GIS is more than a map – it’s a strategic tool to connect data and drive decision

When contemplating GIS, it evokes thoughts of maps and data points, perhaps even the dashboards observed during the height of the COVID pandemic. However, it is crucial to recognize that GIS extends far beyond mere cartography. It is a comprehensive geographic information system that encompasses the creation, management, analysis, and mapping of diverse datasets.

Acting as the linchpin of everyday data utilization, GIS consolidates information into a centralized repository, facilitating remote accessibility and real-time interpretation during the data collection process. Thus, GIS transcends the conventional notion of being solely a mapping tool.

Connecting the dots through GIS

“GIS means connection. GIS connects data by leveraging the spatial component of information, allowing for the integration, analysis, and visualization of diverse datasets to gain insights into geographic patterns and relationships,” said Lauren Federsel, Associate Director of the GIS team at Atwell. “At Atwell, our projects rely on data, and we use GIS to collect and manage the data so we can interpret it and keep our clients informed in real-time.

“GIS gives us the ability to manage multiple layers of data collection from both the natural environment – such as water courses, water bodies, wetlands, and species – to the built environment – such as buildings, roads, solar, wind, transmission – and more, within the same system. We can leverage whatever combination of data gathered from the field, mined online, or other product data and display it all on top of each other to help inform decisions.”

Our team of GIS experts provides both internal support to our teams and external support directly to our clients. Whether we’re supporting our land development, natural resources, or our environmental clients, our GIS team is working to ensure their data reflects the most up-to-date and accurate numbers to minimize risk and maximize opportunities for our clients.

“We work together with internal teams at Atwell and the client to identify the project needs and the area of interest – be it an acre, a mile, or multi-state,” said Federsel. “We then use GIS to analyze a multitude of constraints to determine the best location for the client to do their work. Our goal is to help our clients understand where they should work by anticipating roadblocks, rather than reacting and adjusting down the road.”

Real-time data collection

As our GIS team has grown and evolved, so has our ability to automate back-end processes that keep our clients in touch with real-time layers (data points). The models our team has created take much of the human error out of the process, as the systems and deliverables our clients have access to are constantly incorporating new layers that reflect all completed work. Ultimately, our client only needs an internet connection to access real-time information.

The best part? When any of Atwell’s team is in the field collecting data, all that is needed to access and enter data is a phone or tablet.

“If our client has land agents going out in the field, they don’t need a map. They don’t need infrastructure. They just need a set of questions that they’re asking owners in a mobile version of a form – like a clipboard, but the clipboard is mobile,” said Federsel. “Then imagine all the information the field agent is collecting in that clipboard is automatically populated to a database that’s online and can be accessed in real-time by any project manager, developer, or whomever. Each time the field agent hits submit, I can go review that data while working in the office.”


Customized dashboards for clients

Atwell’s GIS team leverages ESRI ArcGIS Dashboards to develop dynamic and real-time visualizations that effectively communicate geospatial data to our clients. These interactive dashboards provide a comprehensive view of location-based analytics, presenting instinctive and interactive data visualizations on a single screen. By combining charts, maps, tables, and graphs, they offer a cohesive and engaging display of information.

The configurability of these dashboards allows them to adapt to different map content and interact with various elements such as widgets and indicators. Users can actively engage with the data, filtering it based on attributes or geographic areas to focus on specific subsets of information and analyze trends and patterns. Atwell’s GIS team ensures that the appearance and branding of the dashboards align with the visual identity of both Atwell and our clients. Custom themes, colors, and styles are applied to create a consistent and professional look.

Furthermore, dashboards can include charts that cross-filter the map, facilitating trend visualization and enhancing the conveyed information. They seamlessly integrate with other components of Atwell’s ArcGIS platform, enabling the GIS team to connect them with ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise. This integration allows the dashboards to leverage data from diverse sources, including ArcGIS maps, layers, and geospatial analysis tools.

Overall, these interactive dashboards serve as a powerful medium for presenting up-to-date data visualizations and showcasing spatial-based analytics in an intuitive and seamlessly interactive manner. By harnessing the capabilities of ArcGIS Dashboards, Atwell’s GIS team empowers clients to make informed decisions, monitor status in real-time, and gain valuable insights into their projects.

The future is real-time

“GIS bridges all of our different teams here at Atwell,” Federsel said. “We offer our clients the latest and greatest data to avoid working in an incorrect data set. You don’t have to be a GIS person. You don’t have to know anything about GIS. We can build engaging web-based solutions with a user-friendly interface where clients can engage and provide feedback while they focus on moving the project forward.”

Our team at Atwell views GIS as a strategic tool for connecting data, enabling real-time insights, and supporting decision-making. By leveraging GIS capabilities, we offer clients the latest data, user-friendly applications, and seamless integration to drive project progress and success.


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