This question has been popular for the last three or four years. I have been using Quantum GIS (QGIS) from version 0.8, and now QGIS is on version 2.4.
At the beginning it was not easy to get used to the QGIS environment, sometimes I just did some basic stuff, and then shift to ArcGIS to complete my work. The real jump to QGIS was on the second time I taught “GIS on Water Resources Managenment” course at the PUCP in Lima. In a moment of academic, artistic and open minded inspiration I decided to change GIS software from ArcView to QGIS. The logic behind that was: if I gave the course in QGIS, I would end learning QGIS as well. The university environment allows you to make these kind of experiments.
Why GIS software for consultants?
My major is on groundwater numerical modeling. While modeling, 70 % of the work is related to preprocessing and postprocessing data with GIS software. So, I consider myself to have a respectable opinion on GIS tools and software.
Based on my experience as water resources consultant, I have seen that not all people related to consultancy on water resources have the ability to manage a GIS software. My dream is to have 70 % of water resources consultants with GIS abilities. Sometimes, I have found that even less than 20 % of water resources specialists can handle GIS and the rest has no other tool to analyze water resources rather than MSExcel… amazing!.
Due to the spatial distributed nature of the physical process related to water cycle, the use of GIS software is critical. Trying to understand water cycle on a basin without GIS is similar to trying to calculate the gravity in mars with a pocket calculator.
QGIS or ArcMap?
QGIS of course!
ArcMap is an excellent software, with many tools for water resources but it requires a license that is expensive.
Some companies say: “Our organization has a global agreement with ESRI and we have ArcGIS in all of our offices”. That is true, but it is also true that a company won’t have ArcGIS for all users, and in all desktops and laptops. The receptionist and the watchman might require GIS software as well.
QGIS is the most widely available open source GIS tool with a proven track record and a vibrant community and plugin ecosystem. It’s amazing how this community has achieved feature parity, stability, and ease of use relative to proprietary desktop solutions. It offers a truly open alternative that lowers barriers to access and total cost of ownership, has no license fees, and runs on the operating system of your choice (extract taken from Boundless).
As a water resources consultant, I haven’t found any spatial analysis related to water resources that QGIS was not capable to do. Even if the standard tools are not enough, QGIS had a series of plugin that extends its capabilities.
How to implement QGIS in a company?
That is a hard question and the answer is related to the marketing of innovation. To change the actual ArcGIS status-quo we have to use the WOW factor, similar of what Steve Jobs used to market the IPOD. QGIS is amazing, but we have to show it to the users.
There is an issue with the CAD/GIS departments, that are a group of AutoCAD/ArcGIS users, were all the spatial analysis of a company is centralized. Using a psychological approach, the CAD/GIS department will be the first trolls against the implementation of QGIS on a company, because they will fear of losing their relevance and job if more people on the organization use GIS software. Even though I have found some really open minded ArcGIS users, but they are not the average.
Organizational policies are another obstacle, you will be amazed how complicated would be to install an open source software on a company.
Can ArcGIS and QGIS coexist on a company?
By sure yes. QGIS and ArcGIS share the same file formats since those are ruled by the OGC. With the implementation of QGIS for all users, the workload for spatial analysis will increase and all ArcGIS licenses will be used as well. The CAD/GIS departments will be always needed and their responsibilities will be upgraded to spatial data management, and standardization of GIS products.
There is a bright future on GIS with QGIS. Download and install QGIS on your computer from www.qgis.org