Knowledge Management for Environmental Resources: Analytics and Searchability
In our quest for better defining Knowledge Management practices for fields associated with large amounts of data - looking at you, Environmental Resources - we have discussed the necessity to discover what data lives on your network as well as the most important morsels of information you can glean from each piece. We have also talked about the importance of storying this information in a central location for easy access and tranferance of knowledge, ensuring your team has the resources they need to do the things we would like to cover today. That's right - analysis.
We like the idea of housing metadata in a results database because of its accessibility, but we also like that it allows us the ability to better interrogate these results. Having these details is great, but what are you going to do with the knowledge you have? Interrogation of spatial data discovered throughout this process can come in a number of ways. The ways we are focusing on today are that of performing analysis and viewing results.
When data is stored in a database, the most common way to question it is through a series of SQL queries or through the tools included in the Integrated Marco Commander and Integrated Marco Mystic applications. That's nice and all, but how do you know what questions to ask? Finding a needle in a haystack is enough of a challenge in itself; it helps to know what this needle actually looks like.
Determine Questions to Ask Your Data
This is a topic we have covered in previous posts because we recognize it can be an overwhelming challenge when you begin the analysis process. Finding your data is easy. Finding your answers is also easy, warranting you have the correct tools. Finding your questions? Well, that can be tricky.
To help you kickstart this, we put together this cheat sheet outlining common questions and scenarios from which you can jumpstart your research. They represent only a subset of these endless possibilities and may not be relevant to all organizations or projects. We find that a few of these questions follow a common theme though that we believe should be integrated - if not now, at some point - in your own data management practices, such as:
- Health of the Data - Determine the health (i.e., usability) of the data by considering questions like...Which ArcGIS Map Documents contain broken layers? How many broken layers do these files contain? Which ArcGIS Map Documents are corrupt, timing out during Data Discovery?
- Age of the Data - Access the age of the data to determine if its contents are still relevant, need to be placed on an alternate maintenance schedule, need to be updated from the original source or vendor, and/or retired altogether. Questions that help with this might include...What ArcGIS Map Documents have not been opened in the last five years? When was the last spatial data discovery performed, and what has changed since then?
- User-Specific Details - To aide in times of transition or to better determine training needs for a team, addressing the ownership and user-based specifics of data may be beneficial. Typically, we find questions like the following can help in providing further prompts...What user account has the most broken ArcGIS Map Documents attached? What user accounts are still listed as the primary owner despite the user being retired from the system?
- Details Concerning Standard Data Practices - Many organization have standard practices they use for GIS data and representation. Determining whether actual practices align with what is expected is something we can also approach our results database about. For instance...Which ArcGIS Map Documents are not using standard symbology for the hydrology dataset? What are the extents of the most used datasets in the D:CANweather... folder? How many ArcGIS Map Documents are using non-standard Geographic Transformations?
You may look at those examples and think I'm pulling your leg, that it will take more time that you currently have on your plate to answer them all and more. Like I said before, as long as you have the right tools at your disposal, it is easy as pie. Thankfully, solutions like Integrated Marco Studio exist to make your life a bit easier. We promise.
Being able to perform analytics on the inventory database as mentioned above is ideal for technical staff and teams maintaining the enterprise network. However, what about those individuals on the hunt for a piece of data that are not as familiar with database queries and underlying data...or even those individuals that you do not want to have direct access to the data itself?
In situtations like this, when analysis rears its head as more of a neccessity in viewing the data, we need to ensure the inventory results are accessible in a way that is easy to use and familiar to the user. The results database is grand for technical staff, but not everyone is comfortable enough with this approach - or even has permission - to root around in the details in this way. When we are presented with this circumstance, we find that searchability is the answer.
If you are looking for the address of the building you have a meeting in next week or even a funny cat video on your lunch break, finding the answer typically involves typing a few keywords into a search bar and hitting 'Enter'. Although the data structure behind this search interface is a bit different than the results database you have created, its meger beginnings are the same.
A data structure had to be created. Keywords had to be outlined. The data itself had to be indexed. The user interface for the search bar and results had to be engineered. Finally, a user had to have something they needed to know.
It seems a complex feat to get from Point A to Point B, but ensuring your spatial inventory can be searched is incredibly beneficial to you, your team, and your organization at large. Thankfully, this is not something you need to build from scratch. Breathe a sigh of relief. Solutions like Integrated Marco Mystic make it possible to not only automate the database population process, but it also offers an interface in which Administrators and common folk alike (as long as your grant them access) can search the database created while filtering results to their liking. For instance, check out its mystifying powers of search below.
No matter the quantity of data with which you are working, enhancing the searchability is important in making your inventory truly useful. It makes it easier to interrogate the data, quickly find similar pieces of information, and even answering some of your most pressing analytical inquiries.
About This Series
These posts provide tips on the management of enterprise data within Environmental resources and the like. Other posts in this series discuss the importance of Knowledge Management, establishing a spatial data inventory, and storing spatial data details in a results database.