5 Big Mistakes - Choosing a New System

Sooner or later, serious map-makers need to make serious decisions about the tools and systems they are using to create their map products. Since Freehand, one of the more popular graphic design tools used for making maps, is being discontinued, some map-makers are currently being forced to make this decision. A choice for a replacement based on an educated, well-informed selection ensures efficiency and a rapid return on investment. Following up on a survey conducted on our behalf, here is a list of the 5 biggest mistakes people have made when considering new tools or systems to replace their existing graphic design programs:


1. Replacing one file-based graphic system with yet another file-based system.

2. Changing to one or more GIS systems.
 
3. Failing to prepare for the change.

4. Not focussing on where the most money is made.

5. Choosing something because others have it too.

So where do things go wrong?

1. Replacing one file-based graphic system with yet another file-based system.

While the data migration path may be fairly straightforward, all users of graphic file-based systems know that these systems logically lead to massive numbers of files and repeated work. This applies especially to map makers who produce a number of derived and thematic products out of a set of base map files. The more files there are, the more difficult and costly it becomes to maintain and update them. A new file-based system does not solve this problem. Instead it creates the same problem in yet another system. 

2. Changing to one or more GIS systems.

Traditional GIS systems were not designed to make high-quality map products. Despite the promises made by some GIS vendors in glossy advertisements, traditional GIS systems have fallen short of map-makers' expectations for the quality of data migration, the quality of cartographic design and symbology and the ease of use for people who are accustomed to graphic design tools. While a GIS system allows for storage and analysis of data, in order to use the data for cartographic design and production of multiple thematic map products at various scales, a graphic design program is often required in addition to a GIS system. Instead of using and maintaining one system, more time and effort are required in managing two or more.

3. Failing to prepare for the change.

The replacement of a system or program brings changes. There are expectations that need to be managed and habits that need to be adjusted. In some cases, in order to move to a new system, it may be necessary to replace most or all of existing IT infrastructure. In a case where a system change includes a move from Mac to Windows-based systems - the majority of GIS systems are Windows-based - this change could be quite radical. The main challenge in this case is acceptance by users. Another case where user acceptance is critical is the data migration path. The most efficient way to start using a new system is to start producing with it and getting returns on investment as quickly as possible. A decision to carry out piecemeal data migration instead of migrating significant chunks of data could be a symptom of a lack of user acceptance. Migrating significant chunks of data and putting the data to use immediately is the best way to do this. A common argument against rapid data migration is that production is interrupted during migration. Another argument is the high workload of post-migration editing. These arguments may apply if the replacement system doesn't provide complete and rapid migration since this will inevitably lead to tedious and piecemeal migration, enormous manual effort to "fix" the data migrated and a slow transition to the new system. These arguments may also apply if the system is not easy to use. In general, migration is a one-off work and can be outsourced. 

4. Not focussing on where the most money is made.

Some people decide to follow 'the next big thing' hoping that it will help increase revenue and market share in changing economies. Setting up disparate web-mapping applications in order to be present on the internet or developing bespoke mobile applications (yet another iPhone App) has been a popular step and for some, a seriously expensive venture. It makes perfect sense to consider the internet and mobile access as another distribution and collaboration channel and is an excellent way to reach certain communities of map users, but these channels need to be seamlessly integrated in the overall data and production flow. While these new channels can be a significant enhancement to existing channels, the streamlining and optimizing of existing channels, which are predominantly print and data, need to be the primary focus when replacing or enhancing a system. Existing channels are where map-makers continue to make the most money while they build on new distribution and collaboration channels.

5. Choosing something because others have it too.

A very common pitfall is to choose something because others have it. Just because others have it, does not mean that it is the best for your business. Deciding for a system because others use it too will not provide anything unique for your business. To the contrary. 

Clearly, we at Axes Systems have considered these mistakes while designing and enhancing our axpand platform for today's changing market and challenging business climate. axpand was built as a database cartography system that is used to make high-quality maps and derived products. Our flagship product axpand Professional has all of the features and functionality you need to produce excellent maps. axpand is the fastest direct-to-database GIS cartography system available that manages map data in a seamless relational data base. axpand allows for multiple users to work in parallel and directly in the database. axpand includes the possibilities of several production, distribution and collaboration channels, including high quality print and data products, interactive internet and one-click mobile applications including iPhone Apps. All channels feed to and from the same seamless data base. axpand is unique because it covers all of the steps in the map-making process in one, integrated system.

With axpand you have a choice for a system replacement (or enhancement) that ensures efficiency and a rapid return on investment. Facts and figures from the field show significant reduction in the efforts required for production and updating with axpand. These numbers will be provided on request from Axes Systems. The migration of Freehand and Illustrator data is especially economical since map content and symbols are migrated practically one-to-one. Contact us. We can help you make the right decision about replacing your graphic design system.

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