Location Technology & Business Intelligence - Conference Review

By Joe Francica

The Location Technology & Business Intelligence Conference this week set a new benchmark in terms of how we discuss geospatial information and its relevance to the rest of the IT marketplace.We discussed issues that went beyond semantics.

Yes, there was a need to establish common terminology (location, GIS, spatial, geospatial) first.Then, among software solutions we discussed the technological challenges of enterprise interoperability.

But more important, once we got past words and technological jargon, were the important questions of why, how much and when?

On each side of the aisle (Location Technology vs.Business Intelligence), we needed to ask technology providers:

  • What first got your attention to integrate location and your business intelligence solution?
  • Was this customer-driven?
  • How much of your market would you think will catch on to the importance of location as a strategic advantage and would benefit by further spatial analysis?
To the attendees, we had to ask:
  • What political as well as technological challenges are you facing to integrate your location analysis solution with other enterprise systems?
  • Who is the end-user for the solution?
  • How will the results be visualized and by whom?
But the real questions were asked by the attendees themselves...and some provided the answers.During the presentations, we heard the following:
  • Ed Clary, CIO of Haverty's Furniture, a retailer with over 60 stores in the South and Midwest: How do we improve our ability to get furniture to our customers? ...Without increasing inventory, expenses and without lowering service levels to our customers.
  • Mike Cosentino, Sun Microsystems, one of the largest computer manufacturers in the world: How do we optimize our Regional Stocking Locations to serve customer with parts and what benefits would be achieved by our direct and reseller channels.
  • Brian Heber, Nationwide Insurance, 6th largest property and casualty insurer in the nation: How would geodemographic data and internal performance metrics at Nationwide Insurance be used to support strategic and tactical decision-making?
  • Paul Overberg, USA Today, the largest daily nationwide newspaper in the US: Is there a clear route to enterprise GIS for news media when so many aspects of our business could benefit from it?
  • Cindy Reid for Financial Freedom, a leading supplier of reverse mortgages in the United States: How do we empower regional sales managers in areas with understanding where significant opportunity exists, and forecast the results?
  • Mike Gee, Malibu Project at Bell West, a CLEC in Canada providing services on both its own and the incumbent carrier's network: How does the company accurately associate service availability, pricing, and provisioning attributes based on address (location reference); How do we leverage the location-based enterprise data?
And the common theme was quite evident - How will the integration of this technology serve customers and provide a positive result to the bottom line? The question is obvious; the answer is not.To a company, the question will always be cost versus return.Information technology investments today must demonstrate their value in terms customer satisfaction and profits.

In previous weeks, we published a report by IDC on the "road map" or vision for how each market segment will leverage location technology to support business process, location-based application transactions, and traditional GIS solutions.In this report, the author, David Sonnen states:

The main point here is that the IT infrastructure increasingly provides spatial capabilities to enterprise applications at a lower cost than similar capabilities provided by established geospatial vendors.

This phenomenon is disruptive to established geospatial players, but sustaining to IT infrastructure players.That means that in the enterprise space, geospatial players will see decreased control of sales and margins, sharply downward pricing pressures, and competition from much larger vendors.In contrast, IT infrastructure players are simply selling better products to existing customers.

The good news is that spatially-enabled IT infrastructure opens significant new revenue opportunities across many new markets.Traditional geospatial vendors will have to adapt their business models and technologies, but those who can will find significant new opportunities.

The Location Technology & Business Intelligence Conference will continue to provide a forum for these discussions as well as additional "pavement" for "road map" construction next year.

Published Friday, May 14th, 2004

Written by Joe Francica

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