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Do you need to answer questions using maps, location information, or other kinds of geospatial data? 
A Geographic Information System (GIS) consulting firm might just be what you are looking for.
GIS consultants use geospatial software and data science tools to help answer questions and find insights for your business or organization.

Selecting a GIS Consultant

How complex is your project?
What deliverables do you need?
Outputs can range from a simple report to a full-scale application.
Do you only need one question answered? An independent GIS analyst could be enough. 
Do you need an interactive dashboard? You may need a firm with GIS analysts and software engineers.  
These are just a few scenarios, but all good GIS consultants accomplish the same goal: 
To extract information from your geospatial data and synthesize it into actionable insights.
Does it matter to you whether your GIS consultant uses Open Source GIS software or proprietary solutions? Let’s dive into how to think about that.

Proprietary or Open Source?

GIS consultants can use either proprietary or Open Source software. 
Open Source GIS and Proprietary GIS Software
1. Proprietary GIS uses software that is not freely distributable and requires a license or paid subscription. 
Pros of proprietary GIS software: 
  • Pre-made workflows and toolboxes
  • Many proprietary tools have user-friendly interfaces
  • Ample support for GIS consultants
Popular GIS software includes Esri’s ArcGIS and L3Harris’s ENVI.
One limitation of proprietary tools is that they are difficult to customize. However, there are ways to use Open Source tools to augment proprietary software.
Also consider your organization’s history. If you are a part of a municipality that has used ArcGIS for the last decade, it may be challenging to switch tools.
2. Open Source GIS uses software that is open to the public to freely use and share. 
Pros of Open Source GIS software:
  • Continuous review and improvement by contributors
  • Ability to create new tools specific to your needs
  • Niche software options
Open Source GIS offers flexibility and near-infinite extensibility to GIS consultants. 
A potential limitation is a lack of active contributors for a library you want to use. Libraries or features may lie dormant for extended periods of time or fall out of use completely. 
The good news is this may be a great way to get started as an open source contributor!
Check out The History of Open Source: An Interactive Infographic for more information on available free and open source GIS tools.

An Example: Visualizing Forest Carbon Credit Impacts

In collaboration with NCX, makepath created the NCAPX Buyer Impact Dashboard— a dashboard focused on giving individuals and corporations the ability to track carbon credits purchased from landowners and visualize the environmental effects of those credits. 
This dashboard primarily uses Open Source GIS software.
NCAPX Buyer Impact Dashboard Thumbnail

Now it’s Your Turn

Have you ever thought there might be crucial answers hiding in your geospatial data?
Have you considered working with GIS consultants?
Let’s connect at contact@makepath.