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Data > About Information Needs and Related Regional Solutions

What is a Common Priority Information Need?
How Did MetroGIS Establish Its Priority Common Information Needs?
      Phase I - Identify Priority Common Information Needs (Sept. 1996-May 1997)
      Phase II – Data Specifications and Custodian Responsibilities (June 1997
What Constitutes a Regional Solution to a Common Priority Information Need?

What is a Common Priority Information Need? Top of Page

A common information need is defined as information needed by MetroGIS stakeholder organizations to perform their day-to-day business functions (e.g., I need to know the address of a property and how to contact the residents.) Such needs become priorities for MetroGIS to pursue regional solutions when 4 to 5 of the stakeholder organization types represented on the Policy Board designate a specified need as both important to their ability to function and they are dependent upon on other organizations for the data. Given the breadth of data that have a locational component, it is not surprising that the common information need priorities that have been established to date fall within the world of the GIS community.

Phase I – Identify Priority Common Information Needs Top of Page

The process of identifying and meeting priority common information needs by MetroGIS was conducted in a phased approach. Phase I was intended to identify those information needs common to the MetroGIS community. This phase began in April 1996 under the general direction of the MetroGIS Data Content Advisory Team (since made part of the Technical Advisory Team). The high-level concept of using six content-specific focus groups was conceived by staff to identify common information needs. The project design was refined by a project steering committee with the assistance of Advanced Strategies, Inc., an Atlanta, Georgia firm that specializes in Business Object Modeling and retained by the Metropolitan Council for this project. The Request for Proposals provided detailed information about the project objectives, process and desired deliverables.

The first event was an Information Needs Forum held on September 19, 1996. More than 120 people participated, representing governments, private and non-profit sector interests and academia serving the metropolitan area. Each also represented one of six topical areas of expertise that form the core of government services provided in the metro area: community development; human resources and education; natural resources; public safety; public works; and transportation and communication. Following a presentation about the expectations for this project, the participants were asked to join one of the six topical focus groups. Each focus group was facilitated and over a two-hour period each participant was asked to provide as many responses as possible to the question: what information do you need to do your job? More than 870 responses were received. A detailed summary (Turnaround Document) was produced to document the results of this September 1996 Information Needs Forum.

The next step in the process involved the creation of a Business Object Framing Model. Advanced Strategies, Inc. facilitated this step of the process. Three modeling sessions were held in the fall of 1996; two in October and one in December, each involving 20-30 participants. The resulting model provides a generally high level description of entities, relationships, and attributes needed to address the previously identified information needs. A summary (Turnaround Document) was prepared for each modeling session: Session 1, October 30-31 and Session 2, December 4. Through the modeling process, and with the assistance of Advanced Strategies, Inc., the original 870+ information needs were collapsed into 87 mutually exclusive information needs. An object modeling diagram showing these 87 needs was developed as part of this process (this diagram requires an "E" size plotter for printing). View Advanced Strategies' final report on the creation of the Business Object Framing Model.

The final step in Phase I was comprised of a survey administered in February 1997 to narrow the field of 87 distinct information needs to the highest priorities. Each of the participants in the Information Needs Forum and the three object modeling sessions, as well as all members of the Coordinating Committee and Policy Board were invited to participate in this step. Two sessions, each with more than 60 participants, were held wherein the participants were briefed on the purpose of the survey, had an opportunity to ask questions, and then completed the survey questionnaire. This process resulted in identification of the thirteen highest priority common information needs. These highest priorities were those that rated the highest on a combined rating for "importance to the respondent's organization" and "the respondent's dependence on other organizations for data". View the object model fragments for the highest priority common information needs. On May 28, 1997, the MetroGIS Policy Board endorsed them as priorities for MetroGIS.

Once data specifications and custodian responsibilities are near completion for these thirteen initial common information need priorities, the survey process will be repeated to establish subsequent information need priorities.

The ranking methodology used to identify MetroGIS's highest priority information was designed by Dr. David Arbeit, Director of the Minnesota Land Management Information Center (LMIC), and Dr. William Craig, Associate Director of the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) at the University of Minnesota. A description of this methodology was given in a presentation given at the URISA 2000 Conference, The MetroGIS Initiative: Development, Integration and Sharing of Geographic Information Through Regional Collaboration. The full presentation is available on the MetroGIS presentations page.

