Spectrum Spatial (SSA/LIM)

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Thoughts on SSA 2018.2, especially on the admin side

  • 1.  Thoughts on SSA 2018.2, especially on the admin side

    Posted 02-28-2019 06:10

    Hello all,



    I wanted to provide some feedback on the latest SSA version 2018.2 (with latest patches).


    For the users its's fine but I have serious concerns about the move or Project (config) management into the UI and the quality of it.



    Maps of different projections within the same Project


    The ability to add maps of different projections within the same Project is fantastic.



    NamedMap moving


    I like the ability for users to move NamedMaps up and down the order. I think that will be popular.





    The problems with labeling in SSAA 12.2.2 are fixed. This is good news.


    However I'd still like the option to have labels not switched on by default if the layer has been uploaded with labels.



    Thumbnails home page


    I'd like to see more characters of the Project name to show, or introduce two lines. At the moment it gets cut off with some unfortunate results. This one should be Southwark Licensing



    I'd also like to see the browser's Back button to take you back to the config that was on before selecting 'Project Home'.



    Lack of switch user button


    Now that more administration is carried out in the UI there is more of a need for me to switch between users (admin to standard user, for example). This is currently a painful experience because of the lack of a switch user button in the Cog wheel / Options menu item.


    So, if I was signed in as the standard user and I wanted to then log in as admin I would have to:

    • Options> Sign out – which takes me to the default page.
    • Then go to a different URL that requires a log in
    • Log in as admin


    Doing this once is annoying. But I'm going to have to do this multiple times in the course of my work (and what about those users who may have different roles?). Having a simple switch user button would avoid all that hassle.



    Project (config layers) management being in UI instead of Admin Console



    I'd like to see the ability to switch between Projects within the Projects settings page. The new set up means that you have to close Project Settings and switch config and then go to Project Settings again. The old Admin Console allowed switching within the Admin Console. So, PB has effectively introduced more steps to do a similar task. Annoying.



    There is often a lag delay in the click action (e.g.: placing a tick in a tick box) and the action actually happening (e.g.: the tick appearing).


    Try this for yourself. Try adding a friendly name. I'm finding that I click inside the friendly name box I have to wait several seconds before I can start typing. Again, very annoying.



    There is a lot of waiting around for the black progress circle to complete…



    It took 1 min 27 seconds from the moment I selected a new NamedMap (1) and clicked Save (2) to wait for the black circle to finish…



    It also took 1 minute 40 seconds to save a friendly name change.


    The time individual tasks take to complete needs to be sped up significantly.



    This concept has been introduced…


    • If logged in a Admin
    • Make changes to the Project within the UI (e.g: switch on certain layers, zoomed to a certain location, certain base map)
    • Select Save Project, that Project is then saved with those settings (e.g.: those layers switched on and at that zoom level, that base map).


    But this is frustrating as I now have to remember to ensure that everything is back to how I want it (every time) before saving the project. I can see how this is going to get annoying.



    I can see what PB is trying to do but having the Project management in the UI does not feel robust and responsive enough. Too many times I'm finding that I am sitting around waiting for lists to load up in the Project Settings window stopping me from making the swift changes that I need to make. I wonder if some of the delay or click lag problems in Project Settings is because it is slowly loading in all the NamedMaps in that Project.


    Anyway, it's incredibly frustrating and not a problem I had when the layer management was in Admin Console.


    Having layers / Project management in Admin Console (as it was with configs in SSA 12.2.2) seemed to work better. Would PB consider putting Project (config, as it was) management back into the Admin Console?



    It can be quite a trawl go through all the NamedMaps in a Project (especially when it takes long time to load them all in). This is exacerbated by the fact that the NamedMaps are expanded to show the layers within them….




    Whereas when configs where managed in the Admin Console the list of NamedMaps in the config was concise and collapsed, and therefore easy to review and pick out.


    A suggestion would be to collapse the NamedMaps so that the layers are not shown by default. A +/- minus would allow the admin to show all layers with the group if they want. It could look like this mock up…



    The old Admin Console had a function to move NamedMaps  up and down the order. The new Base Maps settings has this function, but the Business Maps settings does not.


    It's a pain to have to come out and change the NamedMaps order in the UI and save. So, can I suggest a move row button is added to the Business Maps section...



    When saves are complete (when the black circle disappears) the screen remains in the frosted-over state and I can't go to do other admin tasks. Instead I have to select the X. This takes me back to the home page where I have to select edit again in the project I want to edit. This is a pain. I need to be able to stay within a Project to do multiple edits and then save and close when I'm ready to do so.


