Still, we recognize that many organizations may be caught flat-footed, or at least triggered by these announcements to plan their future for web GIS more seriously.
At VertiGIS, we recognize this transition and we’re very comfortable with this kind of technology change. Over the past 15 years alone, we’ve helped Esri’s users that deploy web GIS apps move from ArcIMS, to ArcGIS Server with Web ADF, to Flex and Silverlight Viewers, and to Web AppBuilder. You could say we’re experts at navigating web GIS modernization.
In over 20 years of helping organizations build amazing web GIS applications, we’ve learned what it takes to make your apps resilient to technology change. Here are some of the key tenets to a future-proof web GIS strategy:
Avoid custom code. Whether you develop yourself or hire a consultant, customizing your apps with programming locks your apps in to a specific language and architecture. It’s expensive up-front, it’s expensive to maintain, and it’s especially expensive to re-write or re-platform. Instead, configure your apps with a flexible, configuration approach that is technology agnostic.
Have a strategy for managing multiple apps. Esri customers who embark on a web strategy will very commonly build more than one app. It might start with one, but it always grows to several (if not dozens). If mishandled, each new app increases the maintenance burden and costs, and further prevents your ability to advance to more modern technology. Make sure you have a common framework for sharing configuration, business logic, and deployment patterns for managing several apps at once so you’re not having to maintain (or upgrade) each individual app separately.
Adopt new technology right away, and incrementally. It reminds me of the old saying, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite a time, of course”. Organizations can make the mistake of believing they have to wait for emerging technologies to mature or approach feature parity before they migrate their “workhorse” applications over. Our experience shows that its much more productive to start using emerging technology as soon as its released (or even in pre-release) for lighter weight apps or new requirements. These apps can continue to run alongside your existing “workhorse” apps and iteratively improve over time, until they do approach feature parity. Then, when the new technology has matured, you’ve already developed a wealth of experience using it and exposing it to your organization, and you’ll better understand the differences between the old and new paradigms.