Notes from the Location Intelligence Conference
As this week's third and most interesting Location Intelligence Conference wrapped up, the excitement and enthusiasm for the accessibility and availability of rich data sets and intuitive map products from Google and others was palpable. Implicit in this well-deserved enthusiasm, as we've seen so many times in the past as this industry as grown and evolved, was the underlying hope and belief that this development could be the tipping point to bring geospatial analysis, GIS and location intelligence into the mainstream. But as day two rolled out, a growing consensus emerged that those stodgy bureaucrats and the medieval enterprises clearly needed to learn from the innovative, grass roots consumer-oriented mashup developers before this goal could be achieved.
The theme of the conference was to understand how to 'profit' from location technology to turn the plethora of business data into 'location intelligence.' Enterprises certainly can learn from this latest phenomenon in consumer-oriented web mapping technologies. Enterprises are keenly aware of this development and are highly attuned to the potential of these new technologies. Enterprises are not naive. It was the enterprise that exploited internet technologies to fuel tremendous efficiencies and productivity increases. This occurred when forward-thinking vendors saw the potential to address the enterprise needs of their customers, their business partners, and their internal business processes using internet technologies. But before these technologies could be broadly accepted, they had to address Enterprise Values.
Which brings me to Enterprise Values. Enterprises value:
High performance and predictability in behavior,
Privacy of intellectual property (IP) and proprietary information, and
Quality of the information they depend on.
(As someone who really hates having to browser refresh 3 times only to find the POI lookup and associated map directions I get is sending me to the drugstore that closed 3 months ago instead of the new one, I would contend that consumers value these things as well; it is just a matter of degree.)
Enterprises are liability averse. This can be annoying at times, but it is what encourages a level of corporate responsibility and spurs organizations to cover pesky little bottom line costs for things like product safety, truth in advertising, environmental safety, labor laws and the like. (Again, one can debate the cost / benefit equation, but it is a good thing for enterprises and societies to be debating.)
And enterprises also value, perhaps above all, return on investment (ROI) and return on assets (ROA). In the context of our industry, profiting from location technology and turning the plethora of business data into location intelligence is a pretty good definition of ROI and ROA. But we can't get there if we don't respect and address the values of the enterprise.
It's not too difficult to see that saying that enterprises need to be educated in geography or shouldn't care about their values (security, IP, quality of information, privacy, aversion to liability, ROI) is essentially blaming the victim and is not likely to be a successful strategy.
The good news is we have the technologies that address the values that enterprises believe to be important. There were some great case studies on the day 2 panels that prove this. If we wish to address the enterprise, our industry needs to embrace enterprise infrastructure technologies with the same determination and enthusiasm as we are embracing the breakthroughs in visualization and web programming. I can assure you that in Business Intelligence and operational systems, enterprises are embracing service- oriented web architectures and intuitive, metadata-rich visualization technologies. Technically, the rich user experience and enterprise values complement each other. If the geospatial community wants to tip the scale toward broad enterprise adoption we can absolutely succeed; we just need to respect the values of the enterprise.