Mike Blakeman: GIS is not a mainstream function, but an element of IT.When you look at most IT systems with any company having geographic needs, GIS is certainly contained as a component within the entire system.GIS is not a hub but more like the spoke in the wheel.
B.J.Holtgrewe: Although many will wish the dream as true, GIS and spatial technology in general are not mainstream in IT in the overwhelming majority of the Fortune 1000 companies.The current offering of technically involved applications, the complex requirements surrounding spatial datasets and the need for advanced cartography knowledge is keeping this area of technology delegated to the department or group level within these companies.At best, GIS work is an effort that is "insourced" to the few folks hidden off in the corner of IT or outsourced to the "GIS experts." I see this time and time again.
This is not to say that mainstream IT could not add extreme value to what they provide by using the powerful analysis and insight provided by GIS.In fact this is the growth opportunity presented to the industry as we work to lower the "carto-geek" complexity from the equation.It is my reality that almost all aspects of IT efforts within the fortune 1000 have databases that contain location attribution.The use of this data would benefit from the mainstreamed of spatial functionality.The results would provide for better day-to-day efficiency, marketplace penetration and optimization of marketplace reach.Ultimately this will provide better "customer love" by making the interaction with customers an improved experience relating to timely sales, service and support because of the increased use of geographic business intelligence.More importantly, it would have a positive impact on the bottom-line of the enterprise.
The example I like to use most is the customer love that can come from mainstreamed systems that assures I will see my delivery or repair person at a predefined timeslot that is accurately scheduled to a window of one hour instead of the typical "sometime in the morning" or "sometime in the afternoon." Although targeted systems are available to do this today they are not integrated into the core ERP/CRM applications that IT manages used to drive entire enterprise organizations.GIS/Location/Spatial functionality needs to be another component of the bigger picture and not something separate.
Mike Blakeman: All types of GIS applications and platforms can bring a substantial ROI.Each company should seriously evaluate the return based on a web site, PDA or desktop application.They all have ROI potential.No specific application can be rated above the other.
B.J.Holtgrewe: I'm assuming this question is addressing a broad audience of potential users of GIS functionality and not targeted to a company that has a very specific technical need for classic GIS that requires the creation and maintenance of spatial data that does not already exist.If one has a need to create spatial datasets (AKA, maps) then I would point them to ESRI and MapInfo technologies.If one has the need to "use" maps, the story can be very different.
Also to be fair and upfront my answer to this question may appear to be very Microsoft centric but it just so happens that the direction we are heading and the ground we have covered over the last 11 years of spatial technology development is geared at providing spatial benefits that provide the most return on investment!
DesktopTo start with on the desktop, getting a copy of Microsoft MapPoint 2002 is inexpensive undertaking that provides an easy-to-use geographic/location-based experience.It can scale from simple to complex spatial analysis.Non-GIS users in IT or within an enterprise at any level from knowledge worker to corporate executive will quickly see the power.The beauty of MapPoint is it includes an extensive set of demographics data and it also work naturally with the personal/corporate data that any user already has.No GIS/Cartography degree required.
MapPoint 2002 also includes an ActiveX control that can be embedded by IT departments into their mission-critical applications.Mainstreaming location is not something that has to wait for the future.
InternetMoving to the web a user should take a look at the MSN CarPoint, HomeAdvisor and TerraServer websites.These three sites show online spatial data in action and the nice thing is the concepts can be explored at no cost to the user.Note that the experience in each site incorporates spatial functionality but does not make it a separate area of activity.This is mainstreaming at its best.
What's also very important is that this online technology will also be made available to enterprises in the form of MapPoint .NET that will be available in early 2002.
WirelessFinally on the wireless platform I would point your readers to a website where they can gain insight into an easily and broadly available wireless technology that is real today.Go to http://www.airbiquity.com and explore the technology they have invented that allows you to add GPS functionally to a cell phone with a simple replacement accessory battery.What makes this so compelling is this is a working service today.The Airbiquity approach also uses the voice channel for the wireless connection so it will work almost anywhere around the world.
There are many other interesting "works in progress" but it will take anywhere from 6 months to a year before we see them openly available to the masses.The majority of location-based wireless services are really something out into the future.The FCC E911 mandate is far from being put into action today.My guess is it will happen slowly over the next two to three years.