GIS Cloud Migration Survey: The Coronavirus Impact

How Migrating To The Cloud Can Help GIS Organizations Co-Exist With Coronavirus

As we look back on 2020, it feels like we’ve experienced enough disruption to last us a full year, if not five or ten years. That being said we have no choice but to settle into a new normal where we coexist with coronavirus. We wear masks, socially distance, wash our hands frequently and over sanitize everything. And then on top of it all, we need to be flexible and virtual. Organizations are trying to find their own way back to work, and most importantly a way that is more efficient and reliable amidst all that continues to be unknown. 

Many organizations use the end of the year to set aside additional time for future planning, not just next year, but 5 and 10 years out. How will organizations handle this pandemic, alongside other known seasonal influences like influenza and growing weather phenomenons, like hurricanes and wildfires? What does all this mean for tomorrow’s budgets and long term budgets? With factors like high unemployment, a resurgence in cases, spikes up and then down across US cities, short term and permanent business closures, and  global supply chain disruptions, it makes planning for 2021 and beyond a bit of a challenge to say the least.

We Are All In This Together.

ROK Technologies surveyed their GIS leaders to get real world answers to some of the impacts experienced due to coronavirus.

86% of respondents have operations across the United States and 14% identified as being outside the US or with worldwide operations. 

GIS Leaders Respond to impacts experienced due to coronavirus by state.

Almost half of respondents work in a mid-size organization within the State & Local Government industry. All of Esri’s primary verticals are represented, with Water, Natural Resources, AEC and Transportation rounding out the top 5 industries.

COVID-19 Cloud Survey

State and local governments are on the front line of this crisis. Local governments are trying to balance their budgets without much flexibility in cutting the services they provide. They can’t raise taxes on their residents. Local government also can’t rely on assistance from the state and state governments are stuck sitting between federal and local. Almost 50% of our respondents are working within this environment. One responder shared, “As a local government agency, the loss of business and tourism dollars will significantly impact the tax base for upcoming budget cycles.”

33% of our respondents identify as small businesses. In the latest NFIB survey, 46% said they were back to pre-pandemic revenue levels. But 20% said they were down at least 50% of their 2019 revenue. And another third shared they were down between 50 and 74% of their 2019 revenue. From one of our respondents, with coronavirus measures in place “it does make it harder to ‘close’ sales deals not being in person.”

ROK also inquired as to what Esri products and services the respondents utilize. ROK understands the IT system burden to run some of these programs. This burden can cause technical problems for remote workers and logging in to on-premise servers and databases.

What Esri products and services do you utlize?

Navigating The Disruption.

Just how disruptive has the pandemic been for organizations? We broke it down into 3 key areas – workforce, delivery and budget. Overall, budgets have been extremely impacted, workforces mildly impacted and delivery not at all impacted. It appears that at least in the short term, we are moving forward and cautiously optimistic, but long term, the financial impacts are growing.


According to GIS organizations who participated, their workforce has only been mildly impacted, if even at all impacted. 60% of respondents identified they have had minimal impact to their workforce, including but not limited to a reduction in staff, fragmented collaboration or access to information, and connectivity or distractions for remote employees. However, 16% stated that coronavirus has been either severely or extremely disruptive for their workforce. “We’ve had a freeze on hiring and spending due to unknown impact on upcoming budget.” Most of the disruption is centered around staffing and not having the ability to hire for new and existing positions. “We are experiencing a freeze on temporary positions, and likely a hold on any additional staffing.” 

The other severe disruption centers around remote desktop, technology and IT resources to support virtual teams. From a state government participant, “more employees needing to work remotely has meant an increase and upgrade of the various IT infrastructure.” And from a county governmental point of view, “the majority of staff work from home, using laptops and remote access. Much slower and challenging with a small screen and only one screen. [I have] had to change processes in order to work from home and as a result, workload has increased.” More people working from home means more people accessing their data and programs remotely. This not only puts a strain on physical resources (like servers) but also on the network infrastructure (and traffic, implicitly). And let’s not forget about the security procedures organizations need to put in place to make remote working possible.

One responder spoke positively about the work-from-home engagement. “It’s been nice seeing less people. We have a lot to do so public interaction takes time away, we get more done now with less people.”

Delivery & Output

Positively, the impact on delivery output is minimal. We define delivery as the products and services provided to clients, the overall access to customers, as well as the needs of their community. On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being most disrupted, 65% of responders ranked impact to their delivery between 1 and 4, ranking their impact as not at all, slightly or mild. Another 22% felt there was a moderate impact and 13% viewed the disruption to delivery as severe or extreme (ranking 7-10). “Customers are reeling and delaying release of funds for new projects.”

“Our company model and workflow requires constant fieldwork and planning meetings with clients. This has temporarily halted fieldwork and stifled project projections”


The area with the most impact from coronavirus is GIS budgets. 75% of respondents indicated that their organization has been moderately, severely or extremely disrupted. From the NSCL latest report, a healthy portion of the US states are forecasting revenue declines.

State revenue assumptions vary by state. Please use caution in making comparisons. States in gray or not listed may experience declines or they have not revised their forecast or we are not aware of a revised forecast. Last update: Sept. 3, 2020. The above map represents revised state FY 2021 revenue declines.

