In the private sector, cost cutting was the watchword and that left precious little room in the budget for productivity software, like GIS, which you would think might help to cut costs.Yet, as we all know, the expense of training personnel and managing data are the hidden costs of GIS.In addition, inflated ROIs put forth by well-meaning, but often overzealous consultants were being questioned (see part 2 of our guest editorial by Marshall Payne below).The days of exaggerating the benefits of GIS "just aren't going to cut it anymore" said Sonnen.
In the public sector, the product-focused GIS companies retrenched and squeezed existing customers for sales, relying on a strategy that the cost of finding new business wasn't worth it or was costing too much.But the double whammy kicked in which saw government agencies pull back from contracts on technology because of a lack of existing tax revenue to support new purchases.Cities and counties were just trying to keep the garbage off the streets and the roads and utilities repaired.GIS? Who can afford it now?
So what to do? Offer grant programs to local governments that get them started and pray that you reap the benefits in follow-on sales and services later.That's what MapInfo is doing.The company announced yesterday their "e-Government Grant Program" that will "Assist Municipalities and Small State and Federal Agencies Helping to Streamline Communications and Improve Services with Businesses, Citizens and Other Government Agencies to Save Taxpayer Dollars."
And this brings to the forefront another issue.How many technology projects developed by public organizations are used to support business development in the private sector, perhaps used to spur community growth? The question was raised when I asked Sonnen about the gross numbers associated with GIS software sales to public vs.commercial (private) businesses. "The lines are beginning to blur," he said as some projects, such as for precision agriculture, tax assessment, and critical infrastructure planning, that are utilized more by businesses than by the public agencies that implement them.So, although the software revenue split is 70-30%, government to business, an argument is developing that a third market segment may be necessary to describe the GIS sales made to public organizations that support business applications.