Phase II – Data Specifications and Custodian Responsibilities Top of Page

In June 1999, under the general direction of the Technical Advisory Team, a consensus-based process was prototyped to identify desired specifications for data needed to answer each priority information need and to identify the candidate custodians' responsibilities for these data. The process involves establishment and support individual topic-specific workgroups to address each of MetroGIS's 13 priority common information needs. The status of MetroGIS's work to address each of its priority common information needs can be found on the Information Needs/Dataset Status page.

In 2004 or 2005 the MetroGIS community will again be asked to identify priorities to address unmet common information needs. The process used to define the original priority common information needs will be replicated.

It is important to note that MetroGIS's data efforts always begin with an investigation of any nationally recognized standards that might be applicable. MetroGIS has also incorporated into its common information needs methodology the seven NSDI Framework Functions, as outlined in the Framework Handbook.

What Constitutes a Regional Solution to a Common Priority Information Need? Top of Page

Purpose of Regional Solutions:
A central focus of MetroGIS's work is to identify common information needs of its stakeholder community who serve the Minneapolis/St. Paul Metropolitan Area and facilitate long-term support of regional solutions to meet these common information needs. Elements of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) vision, such as the area integrator, framework themes, framework functions, and skylines concepts, are embedded in the philosophy that underlies MetroGIS's "endorsed" regional solutions.

The purposes served by these "endorsed" regional solutions are as follows:

  • Increase access to, and use of, trusted, reliable and current data needed to support business needs through sharing data and creating community-endorsed regional data solutions. Build once and share many times.
  • Improve decision support for its entire stakeholder community through the use of minimal data standards pertaining to assembly of data produced by multiple organizations into regional datasets. These datasets work together horizontally within a given geospatial data theme and vertically among themes.
  • Facilitate use of data standards and best practices.

What Endorsed Regional Data Solutions Are Currently Available?

What Does an "Endorsed" Regional Solution Entail?
The MetroGIS Policy Board provides a political "reality check" when it endorses desired specifications for geospatial data commonly needed by the MetroGIS data-user community at the conclusion of a broadly participatory and replicable process. These commonly needed data are referred to as "regional data". Another component of the Policy Board's endorsement action involves roles and responsibilities for primary and regional custodians of these data and any related agreements with specified organizations to carry out the desired tasks. In addition, endorsement of a regional dataset involves guidelines for access, content, and distribution of the dataset.

What are the Benefits of Regional Data Solutions?

  • Regional endorsed solutions work together. Their interoperability saves substantial time and effort for setup prior to use.
  • Standardized capture and reporting of endorsed data permits easy "apples-to-apples" comparisons regionwide.
  • Builds trust in the data as the "go-to" source and over time higher quality data at less cost is the result.
  • Use of endorsed data focuses debate on issues and not competing data sources.
  • Leveraged resources or shared costs of enhancements to data which are important to the community.
  • Accessible free via the Internet for as many solutions as possible.

Highly Participatory Process Used to Identify Common Information Needs
A project was conducted by MetroGIS from September 1996 through May 1997 to identify the common information needs of the MetroGIS community. Thirteen such information needs were identified and a high-level business object framing model fragment was constructed for each. Since that time, MetroGIS has facilitated assembly and continued enhancement of data needed to address these common information needs, with the goal of providing a solution for 11 of the 13 by the end of 2003 that meets the needs of the entire MetroGIS community.

Three policy actions are involved in arriving at a regional solution for each dataset required to address an information need. In some cases more than one dataset is needed to address a particular information need:

  1. Identification of desired data specifications for the regional solution.
  2. Identification of custodian roles and responsibilities for both primary producers and the regional custodian.
  3. Appointment of a willing organization with the appropriate expertise to serve as regional custodian.

The process is complete once the Policy Board endorses a course of action for the stated policy matters, the associated dataset is assembled, data access rules are defined, and the metadata are posted on MetroGIS DataFinder. Many of the datasets can be downloaded directly from MetroGIS DataFinder, whereas, access to others, such as parcels, may require a signed license agreement (and possibly payment of a fee if requested by a non-government organization) before they can be accessed.

After the user community has had an opportunity to use a newly released version of a dataset for about a year, MetroGIS co-hosts a forum with the regional custodian to evaluate user satisfaction and identify desired enhancements for subsequent releases of the data.

(Refer to Information Needs and Datasets for the contents of each of regional dataset policy statement, associated best practices, and related standards.)

   Page last updated on March 18, 2004. Home   |   Search   |   Contact Us