“Using Geocortex has allowed the Bureau of Development Services (BDS) to provide sophisticated GIS solutions to BDS knowledge workers without any need for specific GIS backgrounds or skillset.” – Jake Brown, GIS Coordinator for the Bureau of Development Services at the City of Portland
The City of Portland and their Bureau of Development Services (BDS) rely on GIS technology to carry out many of their essential operations such as enhancing permit-entry processes and managing Airbnb rental registration applications. We recently spoke to Jake Brown, GIS Coordinator for the Bureau of Development Services at the City of Portland, to discuss the positive impact that choosing Geocortex as a GIS solution has had on the city.
Could you introduce the City of Portland’s GIS department and explain how you are using GIS technology?
[JB] GIS in the City of Portland is structured as a hub and spoke service system. At the hub, the Corporate GIS program (CGIS) provides overall GIS system administration, expertise in collaborative services, and consultation to City Bureaus (spokes).
Could you introduce the Bureau of Development Services (BDS) GIS department and explain its role at the City of Portland?
[JB] The Bureau of Development Services is one of 29 different Bureaus and Offices at the City of Portland. BDS is responsible for implementing Portland’s Building and Zoning codes and facilitating the construction permitting process that includes review processes from several other City Bureaus. Each City Bureau GIS team provides primary business functions to their staff specific to Bureau responsibilities established in the City Charter and in many cases, stewardship of different City enterprise datasets. The BDS GIS team was created in 2014, and currently has a staff of 3.
How were your operations carried out prior to adopting Geocortex as a GIS solution?
[JB] Before Geocortex was implemented at BDS, the Bureau relied on ArcMap installations on users’ personal machines and custom add-ins maintained by the City CGIS team. Training a broad base of infrequent users on ArcMap was inefficient and proved to be untenable. Underpowered local computer hardware hampered the GIS experience for many user groups.
Many BDS business processes relied on individual users being trained on carrying out complex edit sequences consistently across multiple applications. Failure in implementing these protocols consistently led to data integrity issues.
What impact has the transition to Geocortex had on your operations?
[JB] Using Geocortex has allowed BDS to provide sophisticated GIS solutions to BDS knowledge workers without any need for specific GIS backgrounds or skillset. The use of these tools has increased expectations for GIS tools across the Bureau and expanded our menu of capabilities.
Our strategy is to move away from ArcMap and ArcEngine solutions to ArcGIS server. BDS had several datasets that need editing and Geocortex was identified as a best-in-class solution for structuring the editing of these GIS datasets. These datasets include address points, building footprints, land use cases, and georeferenced documents.
What is your primary use case for Geocortex Technology? What improvements have you seen within the City of Portland and BDS since implementing Geocortex as a GIS solution?
[JB] Our primary use of Geocortex is for building internal tools. Geocortex offers us sophisticated toolsets that can be created without having to code. We can leverage the full power of our ArcGIS Server and Portal and focus on encapsulating business logic into workflows. Configuring Geocortex applications has reduced custom-coding and made business processes smoother with quicker onboarding and training times for new users.
What are some examples of applications you have built with Geocortex Technology?
[JB] One application that we have is the BDS Maps application. This was an initial kitchen sink app used primarily for data editing. Because of integrations with Portal groups, user access is restricted to editing workflows. One use case for this application is navigating historical aerial imagery to compare changes over time.
Another example is our Building Edit App, which uses Geocortex Web technology. The BDS GIS team maintains the City’s enterprise building footprint dataset. The data life cycle is tied to permit data, and as new construction permits are issued and demolition permits are finalized, the Building Edit App holds an edit queue. Building footprint data is then published to a central database that feeds the PortlandMaps cache basemap.
Do you have any plans for implementing Geocortex technology in new ways in the future?
[JB] As new updates for Geocortex come out, we evaluate how we can use these new capabilities to advance our applications. For example, we plan to use polygon feature editing functionalities to further configure our Building Edit App.
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