GAO releases report on FGDC Role and Geospatial Information

GAO release report on us of geospatial information with title “OMB and Agencies Can Reduce Duplication by Making Coordination a Priority”. Readers Digest – focus on integrating data.

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We tend to agree. FGDC is currently very focused on a service enabling management model (Geoplatform) to accomplish this. It is bold, but if their role of being a service provisioner can directly or indirectly get them in the game to address the real problem of data lifecycle management, they will have a chance to address this.

Point being, FGDC knows its role is not to be in IT Operations as its direct goal. But, they also saw that being a sideline judge with no carrot or stick role would not garner the direction and recommendations that GAO suggests. They are getting on the playing field, taking advantage of the open service provider role, being that broker, and using that role to move IT costs down, and also enabling those shifts in monies to then focus on the data issues cited. Its bold, and a unique approach, and there are many questions can a traditionally non-operational group develop that culture to be effective. Proof will show over the next 2 years.

Below find our summary of strategic direction for FGDC’s geoplatform.

The challenges and recommendation sections are:

  1. FGDC Had Not Made Fully Implementing Key Activities for Coordinating Geospatial Data a Priority
  2. Departments Had Not Fully Implemented Important Activities for Coordinating and Managing Geospatial Data
  3. Theme-lead Agencies Had Not Fully Implemented Important Activities for Coordinating and Managing Geospatial Data
  4. OMB Did Not Have Complete and Reliable Information to Identify Duplicative Geospatial Investments

Our review of Background – then and now

The foundation the FGDC has put in place. The Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) has always been a catalyst and leader enabling the adoption and use of geospatial information.

The Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) has been successfully creating the geospatial building blocks for the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) and empowering users to exploit the value of geospatial information.  The FGDC has been leading the development of the NSDI by creating the standards and tools to organize the asset inventory, enhance data and system interoperability and increase the use of national geospatial assets. The FGDC has successfully created policy, metadata, data and lifecycle standards, clearinghouses, catalogs, segment architectures and platforms that broaden the types and number of geospatial users while increasing the reuse of geospatial assets. [1]

What is next? The Geospatial Platform and NGDA portfolio will be the mechanism for adoption of shared geospatial services to create customer value

Recently, the FGDC and its’ partners, have expanded their vision to include the management and development of a shared services platform and a National Geospatial Data Asset (NGDA)portfolio.  The goals are to “develop National Shared Services Capabilities, Ensure Accountability and Effective Development and Management of Federal Geospatial Resources, and Convene Leadership of the National Geospatial Community benefitting the communities of interest with cost savings, improved process and decision making”.[2]

As the FGDC continues on the road to establish a world class geospatial data, application and service infrastructure, it will face significant challenges “where the Managing Partner, along with a growing partner network, will move from start‐up and proof‐of‐concept to an operational Geospatial Platform”.[3]

Xentity has reviewed the FGDC’s current strategy, business plan and policies and identified the following critical issues that need to be solved to attain the goals:

  • Building and maintaining a federated, “tagged”[4] standards-based NGDA and an open interoperable Geospatial platform. The assets need to provide sufficient data quantity and quality with service performance to attract and sustain partner and customer engagement[5]
  • Developing a customer base with enough critical mass to justify the FGDC portfolio and provide an “Increased return on existing geospatial investments by promoting the reuse of data application, web sites, and tools, executed through the Geospatial Platform” [6]
  • Improving Service Management and customer-partner relationship capabilities to accelerate the  adoption of interoperable “shared services” vision and satisfy customers [7]
  • Executing simple, transparent and responsive Task Order and Requirements management processes that result in standards based interoperable solutions.  [8]

The Big Challenges

Establish the financial value and business impact of the FGDC’s Portfolio!

The Geospatial Platform and NGDA will provide valuable cost saving opportunities for its adopters.  It will save employee’s time; avoid redundant data acquisition and management costs, and improve decision making and business processes.  The financial impact to government and commercial communities could be staggering. It is a big and unknown figure.

The Geospatial Platform by definition and design is a powerful efficient technology with the capacity to generate a significant return on investment.  It is a community investment and requires community participation to realize the return.  The solution will need to assist the communities with the creation and sharing of return on investment information, cost modeling, case studies, funding strategies, tools, references and continue to build the investment justification.  The solution will need to optimize funding enhancement and be responsive to shorter term “spot” or within current budget opportunities while always positioning for long term sustainability.  The FGDC Geospatial Platform Strategic Plan suggests a truly efficient capability could create powerful streamlined channels between much broader stakeholder communities including citizens, private sector, or other government-to-government interfaces. Similar to the market and business impacts of GPS, DOQ, satellite imaging technology, the platform could in turn promote more citizen satisfaction, private sector growth, or multiplier effects on engaged lines of business.

