Monday, September 20, 2010

President's Column- September 2010

After several sessions and calls for comments to solicit input from the membership, the MAPPS Board of Directors has given its final approval to an update of the association’s strategic plan.

One issue that attracted comments from several members was the need for a comprehensive geospatial market study. While the Board made some revisions to the strategic plan, the Board decided to focus special attention to the need for a market study.

Ironically, shortly after the Board considered the need for a market study in its strategic plan deliberations, an email call was sent to the member organizations of the Coalition of Geospatial Organizations (COGO), an umbrella alliance of all the national geospatial-related associations, seeking data on the geospatial market.  That exchange exposed once again the dearth of information on our market and the need for a comprehensive study.

MAPPS has long had an interest in accurate data on the market in which our members do business.  Hardly a month goes by that our staff does not receive a call from a Wall Street analyst, a merger and acquisition consultant, or others seeking current, accurate and comprehensive geospatial market study data.

In 2006, then-Senator George Allen (R-VA) introduced S.4006, the Imagery, Mapping, and Geospatial Enhancement (IMAGE) Act.  This bill would have authorized the Office of Space Commercialization in the U.S. Department of Commerce to expand its responsibilities to be more active in promoting commercial satellite and airborne, and value-added remote sensing and geospatial firms.  Included in the bill was a call for the Office to “evaluate the efforts of each Federal agency, and of the private sector, to assist commercial remote sensing firms (and) provide statistical information on the utilization of such firms by the Federal Government.”

As a member of the National Geospatial Advisory Committee (NGAC), MAPPS Executive Director John Palatiello suggested in 2009, “there is a need for baseline information about geospatial activities, in and related to the Federal government and other stakeholders, and updated classifications systems, in order to plan for the future and measure results … there is no current, accurate market study that measures the size of the geospatial market, tracks changes, or analyzes market segments in a useful manner.” He recommended that the Federal Government develop and implement an activity to collect data to benchmark, manage, measure and monitor.”  His “you can't manage what you can't measure” mantra continued to resonate in the community.

Of all the organizations in the geospatial community, MAPPS has perhaps the greatest need for such a market study, second only to the Federal government itself.  Given our position in the market, I am forming a task force to explore the following on an approach to a market study --

1. The feasibility of a thorough, comprehensive geospatial market study;

2. A definition of the “geospatial market” that we would want to study and quantify;

3. A survey/summary of existing studies and an assessment of the gaps, deficiencies, omissions, biases or shortcomings of existing studies;

4. A methodology for conducting a study;

5. Whether it is possible to get the Federal Government to fund such a study, or if that is not possible, who would conduct a study;

6. If the Federal government does not do the study, who would fund it;

7. What would be the cost of a study;

MAPPS Director Bob Hickey (Photo Science, Inc.) has agreed to chair this task force. The following members (which would give us a cross-section of the membership including men, women, large, small, north, south, east, west, services, data/products, members, associates, marketers, producers, airborne, satellite) have agreed to serve: Charles Mondello, Pictometry; Shawana Johnson, Global Marketing Insights; Tina Cary, Cary and Associates; Kevin Corbley, Corbley Communications; Mark Baker, ESRI; Ken Spratlin, Trimble; George Southard, Leica; Kass Green, Kass Green Associates; Dawn Sienicki, DigitalGlobe; Harry Voccola, Navteq; Garth Lawrence, Intermap.

I am also extending an invitation to our COGO partners, the trade publication editors and colleagues in the Federal government to be ex officio members of the task force.

In the near future, all MAPPS members will be sent information on how to provide input to the task force.  Your ideas on how such a market study can be undertaken are most welcome.