Making a plan

The crux of the I-Team Initiative is the I-Plan, a comprehensive effort to compile, maintain and finance spatial data in each specific I-Team area.

Among the tasks involved: identifying the responsibilities of the various partners; aligning and leveraging resources; and establishing detailed timetables and performance measures.

Indiana, Maryland, Montana and Utah have already completed their I-Plans. Members of those I-Teams, as well as federal officials, suggest the following advice for states or regions getting ready to undertake an I-Plan:

* Recognize that the I-Plan is a living document. Bill Burgess, program manager for the Geographic Information Services Division, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, expects his state's I-Plan to significantly change every two months. "And I don't think it will ever stop changing," he said.

* Get buy-in from all stakeholders, including all relevant local, tribal, state and federal entities within the I-Team area. I-Plans that fail to do so, said Stewart Fitzpatrick, state GIS coordinator for Montana, will "end up with a biased or very incomplete view of what's really going on out there."

* Create a high-level policy team that can give credence and thoughtful consideration to the plan.

* Obtain coordination funding beforehand, if possible, to pay for additional staff. Developing an effective I-Plan is costly and resource-intensive. Dennis Goreham, manager of Utah's Automated Geographic Reference Center, estimates that government personnel spent more than 1,000 man-hours developing the first draft of the state's I-Plan.

* To help distribute the work, find a champion for each data theme. In New Jersey, for example, the data champion was able to put together a task force of subject matter experts and report back their recommendations on the level of detail required and the amount of funding needed.

* Get started. Integrated GIS data is critical to ongoing governmental challenges, ranging from smart growth to homeland defense, and the development of an I-Plan is only the first step toward resolving more complicated issues such as data content standards and funding. "I would say, the sooner, the better," an Office of Management and Budget official said.

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