Back in 2019 I spent an interesting two days at the NW GIS Utility User Group, hosted by Portland General Electric (PGE) in Oregon. It’s an annual event organized by utility companies in the Pacific Northwest to talk about GIS, and included presentations from a number of utility companies, and vendors that are working with them. It is typically a very Esri focused event in terms of technology. All five of the utility companies who attended the last event use Esri as their GIS system of record. This was the first year that IQGeo has been invited, since three of the utilities attending selected IQGeo as their mobile platform to work with Esri. We’re excited by the momentum we’re seeing for IQGeo solutions among Esri utility customers at the moment.
The Esri Utility Network
It was interesting to see quite a number of detailed presentations on the Esri Utility Network, from Esri and multiple partners and utilities. These presentations reconfirmed for me the major challenges that Esri and their customers face with this, much delayed, new platform for utilities that is intended to replace their existing ArcGIS product. As anyone in the Esri utility world knows, moving to the new Utility Network platform is a complex and costly multi-year project. You are basically implementing a new GIS from scratch.
Presentations on the business benefits for the change really didn’t offer any business case. The main advantage over the current Esri product line is improved network modeling capabilities, but GE Smallworld and Intergraph have offered similar functionality for 20+ years, as Eric Charette comments in 'The Future of Utility GIS' article on Energy Central.
Esri Utility Network – There IS an alternative!
Given the high cost, complexity and risk of implementing the Esri Utility Network, it surprises me that many organizations don’t seem to be evaluating alternative software options. The only explanation I can think of is that they perceive that there are no realistic alternatives.
During the event, I gave the final presentation of the day and shared details on our Network Manager product that provides a very compelling alternative to the Esri utility network. This received a great response from the delegates. We have been building our geospatial platform since 2010, using modern web and mobile technologies, and have rolled out some of the largest and most successful web and mobile projects at electric, gas and telecoms companies. We are adding full network editing and workflow (versioning) capabilities to enable the IQGeo platform to fully replace legacy GIS products.
I explained how our approach has many compelling advantages over Esri and the other legacy GIS players. The single most important advantage is our “mobile-first” platform that provides one common architecture in which all our applications can run in any web browser or on any mobile device, online or offline. So much of the usage of geospatial data in infrastructure companies is in the field, and it’s also where all changes to the network happen. To improve data quality and timeliness, users need the capability to record network updates in the field in a simple and increasingly automated way.
Another key advantage of the IQGeo software is our usability. We’ve reimagined how to address complex network editing applications in a way that is dramatically simpler than the legacy GIS products. This is something that is much harder to do than many people think, yet it’s crucial to expanding the ability to do updates in the field to improve data quality and timeliness.
Challenging legacy GIS
I will conclude by saying to Esri customers that IQGeo is a compelling alternative to the Utility Network. The Utility Network offering is just another iteration of a legacy GIS product that brings Esri’s network modeling in line with what competitors have had for years.
Technology and processes developed 20-30 years ago are simply no longer workable, they do not provide the data quality, currency and collaboration needed for next generation networks. At IQGeo we have completely rethought what an enterprise geospatial platform should be. We offer one common architecture across all mobile devices and any web browser, enabling more and more data updates to be pushed out to the field in an increasingly automated fashion. This combined with hugely better usability that enables everyone throughout the organization to leverage the power of geospatial data to improve productivity and collaboration.
Reimagining the role of geospatial technology
You owe it to yourselves to evaluate the new capabilities rather than being resigned to a complex and expensive migration to the Utility Network. Visit our customer stories page to find out why telecoms and utility companies are reimagining the role of geospatial technology and transforming their business to increase revenue, decrease operating costs, improve customer satisfaction, and enhance safety.
This blog post was originally published on November 7th, 2019. Updated February 11th, 2021.