Agile GIS Open Data Initiative

2018 03 02 head

How can agile approaches be applied to deliver solutions in a government environment?

Here is an example of a GIS open data portal successfully developed using agile approaches such as Kanban, lean product and technical excellence.

GIS Open Data Initiative

The Swiss government has initiated an open government data strategy to provide data at federal and state level to all citizens and interested parties. The aims are

Release of official data

The Confederation will make data which are suitable for OGD available to the public in machine-readable and open formats to be freely reused. The individual administrative units must review and, where necessary, adapt the legal, organizational, financial and technical framework of data production to make this possible.

Coordinated publication and provision of official data

With the help of a central infrastructure (OGD portal), the Confederation will make its data sets easily locatable for the public and will make the data available for free use.

Establishing an open-data culture

The Confederation will support the use of data through free, uniform and understandable terms of use and through additional information on the individual data sets. It will also pursue a continuous dialogue with the public.

You can find more details under Open Government Data Switzerland.

The solution is a GIS open data portal supporting self-service. It provides over a hundred theme maps with GIS data in multiple formats, resolutions and geographical sizes available through a self-service portal. It was realized using agile approaches.

Agile Approach

The solution was implemented during the year 2017 and released to the public end of the year.

We identified these key elements to explain the success of the whole product development. The whole organization and all involved managers shall

  • trust the team will adequately and pragmatically solve the customer needs. Trust your team and create a work environment to support them. For example, you should

    • Promote technical excellence.

    • Provide approaches for face 2 face communication.

    • Publish Kanban board to increase transparency.

  • Act as an agile leader

    • Encourage accountability and self-management.

    • Delegate and truly support technical autonomy.

  • Be a gatekeeper to support and protect your team.

    • Reduce tension with IT, legal and management systems and build bridges to these departments.

    • Set reasonable and achievable goals.

The delivered solution was

  • Integrated in the existing GIS portal of Zürich state to minimize barriers to interested parties.

  • Self-service approach to minimize running costs.

  • Private cloud approach due to regulatory aspects.

  • REST service to provide human-readable and machine-readable maps in various formats.

  • Build on existing approaches to generate GIS data to minimize risks and respect ambitious timeline [1].

The REST API is described here.


Pragmatic approaches to become agile were very successful in this setup. These governmental organizations were willing and eager to try them.

Senior management was supportive. After initial doubts, the team embraced the approach. They enjoyed the whole process and the successful deployment of the solution.

The enablers were * Senior management committed to the approach and supported it. * Team was open to new ways of working. * Team members were competent.

1. A description of the technical solution in German is no more available from inser