Having performed several dozen migrations for large and small clients across the United States with everything from hundreds of CAD files to topologically valid feature classes already in SDE and provided training to hundreds of students across the United States about the Parcel Fabric technology in the ESRI ArcGIS Parcel Editing Solution, I have often been asked what differentiates those organizations that successfully transition into the ArcGIS Parcel Editing Solution from those that struggle during the transition. While it is hard to pinpoint any single characteristic of the successful transitions, but I can say there are certain traits that help.
What Should my Source Data Look Like?
First, success with the transition is less technology-driven and more personnel-driven. While having feature classes with good valid topology does help - the technical challenges of converting data from any source is fairly easily overcome. There are ways to ensure the source data that will be used to construct the various polygon types will migrate correctly, but these tools all work against the features while they are still stored as topology feature classes. There are several add-ins to help and there is a multitude of geoprocessing tools to "fix" the source data prior to the migration and any good ESRI business partner that is knowledgable about the migration clearly knows what to look out for and what should be done with the data to ensure the migration is successful. However, it is not the data that makes the transition successful or not, it is the personnel responsible for the everyday maintenance that will determine how quickly the successful transition occurs
Should I Do the Data Migration Myself?
Several times Panda Consulting has been contacted by organizations that are either struggling to migrate their data, or, have migrated their data and struggling as a result of that migration. The migration of your source data into the Parcel Fabric is not trivial and it is only after several learning attempts that one can fully understand how to make a successful migration. There is everything from correcting incorrect topology - to "fixing" curves that have been "exploded" through earlier migration in and out of shapefiles - to creating valid road polygons to ensure the parcels do not experience coordinate creep - to fully ensuring all attribution is correctly migrated. It is important to have the help of someone who has made this migration before. I liken this to working on your car, while it is possible for you to perform many maintenance tasks with your vehicle, when it comes time to perform major maintenance tasks, it is time better spent by having an expert perform these tasks for you, especially since you should only need to perform this migration once.
The Impact of Personnel
It is the flexibility / adaptability of the personnel, the "mappers", to transition the way in which they think about what they do and the products they create that will determine how well the transition occurs. If the people that will be working with the data every day are open to the new tools and the new ways to look at the data, they can quickly make the transition. I have seen this transition from initial exposure to the Parcel Editing Solution to being "comfortable" with the approaches, tools and confident in the ability to effectively manage the data range from 30 days to 9 months, with 6 months being the average amount of time it takes for the cadastralists to be completely comfortable with the transition.
An early indication of the flexibility is how comfortable the mappers are in having their data appear differently in the ArcMap map document. If they can quickly adapt to viewing the data using the default table of contents when loading the Parcel Fabric, even with minor "tweaks", the faster they can recognize that the quality of the data is more important that then way it looks. Within the Parcel Editing Solution, they data is presented one way for efficiency in editing and another way for publication of data and the ability to recognize this new way of looking at the data is critical for the successful transition.
The Parcel Fabric technology used in the Parcel Editing Solution uses "composite" features to represent the parcels. Since each composite feature consists of a single polygon, all lines associated with that polygon, ties to corner points that are used to join parcel corners together and links to control points (in addition to source document information, i.e. "plans"), the standard editing tools used to maintain simple feature classes do not work against these composite features. Instead, there are a new set of Parcel Fabric editing tools that manipulate the composite features. These new Parcel Fabric editing tools, because they work against multiple features at the same time are actually more efficient that the standard editing tools. How adaptable the mappers are in making the transition also differentiates the successful transition from this that struggle. It is ironic that sometimes those clients that have never used ArcGIS standard editing tools, nor done any parcel mapping in ArcMap can actually make the transition faster than those clients that have been using COGO and advanced parcel mapping techniques for years.
Due to the extended time and continued exposure to the tools before being completely comfortable, it is important that new users have access to continued support. This support can be either the Land Records Meetup provided by ESRI that meets on a regular basis, the Virtual Panda services offered by Panda Consulting or the bi-weekly Panda Parcel Fabric Forum, an online meeting for people who wish to learn more about the Parcel Editing Solution and share best practices for using the tools. The Panda Parcel Fabric Forum is available by invitation only so, please contact us if you wish to be invited.
From Cadastralists to Curators
The long term impact of transitioning into the Parcel Editing Solution is a change in the focus of the cadastralist from performing cartography, i.e. creating "maps", into performing digital curation of land records data. There is less focus on how the map looks and a greater focus on making the data correct. Many little things that could be "fudged" to make the map look valid become exposed during the migration of the data and become visible inside the Parcel Editing Solution. Those mappers that can make that transition have proven to be the most successful in successfully adopting and taking advantage of the benefits of the ArcGIS Parcel Editing Solution.