The “IT Geo-Evolution”- The Evolution of Geospatial Technology in IT

By David Kingsbury

Right now is the most exciting time to be an information technologist for the information technology (IT) industry.In the past, IT departments were only for ordering hardware, installing networks, setting up computers, loading software and staffing a help desk.Those times are behind us.Pick up any IT publication and the headlines are about how IT must improve service to support overall business decisions.

The leading IT organizations are repositioning themselves as a critical component in an organization to support more effective and efficient business decisions.All IT functions are still intact, but IT departments are stepping up to the latest challenges of finding the most innovative ways to collect, store, distribute and retain archives of all the precious data needed to fuel analysis for making critical decisions.

How can IT support critical business systems with all the information needed to steer business forward? The answer is geographic visualization of critical business resources.Simply put, this means including location visualization on critical business assets for an organization's planning decisions.

Why is location visualization and analysis so important? When an organization can see the locations of scheduled infrastructure maintenance, crews can be dispersed optimally to save labor hours and travel time.Public information and interdepartmental activities can all be viewed and coordinated more easily with a map.For example, in the case of road pavement projects, clustering the work in adjacent city blocks offers huge time and monetary savings.When an organization reviews suppliers or potential suppliers, location analysis should be included to more accurately determine shipment costs and planning.

Critical Geo-evolution
IT departments are moving forward to support map location visualization, or geo-evolution, of organizations' critical assets by using open data storage standards for spatial and non-spatial data. This doesn't mean IT is collecting this critical new data type, but they must provide a method for storage that is central to all business systems in the corporate enterprise.The inclusion of geospatial data accessible to an entire business infrastructure brings geospatial into mainstream IT and out to decision makers.

Some corporate executives might say they have a fully functional inventory or asset management system providing all the value needed. But if that system doesn't include geospatial locations for asset visualization, it's only half of a complete decision support system.If the system includes a street address, warehouse bin location, or an x,y coordinate on the earth, it's three-quarters of a complete system.A complete system includes the ability to visualize asset locations on a map and spatially analyze all similar and available resources in the vicinity.This provides the information necessary to research the optimal way to improve, maintain, or plan for new assets.Where the excitement begins is that all aspects of a complete visualization solution are achievable today.

A recent industry survey conducted by a geospatial vendor revealed 95 percent of all executives believe the most important component of an asset management system is the ability to visualize all the assets on a map.When you think about it, what executive wants to read about asset locations when they can be presented on a map? When an executive requests a capital plan they should expect, or even demand that location visualization be included in the analysis and planning.Seeing the location of an asset offers so much more than just the description and value.With the ability to visualize locations and geographic clustering, decisions can be made about access, distribution, and maintenance, taking into account other assets that have similar needs. Hence all work related to closely located assets could be completed more efficiently and therefore more cost effectively.

The other aspect of this geo-evolution is simply the next step in the evolution of information technology, as technology closely models how our human minds work.Information technology was initially based on how we think, add, subtract, and record data and words.Now this has broadened into the geo-evolution, bringing us closer to how our minds visualize our world.

There are those who say timing is everything.While timing is important to any project, IT managers are learning that a critical aspect of project management is visualization within costly capital planning, research, and analysis.In today's world, every company should be striving to know the location of all their tangible assets or business resources.Some are on the right path, but there are many that still don't recognize the value.

Many in the transportation industry have understood the strategic value of location visualization from the industry's inception.Referencing all assets to a road network is a key technology considered mandatory for decision support.As the rest of the business world discovers this valuable data type, they will also begin to experience the incredible cost savings associated with decisions based on location intelligence.

I encourage all IT professionals to follow the example of leading IT organizations and include location data storage, maintenance, transaction processing and distribution in service improvement plans for 2005 for all departments to share.If you don't plan ahead you run the risk of having to retrofit your plans to include it, thus limiting it's cost effectiveness.Your goal should be to provide all data possible to support analysis for every business decision to keep your organization on the leading edge.

Published Saturday, February 5th, 2005

Written by David Kingsbury

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