To get a big return, it will demand continuous creative thinking to develop investment, funding, management and communication approaches to realize and calculate the value.  It is a complex national challenge involving many organizations, geospatial policy, conflicting requirements, interests and intended uses.

The key is demonstrable successes.  Successes become the premise for investment strategy and cost savings for the customers.  Offering “a suite of well‐managed, highly available, and trusted geospatial data, services, and application, web site for use by Federal agencies—and their State, local, Tribal, and regional partners” [9] is the means to create the big value.

”A successful model of enterprise service delivery will create an even greater business demand for these assets while reducing their incremental service delivery costs.” [10]

FGDC has to create and tell a compelling “geospatial” value proposition story

To successfully implement the FGDC’s vision, it will demand a robust set of outreach and marketing capabilities.  The solution will need to help construct the platforms value proposition and marketing story to build and inform the community.  The objective is to ensure longer term sustainable funding and community participation.  The solution will need to bring geospatial community awareness, incentive modeling, financial evaluation tools, multi-channel communication and funding development experience to the FGDC.  The solution will need to have transparently developed and implemented communication and marketing strategies that have led to growth in customer base, alternative portfolio funding models and shared services environments for the geospatial communities.  The solution will need to have an approach that will be transparent, engage the customer and partners and continuously build the community.

This is a challenging time to obtain needed capital and win customers even for efficient economic engines like shared geospatial data and services.  The solution will need to approach the community outreach is impactful, trusted and will tell the story of efficiencies, cost savings, and higher quality information.  The platform and NGDA must impact the customer program objectives. Figure 1 – FGDC Performance and Value framework shows how the platform’s value chain aligns with the types of performance benefits that can be realized throughout its inherent processes. The supporting team’s understanding of this model will need to organize the “Story” to convince the customer and partners that the platform can:

  • Provide decision makers with content that they can use with confidence to support daily functions and important issues,
  • Provide consistency of base maps and services that can be used by multiple organizations to address complex issues,
  • Eliminate the need to choose from redundant geospatial resources by providing access to preferred data, maps and services[11]

As the approach is implemented, the FGDC, its partners and the Communities of Interest will have successfully accelerated the adoption and use of location based information.  Uses will recognize the value offering and reap the benefits to their operations and bottom line.   The benefits will be measurable and support the following FGDC business case objectives:

  • Increasing Return on Existing Investments, Government Efficiency, Service Delivery
  • Reducing (unintentional) Redundancy and Development and Management Costs
  • Increasing Quality and Usability[12]

Our Suggested Solution

FGDC’s challenges requires PMO, integrated lifecycle management, partner focus, and blend experience with an integrated approach and single voice designed to meet the FGDC’s strategic objectives and provide a world-class service shared services and data portfolio.  Doing this, they can integrate organizations, data, and service provision.

A solution like this would provide the program, partner and customer relationship management, communications, development and operational capabilities required to successfully implement the FGDC’s vision and business plan. The focus will need to

  1. Coordinate cross-agency tasks, portfolio needs in agile prgoram management coordination with a single voice,
  2. implement an understanding of critical lifecycle processes to manage and operate the data, technology, capital assets and development projects for a secure cloud-based platform
  3. have communications and outreach focused on communities for partner and customer engagement in the lifecycle decisions
  4. Finally, make sure secretariat staff and team has rotating collective experience with representatives and contractors who hav esuccessfully performed at this scale across all functional areas with domain knowledge in Geospatial, technology, program, service, development and operations.

The strategy and collective experience and techniques will enable FGDC to provide a single voice from all management domains (PMO, Development, Operations and Service Management) for customer engagement. The approach will be need to be integrated with the existing FGDC operating model creating a sum value greater than that of its individual parts. This approach will help create the relationship to develop trusted partner relations services.


[1]  (page 7 – Geospatial –Platform-Business-Plan-Redacted-Final)

[2]  (page 2 – Draft NSDI –Strategic Plan 2014-2016 V2)

[3]  (page 28 – Geospatial –Platform-Business-Plan-Redacted-Final)

[4]  (page 11 – Ibid )

[5]  (page 9 – Ibid)

[6]  (page 26 – Ibid)

[7]  (page 4 – Ibid)

[8]  (page 6 – Ibid)

[9]  (page 2 – Geospatial –Platform-Business-Plan-Redacted-Final)

[10]  (DOI Geospatial Services Blueprint – 2007)

[11]  (page 13 – Geospatial –Platform-Business-Plan-Redacted-Final)

[12]  (Appendix A – Geospatial –Platform-Business-Plan-Redacted-Final)

[13]  (Page 12 – OMB Circular A-16 Supplemental Guidance)

[14]  (page 12 – Geospatial –Platform-Business-Plan-Redacted-Final)

[15]  (page 36 – Ibid)

[16]  (ITSM – Service Operations V3.0)

[17]  (page 26 – Ibid)