Client-ready data

Building on the ideas behind “define, design, deliver” I successfully introduced my team, when I had such a thing, to the concept that the data we were being paid to produce had to be ready for immediate use or consumption by our client.

Inventory tree surveys

In the context of the inventory survey we had to be aware of how our client wanted to use and manage the data

  • was it to be jealously guarded by a tree officer on dedicated licensed software that only the tree team knew how to access, or
  • was it for wider enterprise-use on much more generic asset management software?

The end-use often helped to determine the design of the survey,

  • what level of precision was required when locating trees, was near enough good enough?
  • what degree of accuracy is required or appropriate?
  • how to record the asset, as a numbered dot on a photocopied page from the A-Z accompanied by a spreadsheet?
  • how to provide the information, as a bundle of paper or as a SHP file from a hand-held data logger?

Whilst we may have had professional misgivings at either end of the continuum (and indeed over what level of information our client required us to capture) it was not for us to argue, we were simply required to populate our client’s database in their preferred way.

One consequence that may not have been given enough thought in the past is that an inadequate survey would not give the client all the information that they required for them to understand the condition of their tree stock, and so to discharge their duty of care and manage their stock.   The surveyor may know every tree individually, especially if he is periodically re-engaged to carry out a re-survey, but the real risk for the client is that inadequate information is transferred leaving them vulnerable to liability claims.

Development site surveys

In general the output from a development site survey is required for use and manipulation by fellow professionals, and they use enterprise-wide asset management software tools such as AutoCAD and so if the survey is presented as the product of a dedicated tree management software package it is of no interest, and so of no value to the client.

The accompanying text

It is also important to consider the narrative that is written to explain what has been submitted when thinking about “client ready data”.   In his essay “Politics and the English Language” George Orwell set down a number of rules to guide the writer:

  1. never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print
  2. never use a long word where a short one will do
  3. if it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out
  4. never use the passive where you can use the active
  5. never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent
  6. break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous

I find it difficult to honour rule 4 at all times, and I suspect I have broken a number of the other rules in this short piece.   However, that does not mean they should be there to guide the author at all times.

In summary

How to summarise my experience?

Whilst I think that the proprietary tree management database packages are very competent I believe that they have limitations, not least of which is when considering accessibility and the sharing of data across a range of platforms.   If an IT geek tells you the “data transfer will be seamless” be prepared for trouble.   A difficulty with a tree management package for which you hold the only licence is that you become by default the manager of the tree stock that you have surveyed.

I am very much in favour of providing high volumes of information from inventory surveys as SHP files created using properly considered and designed survey schema.   Good quality, accurate and precise information can be uploaded to the client enterprise’s server and all the relevant professionals within the organisation will be able to use the management information provided by the competent arboricultural professional to make good quality management decisions.

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