Location, location, location: Enterprises finding value in geospatial data

The use of location analytics is spreading beyond GIS teams in enterprises, according to Esri's Nathan Bennett

As organisations seek to leverage the vast amounts of data they collect to better inform their business decisions, the use of location-related data has increasingly spread beyond dedicated geospatial teams and into the broader enterprise, according to Nathan Bennett.

"Organisations all over the world are collecting and analysing all kinds of business data to try to improve their performance," said Bennett, a technical evangelist for GIS software provider Esri.

"It's really become a necessary workflow for staying competitive. Over the years we've seen that enterprise technology and business systems are incredibly valuable tools for helping organisations make the most of that information and that data they're collecting, and then also to help them get data and information to the right people at the right time.

"However, those systems were never really designed to take advantage of what's really a fundamental component that exists in all business data — and that's location."

"Whether you're analysing your sales pipeline or overseeing operations or managing your relationship with customers — all of that data contains some sort of geographic dimension," he added.

Bennett, who on behalf of Esri seeks to promote the use of location analytics, said that more organisations are seeking to integrate location into enterprise applications.

"One of the easiest ways to do that is by embedding maps and geographic intelligence in the mission-critical business systems that organisations use — so things like business intelligence and customer relationship management technology and even office productivity tools such as Microsoft SharePoint and Microsoft Office."

The consumerisation of IT and the increased access to mobile devices among workforces is boosting demand for access to geospatial data, Bennett said.

"Years ago there were maybe only a couple of people in the enterprise who actually had access to digital maps and GIS systems, but now we live in a world where everyone in an organisation has one to two mobile devices — smartphones and tablets — and these people are using maps every day to live their lives, to get from point A to point B, to find restaurants.

"I think that is definitely helping people to start to think, 'Why can't I have a map of my business data?' Organisations have had mapping tools such as the classic GIS technology, but normally it was specialised technology that only a small group of people could use — they needed to have not only access to the technology but a lot of training and experience."

However using location analytics platforms and integrating spatial data into productivity applications are both getting easier, Bennett added.

"Departments and groups outside the GIS [team] are starting to be able to leverage location data in their decision making — whether it's a risk analyst in an insurance company using a business intelligence report to be able to map their policies in relation to a floodplain or a commercial organisation mapping their sales information in a business intelligence environment. Or even just a casual business user able to create maps in their spreadsheets.

"GIS is definitely being used across all kinds of different industries, but I think what we're seeing is now we're really opening up that technology and that value-add to other departments outside of that classic GIS group."

"We've seen many examples of people seeing their data on the map for the first time and just asking really basic questions — like 'Why do I have sales over here and no sales over here?'," Bennett said.

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