or unplanned maintenance works; to track asset inventory; to extend it to customer care officers so that they are aware of the service availability when dealing with customer inquiry and the field crew would probably like to be able to see the accurate network diagram in the field and update the work order once the job is completed, etc. The desktop GIS that first started at marketing department soon need to be upgraded to enterprise GIS with server GIS and mobile GIS capabilities.

As per lesson learned from low-cost carrier, rightfully the last thing you would want to do is to end up having different software system for desktop, server, field and mobile environment that’s not compatible with each other. If you are the CIO or CTO of your organization that has on-going or about to get started with GIS implementation, you might want to do your stakeholders a favour by asking why on earth we are not following the proven business wisdom from low-cost carrier. It is quite understandable that departmental managers only look after their own needs, but as “C” level executives of an organization, it is our responsibility to look at bigger picture and interest of the company as totality.

If software is only good at desktop level but not scalable to meet your next server, mobile and enterprise GIS requirements, is it worth your on-going investment (which involves software, hardware, data, training, etc.)?

GIS can be a hobby but it will be a very costly hobby if you start to collect different type of non-compatible GIS software in your organization.

Scalable, Extendable, Reliable, Fully Supported GIS Software

If a mechanic from your neighbourhood offers you his home-made solar 1-seated automobile and claims it is equally road worthy or as good as your sedan car, you must think he is kidding, right?

I reckon few things immediately come into your mind:-

  1. What if you need the car at night when the solar is out of power?
  2. What if you need to take your family for a road trip?
  3. What if the mechanic is out-station and your car need a fix-up?
  4. Anyone knows this custom-built car without totally relying on that inventor mechanic?
  5. What if the mechanic suddenly decided to quit (after earning enough and go for his/her retirement) and handover his inventor manual (if you are lucky), will you want or ready to take over the maintenance of that vehicle all by yourself?

Most likely the answer is “No”, unless you are equally skilled as your mechanic neighbour or want to remain as mechanic for the rest of your life – whereas your smart mechanic neighbour has decided to retire.

For most of us, we need car as mode of transport to get us from one place to another. We might know a bit basic about car but most of us are no way a mechanic. At least for me, I don’t fancy becoming one if the inventor mechanic decided to quit or move out from my neighbourhood. I prefer an all-weather and multi-purpose vehicle that will suit my all rounded needs i.e. able to drive long distance, travel with my family, can easily get help when it breakdown, or else I wouldn’t even want to consider having it in my garage.

You know where I’m heading, right? If someone come to you and say his/her custom-built or self invented software is equally as good as your enterprise GIS platform, tell him/her that you are looking for scalable, extendable, reliable, fully supported GIS platform. Else you might be end up penny wise but pound foolish in getting a non-upgradeable, non-supported, single purpose, GIS software that will not perform as you wish, and worst when you need it the most.

However, you might able to beat the odd, such as:-

  1. The software inventor can be with you all the time (not resigning, transferring, promotion, retiring, etc)
  2. Your software inventor left, but leave behind a complete/ understandable/ updated documents for your D-I-Y (do it yourself)
  3. You are equally skilful as the software inventor and assuming his/her role (not resigning, transferring, promotion, retiring, etc)

Either way, good luck and God bless you.