Sign Inventories: Five Lessons Learned!

Cloudpoint Geographics

has performed many

GIS data collection projects

so far and here are some of the valuable lessons learned from completing this work:

Sign Inventory snapshot from Concord Township in Bureau County, IL



Get the data when you're there


  Be thorough when in the field.  All too often we come back to the office and wish we had collected more information or question one of the sign attributes.  If we take the extra minute or two when out in the field it gives us the best end result and complete inventory.  This is one reason that mobile mapping is becoming so popular.  You bring much more data back to the office and can post process so much more... eliminating mistakes and questions including saving time and money from repeated site visits.


More data is not always better.

When it comes to feature attributes for GIS work, people can come up with some craze ones... color of sign post, angle of the leaning post, type of hardware.. and the list goes on.  Let's be realistic about it.  Is this necessary for our inventory and are we really going to maintain all of this information?  Focus on what information will be used in the initial inventory and what will be maintained upon future inspections.


One person, start-to-finish.

It's important for one person to be responsible for collecting data and that same person for assembling the inventory.  Often times a question comes up that only the person doing the field work will remember.  This makes it of critical importance that the same person be responsible for completing the final product.


Begin maintaining your inventory immediately.

Don't let collected data sit on the shelf too long.  For one, it helps with the issues described in #3, and it also allows for maintenance of the sign inventory to begin sooner.  If you complete an inventory and don't begin maintaining it for several months, by the time you get started it is outdated and you have a lot of work to get caught up.


Be creative with data collection.

It is important to be creative with data collection.  You want to work quickly and efficiently when collecting GIS data and this does not always equate to one out-of-the-box solution or software program.  At times it may be best to use a mapping software program to collect feature locations and a spreadsheet program to collect data on those features.  Other things to consider is how to quickly collect data in the field.  Don't rule out ideas such as voice recognition on smart phones or dictation to later be inscribed by other staff back in the office.

There are many things to consider when working on data collection projects, large and small, but most importantly is to remember that proper planning is the key to a successful project.  

Those who fail to plan will plan to fail.  

Written By: Jonathan J. Hodel, P.E.

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