Archive for June, 2009

In the world of technology, it seems the focus is usually on the early stages of the product lifecycle curve.  While we dream (and hopefully plan) for the point when our product moves beyond the realm of the visionary and early adopters, much of our effort and challenge remains with those early stages.

On June 22, 2009 Kodak announced the end of the line had come for its Kodachrome film products – after a 74 year run.  Amazing.

Kodachrome Announcement

In today’s technological world, to imagine a product life cycle of 74 years is hard.  But Kodak succeeded with Kodachrome for many years..

Marketed to both professional photographers and the rest of us more in the snapshot category, the Kodachrome film products  were known for their vibrant colors, fine grain, sharpness and archival qualities.  For many, it was the film of choice.  The product line made its way into a popular song recorded by Paul Simon in 1973.

In making the decision to discontinue this product line, Kodak indicated that today Kodachrome generated revenues had declined to a fraction of the company’s total revenue.  Its product life cycle peaked in the 1950s and ’60s but as Kodak’s business changed in response to the disruption of digital photography sales declined.

The reality is that the end of the cycle comes for all products.  Often in the technology world, the cycle is disrupted by new innovation and the tail of the curve is cut short.  But for some – like Kodachrome the cycle is long and successful.

For the nostalgic, Kodak has compiled a gallery of iconic images shot with Kodachrome film.

“Kodachrome
They give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day, Oh yeah
I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So mama don’t take my Kodachrome away”—Paul Simon, 1973

When you combine appropriate organizational structure, defined roles and responsibilities and appropriate processes that are properly linked to a mission or business model, an organization can be comfortable that it has a proper governance structure to guide its operations.

Put another way, the key elements of a governance model are:

  • Build on corporate level mandate
  • Define authority
  • Establish and enforce rules of operation
  • Manage change
  • Measure results and optimize

So how is this relevant to an organization’s implementation of web-based mapping applications?

In the rapidly evolving world of technology the only thing that seems certain about the future is that it will be different from today and the degree of difference is proportional to the time scale.  I would suggest this picture applies to the current state of web-based mapping technology.

For an organization considering or already engaged in the development of a web mapping application, the challenge of making choices today that remain valid tomorrow can be daunting – and particularly so if the organization does not see its strengths in the world of technology.

Is it just me or do the terms governance and technical innovation seems at opposite ends of the cool spectrum?

All too often, inadequate attention is paid to constructing an application-appropriate governance structure to ensure the long term sustainability and evolution of web-based mapping applications.  My observation is that even though web mapping is a relatively young area of endeavour, many applications have a tendency to flag or grow stale over time.

The areas an appropriate governance model will touch on include:

  • Application alignment with corporate goals
    • Definition and refinement of application objectives
    • Budgeting/resource procurement
  • Definition of performance criteria
  • Application lifecycle management
    • Management of the initial service/application functionality
    • Data management
    • Application enhancements
    • Internal staff resource management
    • User training
  • Monitoring of application services performance and effectiveness
    • Application use
    • Service uptime/downtime or underperformance
    • Benefits to user organizations
    • Benefits to information users

The objective should be to strike a balance between a sufficient level of governance to provide direction without it becoming overbearing and bureaucratic.

As Kim Guenther has stated “… governance structures are most noticeable in their absence and seem invisible when working effectively.”

Spatial context is a part of our decision making but spatial information technology may not.

The recent announcement by YourStreet.com that they were discontinuing the use of maps in their hyperlocal news service is a reminder that there is nothing sacred about the application of spatial information tools in a business context.  That is sometimes hard for us to imagine – at least those of us living with spatial data and technology day in and day out.

The reason cited by Directions Magazine was a financial one – maintaining the service was too costly.  Assuming that is true, what does one make of it?

  • Technology used to communicate spatial context has a value associated with it
  • At some point the value of spatial information technology may not justify the cost
  • If that point is reached, the technology in question will be dropped or will atrophy

Should that surprise us? Not really since it pretty much is the way life goes.

In the case of Yourstreet has the importance of spatial information disappeared? I would argue that it has not given that they premise for their business revolves around local (read spatially relevant) news.  Instead, YourStreet has simply determined they will not use online mapping tools as a spatial reference system to help their users.  They have deemed that a descriptive spatial reference system (ie, a user defines the spatial context for news of a particular location in his or her request) is adequate for their user’s needs.

We need to be clear that spatial context is not the same as spatial information technology.  The former can be achieved in a variety of ways.  Technology may aid in providing spatial context but it needs to be evaluated within a cost/benefit framework appropriate to the business or organization in question.