The Evolution and Influence of GIS Technology at VHB

Steve Anderson, GISP Vice President of Technology Services, VHB
Steve Anderson, GISP Vice President of Technology Services, VHB

Steve Anderson, GISP Vice President of Technology Services, VHB

Throughout VHB’s 40-year history, we’ve experienced continual—and rapid—technological advancements in our industry. As each new technology is developed, VHB adapts by incorporating these innovations into our integrated solutions approach. With 1,500 engineers, scientists, planners, designers, and technology professionals, VHB provides a variety of core services, including geographic Information System (GIS) and applied technology, transportation planning and engineering, civil engineering, planning and design, and environmental services in a range of markets.

Because technology is at the forefront for many disciplines, VHB recognized the opportunity and need to intertwine technology into our organization’s strategic plan. Two key aspects of our plan focused on advancing VHB’s technologic use—advancing into high-value applied technology services and deploying leading-edge processes and tools to execute projects more effectively. As an integrative platform, GIS can be leveraged and incorporated into multiple disciplines and services, allowing for collaboration between VHB and our clients around the clock with real-time applications.

Leveraging the ability to collect and analyze data is an asset not only to VHB, but also to our clients and partners.VHB utilizes GIS to provide solutions that include highway crash geocoding, safety management systems, cultural resource information systems, real estate management, sustainability planning and optimization tools, asset management, mobility optimization dashboards, and compliance tracking software.

While GIS applications aimed to improve efficiencies, as with all new innovations, the integration of GIS did not come without its challenges. For VHB, these challenges involved having no centralized GIS group and no team focused on external services. Our staff were competing for limited resources, versus collaborating to create dynamic applications. Additionally, the software programs were being used inconsistently as a tool with limited analytics rather than a platform that could foster collaboration, innovation, and communication.

"Leveraging the ability to collect and analyze data is an asset not only to VHB, but also to our clients and partners"

As VHB experienced these challenges, we began to realize that GIS could be used across the company to support nearly all disciplines and improve efficiency. For successful integration, were moved the barriers that were holding back our GIS capabilities by creating a formal applied technologies team, establishing a GIS leadership group, and performing a SWOT analysis of our operations. This analysis allowed us to determine our strengths and weaknesses and identify opportunities we could grow as a team and organization, and further our technology-driven initiatives. In just four years, we grew from less than 10to more than 50 professionals who provide comprehensive technology services, including GIS consulting involving system planning, application development, data analytics, and support and training. Internally we moved from having only five ArcGIS Online users in 2015 to more than500 in 2019. We currently work with six state departments of transportation developing and building safety management systems on the ESRI® platform. We also work with five state cultural resource departments building cultural resource information systems built on ArcGIS for Enterprise. We designed, built, and now sell and support a SaaS-based product, SAMIS™ (Smart Asset and Management Inventory System) to our clients and leverage it for much of our work collecting data and incorporating it into meaningful documents.

Where GIS once seemed like a tool for just making maps, it is now a platform that that VHB, our clients, and the industry are using to transform our work and deliverables daily. GIS helps us work smarter and deliver intelligent solutions to our clients’ most complex projects.

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