    Sorry to be blunt, but I think changes made on the admin side need immediate attention. They all represent a retrograde step for admins and will just end up annoying them.


    Best regards,

    Stuart Carter
    Corporate GIS Manager
    Southwark Council

  • 2.  RE: Thoughts on SSA 2018.2, especially on the admin side

    Posted 03-19-2019 05:01
    Hi Stuart

    Thank you for taking the time to post these suggestions. We will be considering all of them and we have specific comments on some of them below.

    But first it makes sense to outline the vision and plans for managing SSA, which sets the changes in 2018.2 to map projects in context.

    Firstly, the vision is below

    The vision is to provide a single console, Spectrum Spatial Manager, from which all aspects of both Spectrum Spatial and SSA can be managed. We call this the "one-admin" concept.

    It is a two-phase vision with

    • Phase 1 enhancing the way map configurations are created (now called map projects) and moving that initially into SSA. This was released in 2018.2.

    • Then phase 2 will see the remaining SSA Admin Console (functionality profiles and all other settings) migrated into Spectrum Spatial Manager. This will be released towards the end of 2019 as 2019.1 As part of phase 2 we will provide the home page (with improvements) in Spatial Manager and the ability to launch and create/edit SSA projects from Spatial Manager (launching SSA).

    Once this is complete the integration should be much more seamless. Although currently map project creation arguably adds a third management piece, we feel there are significant benefits to managing projects within SSA, and we had some long-standing functionality improvements that we wanted to make available in phase 1.

    The ability to manage and save projects in SSA means that you can create projects visually. For example, you can start by adding base maps and business maps in the project properties dialog and then go into the SSA interface to perform many more actions than were previously available in Admin Console alone.

    • Set the zoom and XY visually rather than typing in coordinates for a zoom and extent
    • Turn individual layers on and off (which was not supported previously)
    • Ability to create and save query and thematic layers as an admin
    • Re-order business maps in SSA
    • Set visibility for business maps in SSA
    • Browse and add more layers in SSA
    • Optionally add thematic and query layers which are also persisted in a project.
    • End user can be given permissions to save their own map projects

    Some of the enhancements in project management include

    • Map Information can be enabled on a per layer basis
    • Querying and CSV export can be enabled on a per layer basis
    • You can preview maps and layers before adding them to SSA

    As part of phase 2 we will then add all other SSA related management into Spatial Manager. SSA Map Projects and other configurations will be held in Spectrum Spatial' s repository and we can leverage things like allowing named maps and layers to be changed and having those reflected in the projects.

    Over the past few releases we have also been enhancing spatial manager independently of the SSA related migration. Two of the major areas of improvement are relate to permissions and styling.

    • 2018.2 added permission management and the concept of a sub-admin user (who can manage parts of the repository – rather like a devolved data owner).  This sub-admin concept will also apply to SSA project creation. For small customers where a single admin manages these things it may not needed, but for deployments where you have a large number of departments or for shared service scenarios between multi customers (like local councils sharing services) it will be useful.

    • Style override of layers and the ability to create and manage maps and layers were added in 12.2 and 2018.2 and in 2019.1 we will include the ability create range and individual value thematic maps and also style override support for Mapinfo raster layers (so that grid cells can be styled differently in different layer, each using the same MRR file).

    Overall, we consider these improvements to modernise and consolidate management across Spectrum Spatial and SSA will provide significant benefits.

    Secondly regarding the specific comments

    Some are valid bugs and issues which we will address and others are good suggestions which we will take on board to enhance the way projects are managed.

    The key issue at Southwark was the sheer number of maps and layers in SSA's projects. The main map project referenced 48 named maps and 348 Named Layers. A total of 396 resources. This is causing issues – hence a lag (depending on browser) when setting properties. Also, because the layers cannot be collapsed (to see just the maps) you need to scroll up and down to see all of the maps. We will address these issues. However, we believe most customers will not have such large map projects and are therefore unlikely to experience the same level of issues that Southwark has.

    Specific comments are below

    • Allow more characters (and 2 lines) on the thumbnail page for the project name. We will consider making the text longer and split it over two lines. Also, we will introduce an ability to toggle between the thumbnail view and a list view option.

    • Allow the browser's back button to take you back to the config you were on before you selected 'Project Home'. This seems to work for us. If other customers experience this issue please let us know.

