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The three things that GIS users do most are as follows: search, view, and publish for others. This has been proven by our usage analytics on thousands of MapInfo Pro users this year. The specific requirements for any organization will vary dramatically within these three activities, but it certainly makes sense to create a checklist of requirements in these categories. For example, how does a user create spatial joins? This is a complex process and it’s hard to build a user-friendly, efficient user interface that covers all the possible ways to join data. Interactive viewing is also very important. If I build a theme on a map, I want to be able to quickly change the variable or categories for display as well as the style. This is not easy in all tools. Finally, the creation of presentation-quality maps is a big challenge and in some organizations, this needs to be done by professional graphics applications such as Adobe Photoshop. GIS applications should be able to generate output suitable for publishing to pdf or the web with minimal effort and a fair amount of customization options.
There are many moving parts in a GIS and quite hard to pick one thing that’s most important. But if I have to, I’d say data and access to data.
The dilemma of the GIS Professional (and indeed of sourcing, when writing their requirement specs) if focusing on the richest possible toolset at the lowest possible cost. While this is easily understood, it will not ensure maximum business value. The most important aspects are tools that have a high usability, and the access to relevant data (all the necessary data sets, of adequate quality, kept up to date, with sufficient coverage).
Very good observations, @Jim Stone?
Data agnostic for me is the key focus. If you can’t read, write and manage your data than all other bells and whistles are just worthless.
@Peter Horsbøll Møller?, you're right. Data is key! However, understanding the value of the geospatial data you have access to can prove difficult to some.