Technology Solutions

Taking a Different Route

A new proprietary program puts STDBonline on the map.

When STDBonline began searching for a new online mapping solution, the company set out to find a map-centric platform with user-friendly tools to replace the existing, outdated system. Previous solutions had not allowed users to navigate via maps. Instead, they had to use text boxes and a more complex interface. This process was not intuitive and made multiple steps necessary. It was easy to end up with the wrong results and get frustrated with the process. To improve upon this, add to STDB's current suite of options, and enhance CCIMs' access to geographic information system technology, STDB enlisted ESRI, a Redlands, Calif.-based GIS provider. ESRI offers all the software and online data content CCIMs need to create, visualize, manage, and analyze local information easier and more clearly.

ESRI and STDB combined their expertise and knowledge to create a unique product tailored to the workflow and needs of the CCIM community. Working together, the two companies have created faster access to the critical information CCIM members want and need.

Time for Change

STDB's previous system for the last seven years was an open-source product, meaning that the software could be altered by any user and there were no restrictions to prevent free use and distribution. This led to concerns about enhancements and support. Because STDB strives to maintain the best and most current mapping solutions, continued use of an open-source system was considered too risky for the future of STDBonline.

ESRI replaced STDB's open-source product with a proprietary system that it continually updates. In addition, ESRI develops its own core products and Web services, adding innovative features that meet the latest industry standards. Since ESRI is the world's largest commercial GIS vendor, CCIMs can be confident that the software will stay current and be regularly updated with the newest online mapping developments and ongoing enhancements, without the cost, management overhead, or risks of maintaining the systems in-house.

A New System

STDB selected ESRI's Business Analyst Online to replace a range of older systems and provide a single point of access for the new online mapping program. BAO contains extensive backdrop data, aerial photographs, and flood maps, as well as demographic, consumer, and business information. Market analysis templates for multifamily, retail, office, and industrial properties also are included.

ESRI supplies high-quality, timely, and reliable data and allows direct access to data and content derived from dozens of commercial providers. ESRI hosts and manages the system, maintains terabytes of geographic content, and reserves capacity and access via redundant co-location facilities across the U.S. While it would be cost-prohibitive for STDB to build a system such as this, ESRI has the infrastructure in place. In addition, STDB is freed up to focus on its core competencies. For example, BAO was built and launched without STDB having to install or maintain additional mapping software, data, or hardware. This gave STDB increased flexibility to innovate and deliver the new version of STDBonline, while emphasizing an intuitive system interface, streamlined workflow, and improved content.

STDB users do not need browser plug-ins or additional licensing. Development is already underway for additional mapping advancements, which will enhance the user experience and feature high-quality maps with added functionality.

Mapping It Out

The new STDB also gives users instant access to the information they need to analyze market potential and perform site selection. CCIMs can access maps by looking up a particular address or selecting an individual site using interactive navigation tools. Once an area of interest has been selected, the user can develop a property profile for a particular project, compare the characteristics of several potential development sites, or learn more about the market specifics. Users can access more than 150 additional reports and dedicated services that are designed to help them successfully develop their commercial projects.

"Working with a mapping environment makes it easy for me to understand how to accomplish things quickly and easily. With only moderate computer skills I can get quick results I can rely on. It's like having an entire research department in my office without costing me," says Karl Landreneau, CCIM, associate with Re/Max First Commercial in Baton Rouge, La.

The new STDB site analysis functions include several methods for defining and analyzing market areas around a particular site. Users may select a state, county, or zip code, define multiple rings of influence around a certain point or address, calculate travel times based on the road network, or interactively draw a custom area directly on the onscreen map. Users can fine-tune and preview their selections at any time. The system allows users to generate detailed reports to ensure that they have optimized their selection and will gain the greatest insight into the potential of their commercial development.

STDB users also can create a customized package of reports, maps, and charts or opt to use an express package of the most popular demographic reports, maps, and market analysis for their selected site. Reports can be sent to a predefined e-mail address, delivered to a user's desktop, or stored on the server for subsequent download. Multiple reports can be stored for each project and because users have full control of how projects are created and the reports they contain, STDB can be quickly configured to reflect a CCIM's specific workload and activities.

Implementation and Future Development

The new STDB benefits from access to ESRI's library of Web services that has been used to provide successful commercial solutions to thousands of users for the past four years.

"I love the ability [that the new STDB gives me] to obtain better and more current data. And, it is packaged in a much easier and more efficient fashion using state-of-the-art map-centric methods," says Donald S. Huddleston, CCIM, of Village Square Realty in Spokane, Wash.

Exciting and innovative plans already are in the works for future versions of STDB. The close working relationship between STDB and ESRI gives CCIMs access to other ESRI GIS tools through STDB. In addition, new education and training resources are being developed to expand the understanding and use of GIS among CCIMs. STDB's online portal is an ideal way to pass on some of the benefits and value of GIS to CCIMs.

ESRI provides extensive support for the system including a dedicated support line and contact services for both technical support and sales support. In addition, the service is multi-redundant. ESRI has service level agreements in place to deliver performance and support and has hundreds of professional, full-time personnel who can back up services.

The new STDB will help CCIM members to grow, profit, and succeed through the use of online mapping services. A rewarding future beckons for all those involved with the new STDB.

Simon Thompson

Simon Thompson is director of commercial industry solutions at ESRI in Redlands, Calif. Contact him at (909) 793-2853 or sthompson@esri.com.

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