    • Switch user button to switch between users without having to log off and login again. This was considered at the outset as we felt it would help admins to switch to a user and see how a project looked from a user perspective. But since admins would not normally have the password for individual users this may not be usable. Also from an end user perspective the project would look broadly the same (apart from certain functionality options being omitted) For users themselves they would not normally need to switch to a different user as role-based permissions would grant them access to all the map projects they need.

    • Ability to switch between Projects within the Projects settings page (1). We will discuss with the UX team the introduction of a switch projects option on the project settings page.

    • Delay in the click action (e.g. in a tick box) and the action actually happening (2) and waiting for the black progress circle to complete (3). This is due to the number of maps and layers added to map projects at Southwark. Please see general reply above

    • ·Saving a project in SSA applies the current zoom and XY to the project (4). This works as designed and was considered to be one of the benefits of saving a project in SSA, as you can visually place the map location exactly as you need it. We can consider adding this but we would not wish to remove the benefit for those customers who want to use SSA to position their map. We can consider how this can be achieved to allow both scenarios (perhaps setting the zoom and XY as a default can be added which will then preserve the zoom and XY in a project?

    • It takes around 1-2 minutes to add a new Named Map to a Project (5). This is an issue and needs to be addressed. Southwark have 5,433 named layers and about 600 named maps. When listing layers in the manage maps side panel it takes time for the list to populate (despite taking only a quarter of a second to return the names of all those layers from the server). This is a bug and needs to be fixed.

    • Named Maps are expanded to show the layers within them (6) and under Business Maps cannot move Named Maps up and down (7). We will discuss with the UX team and introduce map re-ordering to the project settings page. This would need to be implemented in conjunction with collapsing the layers. In the meantime, however re-ordering of ma layers is available in SSA and admins can re-order the layers there (as well as set visibility and opacity) and then save the project

    • When saves are complete (when the black circle disappears) the screen remains in the frosted-over state (8). This should not be happening and is a consequence of the large number of maps and layers in the project. We will review and fix this

    We would welcome comments from more customers who have moved to 2018.2 and in particular whether the availability of project management (using the project settings option) in SSA's interface is welcome (subject to the above improvements) or if it should be moved into Spectrum Spatial Manager.

    Mustafa Ismail
    Product Architect
    Pitney Bowes
    London UK

  • 3.  RE: Thoughts on SSA 2018.2, especially on the admin side

    Posted 03-19-2019 06:42

    Thanks for that thorough response.


    Although I feel somewhat bruised by the experience of moving to 2018.2, and then reverting to 12.2.1, I do still look forward to seeing the development of 2019 versions.


    Some closing thoughts and requests about SSA 2109:


    ·         The abilities and experience of administration in SSA 2109 must be as good or better than now where everything managed in Admin Console. This is a core concept that must run through all your discussions about SSA administration.


    ·         Please go with concise design. The beauty of Admin Console (AC) is that everything is in one place and on one screen without the need to scroll down. Yes, AC needed a bit of work, but broadly speaking it was fit for my administration purpose. (I do however appreciate that you have a technological need to move away from AC). Running admin in SSA and/or Spatial Manager (SM) means that elements are scattered and on pages that require scrolling through - this leads to more clicks and more admin frustration. Please, please ensure that the new administration platform has everything I need to do in in one box and one screen (albeit with multiple tabs).


    ·         Although I appreciate that some NamedMaps adjustment can be done in SM the ability to manage the design, contents and structure of NamedMaps in Mapinfo (and the SSA Uploader) should continue. Running through Mapinfo should always be the primary route of NamedMaps management.


    ·         SSA needs to be able to handle large amounts of data. I appreciate that some of our delays may be caused by large data holdings but SSA must be built to accommodate that. I do of course appreciate that there'll always be some limits in an enterprise GIS


    ·         If admin is indeed moving to SM then SM needs attention before embarking on that course. It needs to be faster, concise and more reactive. Right now I could not deliver the same level of administration to our users if I had to do administration through SM


    ·         I'm certainly not against the ability to adjust projects/configs within SSA, but this shouldn't be at the expense of no longer being able to do it within one concise and contained admin console/location.








  • 4.  RE: Thoughts on SSA 2018.2, especially on the admin side

    Posted 03-19-2019 14:50
    Great feedback Stuart.  Thank you for taking the time to write it up.  I hope if we put out an early release you'll provide some additional feedback.

    Heidi Geronimo
    Director, Product Management

    San Jose, CA