Following our conference on the subject in fall 2014, I’d like to explore a bit more the merging of traditional Business Intelligence core concepts with new data and analytical avenues. Namely, the various ways geography can help analysis add value to their work and reflections.

Looking at the last years, various geo-information systems (GIS) providers, including ESRI, have made it easier for BI solutions to integrate with their systems. This paves the way for BI integrators, like ourselves, to propose and design next generation decision making solutions with added capabilities.

What’s geography got to do with it you say?

Love! Love of data! …data in all its way, and in this case, MAP data!

Data has often a spatial element:

  • A point of sale 
  • A transport route
  • A traveling time between two locations
  • Market density based on a specific population segment

All these elements can be analyzed within the boundaries of traditional GIS solutions. Now, there are ways to access, manage and analyze all the richness of the geography dimension in a turnkey manner.

A GIS-BI solution has key components. Let’s review some of them and their functions:

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Here are some examples of GIS capabilities that could be included in a BI solution. I’ve tried to explore various scenarios in the hope of clarifying the expanding horizon of possibilities at the confluence of BI and GIS.

Location Analytics

For Control and Monitoring: Imagine a company with sales representatives that drive from client to client every day. Kilometers are expenses paid out to the representative. By using drive time computation, branch manager could identify anomalies with the requested amounts. Is it possible to drive from Montreal to Quebec City in 1 hour? I don’t think so…

For better allocation of resources: A police station could use the system to predict trouble hot spots and, using the work schedule rosters, have a BI system propose changes in schedule to meet the required coverage.

To help predict performance: A transportation company could overlay weather data to identify which drivers are facing difficult conditions and access information on how they delivered on time historically. Target specific end-of-stops shipments and warn customers in advance.

Geo-Triggers using Geo-Fencing

For added insight: An executive drives to a meeting in a branch and drives by another branch where a rookie just met his yearly objectives. The BI application on the exec’s phone detects the proximity, calculates the drive time and proposes a quick detour. The exec, informed, walks into the branch and congratulates the rookie on his good performance. That about being all knowing!

For user engagement: Trigger a notification for customers walking by your store, proposing an item that combines well with a previously purchased item. The notification can also alert the user that a certain requested item is now back in stock and only 20 feet away...

Using geo-enrichment

For better marketing spend: Include sales data with the socio-demography to identify zip codes having a high density of the target population segment. Focus the marketing strategy on high probability zones.

Leveraging Segmentation: GIS already provides segment analysis, like the type of family units living in a given neighborhood. This can be used to better target potential customers or leverage the existing corporate segments.

Identifying hot spots: Push sales information, client location and other meaningful data from the BI into the GIS system for a sales location. Then, using the GIS capabilities, find similar locations that are not covered by a sales point.

Identifying sales potential: A heavy equipment company serving customers in the landscaping industry uses a business listing to identify all the potential customers and quickly assign existing rep covering the region. Then, using BI sales data and CRM information, follows-up on the performance.

Better predictive modeling: A railroad company uses the GIS information to add a new level of intelligence to their predictive models, like the stress on the braking system based on elevation to help with preventive maintenance.

For better Visualization & Interaction

Analyze the performance: See the lift in sales of a campaign visually on a map. Display the sales volumes on the stores or by shipment address. Filter the sales on specific product sales to better understand how the market reacted to a given offer. Animate the sales push in time and compare with previous periods. Identify dead zones and explain why a certain set of sales points over-performed.

Help predict customer traffic: Analyze population traffic potential including high traffic spots, like bus and metro stations, in context. Add this layer to help explain success of certain sales campaigns.

Define territories better: Using the clustering capabilities, an analysis can make recommendations on a better segmentation of the territories. Group warehouses together in a district or identify regions based on the sales rep residence and traveling range.

Use elevation analysis: Detect the range of a spill or gas leak and automatically identify the equipment at risk. Quickly pull out maintenance information and risk index for the targeted equipment.

The secret is in bundling

Building a turnkey solution will make it easier for users to access the analytical potentials mentioned above. Users will always be resistant to change, so having a one-stop shop solution is of critical importance for user adoption.

The blurring frontier of BI and GIS is not something new. This merging of technologies will continue and successful organisations will be the ones that can assimilate them and distill better tools out it. At the end of the day, disregarding the melting pot of technologies, the business user will ask the same question: “Is this something I can successfully use to drive better decisions?”

Using the old adage is very appropriate here: “All roads lead to Rome!”

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