“Budget freezes have become a reality”.

“Financially speaking all money has been directed to covid-19 providing less to everything else.”

“Next year’s budget has been cut to almost nothing to allow for the loss of tax revenue.”

“Capital projects cancelled or postponed.”

“Loss of business for the community means loss of revenue for the government.”

“Statewide shutdowns translates to less funding forcing local governments to revamp budget projections.”

The remaining 25% of the GIS leaders surveyed share that budgets, both spending and allocation, has only been slightly (or not at all) impacted.


What Happens Now?

How do we take what we know today and adapt? 62% surveyed felt as though their organization was better equipped to operate during this time, amidst lockdowns and other coronavirus related constraints, compared to similar peer organizations. Only 5% felt they were less able than most to operate under the current conditions, leaving 32% feeling no more or less prepared.

We also asked about their resiliency – their ability to “bounce back”.  Respondents were split down the middle on answering this question with almost 50% saying they are more resilient than their peer organizations and 50% saying no more or no less resilient. While this is fairly optimistic, there is definitely room for improvement and the cloud can help. Hey, remember this is a cloud survey too! 

47% of respondent GIS organizations considered migrating to cloud at some point, prior to this pandemic. Almost 30% of those considering a move weren’t sure of their specific timeline, whereas 17% provided a range of less than 6 months, within a year or closer to 18 months. 27% are not considering a move to the cloud and we will get into the whys a little bit later in this conversation, but you might be able to safely guess why.

Read The Top 5 Concerns When Considering A Move To The Cloud. Check Out #1.

Of the almost 50% considering a move to the cloud, the current pandemic has increased the need for 57% of that audience, but the pandemic has also decreased the need for another 8%. The remaining 35% continue to have the path forward to the cloud independent of the impact associated with our current state of affairs.

Rounding out the group, 27% of respondents are already in the cloud and quite relieved to be there.

“Significantly shown the value in having moved to the cloud pre-covid.” Our organization is  “able to work seamlessly and independently as if we were still in the office.”


Cut Through The Red Tape.

There will always be challenges to overcome when encountering something different or unknown. But whatever those cloud concerns are; they probably hold true for your on-premise solution as well. Maybe not today, but think back to the last time you moved locations or had to do a switch over or significant upgrade.

What questions do you ask your GIS technology leads?

  1. Is it secure? (20% of respondents)
  2. Will it play nicely with all of our existing systems? (17%)
  3. How much does it cost? (16%)
  4. Any performance implications? (14%)

Security is at the top of this survey list and is most often at the top of other lists of concerns. Security  is at the top of our article, Top 5 concerns when considering a move to the cloud. Also appearing on both lists is the financial investment; how much will it cost, upfront and long term.

One of our water utility customer’s advice for GIS organizations considering a move;  “if you don’t have an enterprise GIS yet, moving to the cloud is a really easy way to get started and much less expensive.”

The Webinar, How To Make A Solid Financial Case For GIS Cloud Migration, provides specifics about cost and ROI.

But, the remaining 3 in the top 5 are different. Our GIS leaders are not nearly as concerned with governance and lack of cloud expertise; instead overall performance and 3rd party integrations are the other main concerns migrating to the cloud.


Are You Ready To Adopt?

The impact on a GIS organization’s cloud adoption plans – with almost 60% accelerating their move to the cloud – has led to thinking about the pains and gains of their current infrastructure vs. the cloud. As mentioned above there are several reasons why organizations are hesitant to “go all in” if you will. But the advantages definitely outweigh the disadvantages.

The top 5 most important benefits to cloud computing, as noted by your peer community of GIS organizational leaders are:

  1. The ability to scale capacity on demand, both up and down (22%)
  2. IT operational cost savings, from a resourcing and budget perspective (15%)
  3. Increase collaboration across teams (13%)
  4. Increase delivery speed o product and/or services (11%)
  5. Hardware cost savings (11%)

Check Out 3 Case Studies On How To Design Your GIS For The Future. 

The cloud allows you to increase capacity without investing in hardware and facilities. Plus there is less need to add staff and resources if you cloud provider, like AWS or Microsoft Azure, maintains the infrastructure. You may not even have the resources to enact something like this, but a Managed Services partner and solution provider can do all that work for you. We will continue to experience disruptions from the current coronavirus along with the high probability of future disruptions, covid-related, hurricane related or maybe, something else entirely. Are murder hornets still around?  There has never felt like a more urgent time to move your GIS to the cloud.


Don’t Let A Crisis Go To Waste.

Dependable, secure remote work technology has been available for years. Your organization might be using it for your distributed workforce today, but that technology has evolved way beyond your traditional VPN. The cloud has pushed the scalability, security, connectivity and availability to new heights.

Cloud adoption and migration will help GIS organizations recover from this pandemic and other crises in the future. The cloud will also allow GIS leaders to rethink and reassess their strategies, priorities and of course, resource allocation. The cloud becomes more imperative to accelerate your digital evolution; now is the time to look towards your future in the cloud.

ROK Technologies, we take your GIS to the cloud. We are nerds at heart and love talking about GIS AND the cloud, together or separate. Contact us with any questions.


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