Back when I first started in GIS I made mistakes that made my life much harder than it needed to be. We all make mistakes of course but hopefully these become learning experiences rather than just bad memories. This article is my way of sharing my mistakes and the way that I solved them so that you might learn in the same way that I did.
In the early days, when asked to make a map, I did not pay attention to where I saved my resources and didn't think about how I might easily re-use the structure and resources. This worked fine in the beginning, but over time I found that I could only get the same result of an analysis by doing a lot of detective work. As a "bonus", any moving of files on my computer would result in projects with broken links. Even worse, when I tried to organize my projects I would get broken layers in my maps and lose information.
If you are asked to do a task, you will be asked to do it again. Make sure that you write down the procedure so you are able to get the same results again. The procedure should include any data sources and definition queries used.
The act of documentation moves you from ad-hoc to a formalized process. This might sound overly formal but there are benefits because the structure is something upon which you can incrementally make further improvements. I like to make one improvement to a process on each pass. This method ensures that your efforts go to where they do the most good. It also means that the person waiting for the map or the summary numbers are not waiting an inordinately long time while you iron out (rediscover?) all the details of a process or try to make a perfect process.
Continually build and retain
The discipline of documenting and structuring came to be my "normal" when creating many of my geoprocessing scripts. Each time I would do a business process, I would add one step to the geoprocessing tool and do the rest interacting with ArcMap. Over time, all the ArcMap Steps can be placed into a geoprocessing tool.
A little bit of extra effort pays big dividends because you then don't lose your research investment. Here are a couple of practical tips that have been useful for me.
Record the work that you do, either in an excel sheet or in a ticketing system. This will give you data that will let you get a head start on seasonal tasks before the season gets busy.
Relate all data and resources to one folder on your computer or network. Don't use files across folders this will break links if you ever try to reorganize.
These few small things, done consistently over a long period of time, have been very useful for me and now hopefully for you also.
Randy's municipal GIS career started in 2009 as a GIS Technician at Lac Ste. Anne County. At this time Randy is the is Asset Management Coordinator at the Town of Westlock, Alberta. He is on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/randy-wierda-9a99b1124.