Natural England

21st December 2015
Esri UK

Natural England

After making the decision to standardise on Esri’s ArcGIS Desktop solution throughout its entire organisation, Natural England commissioned Esri UK to deliver bespoke training for 428 employees. The course delivered was both cost effective and highly relevant to multiple users and their varied job roles

The Customer

Natural England advises the government on the best ways to protect and improve England’s natural environment. It works with farmers, landowners, businesses and local groups to ensure the sustainable use of land and sea, and encourages people to enjoy their surroundings.

Being uniquely tailored to Natural England, the course helped give employees a better understanding of the data and resources within the organisation

The course received excellent feedback from employees, 90% of whom stated that it provided the necessary knowledge for them to use ArcGIS Desktop in their work

Natural England believes that Esri UK’s bespoke training was more cost effective than standard courses or training developed in-house

The Challenge

Natural England was founded in 2006 from the merger of the Countryside Agency, English Nature and the Rural Development Service. Each of these three organisations used different geospatial information system (GIS) solutions to support many programmes of work. Natural England inherited not only a mix of disparate GIS applications, but also distinct teams of employees with different skill sets.

This lack of uniformity led to a number of challenges for Natural England. In the IT department, significant amounts of time were consumed preparing spatial data in alternate formats for different systems, and maintenance of the disparate GIS systems was unnecessarily complex. In addition, new employees often had to be trained in multiple systems, while existing employees couldn’t easily transition into new roles.

To remedy the problem, Natural England made the strategic decision to consolidate all its spatial data and applications on a single GIS platform, Esri’s ArcGIS. “GIS is absolutely pivotal to the majority of our work,” explains Simon Coleman, GIS analyst at Natural England. “Our aim was to build a geographically literate organisation and bring everyone together under one GIS system.”

The first challenge was to up-skill 400 GIS users with different backgrounds to a common level of understanding. These users fulfilled a huge range of job roles from managing nature reserves to monitoring soil erosion and implementing EU-funded farming schemes. “Our employees’ skill sets were really varied,” says Coleman. “Different teams used different GIS packages in different ways to fulfil niche roles. As part of our migration to ArcGIS, we had to organise a comprehensive programme of training that would meet the needs of everyone.”

The second challenge was to arrange 39 courses across England, from Exeter and Kendal to Newcastle and Ashford.

Different teams used different GIS packages in different ways to fulfil niche roles. As part of our migration to ArcGIS, we had to organise a comprehensive programme of training that would meet the needs of everyone

Simon Coleman – GIS analyst at Natural England

The Solution

Natural England commissioned Esri UK to design and deliver a bespoke, on-site training course for ArcGIS Desktop. The organisation wanted Esri UK to repeat the course on different dates and at different locations, so that its employees could choose to attend whenever and wherever it was most convenient. Consequently, the course had to be flexible enough to meet the needs of all employees, no matter what their experience or job role.

The Migrating to ArcGIS Desktop Foundation course designed by Esri UK covered a wide range of skills from querying, selecting and finding features to analysing habitat data. It was tailored to Natural England’s business and used the organisation’s own data as part of examples and exercises. In total, Esri UK trained 428 employees in 39 separate training sessions, over the course of eight months.

Esri UK designed and delivered bespoke training to meet the needs of over 400 employees with diverse skills and job roles. The course was cost effective, professional and relevant to our business

Phillipa Swanton – Principal Adviser, Geographic Literacy, Natural England

The Benefits

The success of Natural England’s single-platform GIS strategy hinged on the success of its training programme. Put simply, if employees couldn’t transition effectively to ArcGIS, all the benefits and cost-savings of consolidation would not be achieved. Fortunately, however, the training was highly effective, paving the way for the organisation to achieve its strategic goals.

Feedback from delegates was extremely positive, and GIS novices and experienced users alike reported that the course met their needs. In a survey completed following the conclusion of the training, 90% of employees stated that the course provided them with the necessary knowledge to use ArcGIS Desktop in their work.

Because the course was bespoke, Esri UK was able to incorporate training on how and where spatial data is held within Natural England. “Often employees aren’t aware of how much data we hold and how to access it,” Coleman says. “The training gave us a really good opportunity to improve employees’ knowledge of the range of resources available and how to use them effectively.”

The training provided was significantly less expensive than alternative options. If Natural England had sent its employees on standard, open courses instead, the cost per head would have been far greater, plus additional expenses for travel and accommodation may have been incurred. Equally, the organisation estimates that it would have had to have invested 60 days of staff time to develop course materials from scratch and deliver the course itself, in-house.

Now the training is complete, Natural England is all set to reap the benefits of consolidation. Employees can move easily between departments and roles, share data and work more collaboratively – without encountering skills barriers. Natural England will also no longer have to license and manage multiple systems which will deliver sustainable, long-term financial savings. It only has to maintain its numerous data sets in one format, which will save around 200 days of time. Furthermore, the organisation estimates that it could reduce software licensing and IT support costs by as much as a third.

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