LocationBI-Part 2

By Joe Francica

Before launching into the editorial, I want to briefly mention that Directions is very proud to celebrate its sixth anniversary as a company.In the internet world, that's not only a long time, but we feel fortunate to have survived a prolonged market downturn.We want to especially thank our advertisers who have supported us through these six years and it is to them that owe our sincere gratitude.Thanks also to our readers who continue to grow in numbers throughout the world.We appreciate your words of encouragement and constructive suggestions.Thanks to all...

In an editorial I wrote on October 22 (LocationBI - Location-based Business Intelligence), I discussed the rationale of an evolving market picture that brings together location-based technology and services with business intelligence (BI) solutions; something I call LocationBI.Last week, we announced the creation of a new conference called Location Technology and Business Intelligence Executive Symposium, an event we are hosting with The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania next May.

Now, it is not as if we need yet another conference in our already busy schedules, right? Budgets are already tight, and traveling is a hassle. OK, we know all that, and yet, I strongly believe the time is right to get these two groups in a room to share mutual challenges.

We know there is a unique opportunity for this to occur and here is why.I am absolutely convinced this is where the market for location technology is trending.My previous editorial explains this is in more detail.However, look at the facts:

a) The affects of "location" on a business decision "ripples" throughout the organization's infrastructure: Finance, Human Resources, Marketing, and Sales.
b) Location-based information is supported by more business intelligence software solutions.
c) GIS companies are collaborating with BI vendors through strategic partnerships and product integration.
d) The big IT boys are in the game, namely, Oracle, Microsoft, IBM, Sun.
Let me explore each of these briefly:

"a" : Do you know what happens when a decision is made to open a new store? I have had the opportunity to understand this process more completely at three companies: Hilton Hotels, The Home Depot, and Dollar Tree Stores.From the time a specific location is considered for lease or purchase until the time that the doors are open, each information system that supports merchandising, employee hiring and training, construction, and finance needs to understand how and why the chosen location pertains to each business unit.That's just the beginning.As a network of stores is developed, certain business constraints apply to other decisions: Are there enough employees in that region to staff each new locale? What legal franchising limitations are imposed on new locations with regard to protecting a franchisee's rights to operate? Can we serve our customers better? Where should we advertise? What are the forecasted sales in this network? With growth comes more challenging information constraints and the need for better analysis.

"b" : The easy examples of the support for BI solutions comes from the database companies: With the support for spatial data and operators within Oracle and IBM's DB2 comes the ability to spatially-enable every derived application solution built as an value-added product with the database. One specific area to watch is how IBM might spatially-enable WebSphere to assist with analysis of enterprise business process.

"c" : Just last week, MapInfo announced collaboration with Business Objects "to offer enterprise users a comprehensive location-based business intelligence solution." What does that mean? Business Objects is a company that provides several business process solutions for performance monitoring (an integrated look at financial performance from operations in supply chain, marketing and sales), plus solutions for "Customer Intelligence" or less euphemistically put, that which comprises Sales, Marketing, and Contact Management.Business Objects is one of those companies operating at a mid-tier IT level offering solutions not quite as big as an SAP system.Other such companies include Information Builders, TIBCO, and ILOG, all offering solutions under the banner of business process management (BPM).Spatially enabling any one of these solutions is just the logical next step in providing a visualization and analytical tool for each of these processes.

"d" : Investment decisions as large as "spatially-enabling" your core product offerings do not occur without the blessing of the CEO.You can bet that Larry Ellison, Bill Gates, Sam Palmisano, and Scott McNealy know very well about the potential of "location technology." Quite simply, location is too central to business processes to ignore.You either manage it or you will fail to capitalize on an essential variable in your database of customers, suppliers, or other assets that have a spatial component.

And so, we expect that the Location Technology and Business Intelligence Executive Symposium will be an opportunity for the Location/GIS technology and BI executives and users to get in a room, listen to case studies from those that have integrated both types of IT solutions, and talk about mutual interests, challenges, and concerns.We hope you feel it will be an opportunity you won't want to miss.

Published Wednesday, November 19th, 2003

Written by Joe Francica

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