/ Column / Creating and Enabling a Smarter Enterprise with Location Intelligence

Creating and Enabling a Smarter Enterprise with Location Intelligence

Ahmed Abukhater on September 18, 2012 - in Column

The recent economic downturn has forced enterprises of all shapes and sizes to do more with less, yet they are still expected to return profitable results. This has led many businesses to shift their priorities and strategies for effectively managing customer relationships in a meaningful and profitable way.

Location intelligence has become a valuable asset for everyday collaboration and communication among stakeholders. Location intelligence involves the use of geographic relationships to provide the basis for analysis, prediction and information visualization. Sharing this information in a geographical context can lead to actionable intelligence for executing successful organizational strategies.

The insight revealed through location intelligence is helping businesses define strategies based on a real world understanding of the interaction of those services in the geography and communities where they operate. This information can enable them to grow profits and/or control cost by delivering better services than their competitors and optimizing service or asset networks based on a prediction of future trends.

However, in order for this to be effective, there needs to be a centralized operational and collaboration platform that ties together the internal employees and external customers, partners and citizens. Although the concept is not new, its implementation is still not fully mature.

Location intelligence and geospatial technology are critical elements in the transformation of any organization from an isolated entity to a fully networked enterprise as part of a well connected business ecosystem. By utilizing these enterprise capabilities, both governments and businesses will be able to establish bidirectional channels of communication with citizens and customers and open the company to greater interaction with the outside world.

This intelligence can then be easily shared, analyzed and reused across all of the different applications thereby increasing the effectiveness of the applications, not to mention reducing costs and increasing productivity.

Now, let’s take a closer look at how location intelligence plays a role in creating a smart enterprise

Leveraging Spatial Information

Spatial information provides context, enables relevance and enhances understanding of critical issues such as smart development and improved customer experiences to allow sustainable growth. This understanding can be augmented with non-geospatial information and the new ways of interaction, such as social media.

However, talking about sharing spatial data is easy, but actually putting this into practice can prove to be difficult. Often times this data is largely unavailable across the enterprise as it resides in vendor specific applications. In addition, multiple geographic information system (GIS) file formats, images without location context, and hidden location data in non-geocoded addresses make it difficult to leverage the location value.

However, when a GIS system is integrated throughout the entire organization, users can manage, analyze, visualize and share/disseminate spatial assets to support business workflows and needs. This puts the power of GIS in the hands of the business users and not just the GIS guy. This makes GIS mainstream and not just a specialty technology.

One example of this is in the public sector where GIS is being used by local governments to assist with smart planning and sustainable economic growth. When a new development or retail site is being planned, governments must solicit public feedback. Using these and other Web 2.0 tools, they can make sure the public is aware and help citizens participate in smart growth initiatives. This knowledge can also be used to reveal the best areas for development.

Integrating Location Data

Much of the location data in the enterprise has been siloed and stranded in departmental systems without any ability to collaborate or share the underlying data. Location data needs to be viewed and managed as an asset to the organization as a whole in order to realize its value. If data is not sharable, it is not usable, and if it is not usable it is not useful.

Location intelligence can help provide a more holistic view of the customer allowing businesses to deliver superior services in order to grow revenue and cut costs. This can also lead to a smarter customer experience through access to richer data about a customer such as behavior or buying preferences.

Applications such as geocoding, which takes an address and returns its geographic coordinates, can reveal the location of the customer and set the state for a smarter customer experience. For example, if McDonalds knows that a particular customer is a mom of three young kids and is driving from Stanford to Buffalo and is a frequent visitor, they can deliver a message to her iPhone showing the closest location, directions to that location, and offering coupons to use when she arrives.

Enabling the Enterprise 

Location intelligence also enables organizations to mainstream business processes. This includes capturing the value of the location elements of your enterprise and departmental data, and more easily sharing, analyzing, and using it.

Visualization of location data provides the geographical context, enabling hidden relationships to be discovered, and the location context to be understood. For example, maps provide a simple technique for sharing information and spatial context that would not exist with more traditional data.

This could be very useful for a retailer looking to open a new retail outlet. They can use location intelligence to understand spatial relationships of a particular site such as the proximity of the nearest competitor or what types of customers reside in that area. Or, a hotel chain may use this to scope out locations that are close to the water but at the same time, avoid common flood plains areas. The map is critical in unraveling these location contexts and relations and making them accessible and operational.

Location intelligence creates the opportunity to easily share, analyze and reuse data across all of the different applications and use cases. This increases the effectiveness of the applications, not to mention reducing costs and increasing productivity. It also helps beak down the barriers between departments, taking location data and turning it into location information that can be shared within and beyond your organization.

This growing technology provides a platform for a more efficient and effective decision making process, not only mapping and visualization but also data management and analysis, web services, mobile solutions, insight, strategy, and communication. By breaking down silos and using location intelligence to connect the dots between islands of data, enterprises can greatly enhance their ability to serve their customers and create lifetime value.

This post was adapted from the Engage Today blog focused on driving lifetime relationships for key audiences. Click here to read more of my perspective on this and other related topics.

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About Ahmed Abukhater

Ahmed Abukhater, Ph.D., AICP, GISP, is an architect, environmental scientist, and urban and regional planner; email: [email protected].

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