What we learned at the Location Technology & Business Intelligence Symposium

By Directions Staff

Location Technology - What we learned One of the central themes that emerged from the symposium was the notion that an enterprise-wide implementation of location technology may or may not be appropriate within every organization.There is a continuum of technology adoption for companies, some which may depend on the industry in which they compete.Ranging on one end from complete enterprise-wide implementation, to the other end that is a highly specific one-use application, geospatial applications are more central to companies where every key business driver is location-based.In Dr. Alan Nunns' excellent keynote presentation, he discussed how his company, ChevronTexaco, where location technology is ubiquitous and well coordinated, forms the backbone of multimillion-dollar decisions from exploration and extraction, to refining, marketing and sales.At the other end of the continuum, we learned about a market analysis application from Andy Moncla of VF Corporation, in which location technology was specific to understanding the impacts of certain demographic trends and how they might relate to store merchandising. Not ubiquitous.

Those of us in the field of location technology tend to hold the enterprise-wide implementation as the ideal to which we should all aspire.However, we were struck by the fact that where an organization might end up on the continuum depends very much on that organization and its business needs.If implementation ROI can be assumed to be a measure of how effectively location technology is deployed, then both of the examples cited above would be considered "winners" as ROI was very high for both.

But getting to the ROI may be difficult for many organizations.What's the value of an integrated enterprise system? Is the map important at all? Are the right systems in place to help make decisions?

Jack Pellicci, vice president of Oracle, was outspoken on what he sees taking place at the enterprise level.In the opening panel discussion moderated by David Sonnen, Pellicci said that, "we see a dramatic paradigm shift underway; and that paradigm shift is really a shift to the real-time enterprise.And if you look at a real time enterprise, whether you are looking at it from a business perspective, or a national security perspective, or a homeland security perspective, it is one that requires the integrated management of all types of data.We have been working with a number of companies; and it is not just about location; its about time, its about identify, about status; its about activity. So how do you manage an enterprise if you can't integrate all those different components that you have to understand and work with.So, spatially enabling an enterprise to me is that new paradigm; it's a brave new world where geospatial is no longer special.I like to say "spatial is not special." The role of location technology in business is too important to be left to specialists; it absolutely is. Everybody in the enterprise needs access to the geospatial information."
Joe Francica, Conference Chairman

But others differed on a few of those points, especially Jack Dangermond, president of ESRI who argued vehemently that it is precisely the spatial component that makes GIS special and that visualization via the map helps others to comprehend a plethora of data in a single view.This difference in opinion amplifies the notion that the location technology solution providers also see the continuum, but from a radically different perspective.This may make it particularly difficult for corporations to understand what type of system integration will offer the best ROI for their specific situation.

It may ultimately depend on understanding two phenomena:
The first is what we call, "the ripple effect." We have mentioned this before and it pertains to certain location intelligence data that affects myriad decisions including site selection, competitive analysis, target marketing, merchandising, distribution, and sales.Location intelligence is a corporate asset.How it is leveraged is a competitive advantage.How it is managed can be a strategic windfall. If a company understands all the ramifications of a decision taken because of the geographic "location" of a store, a warehouse, a service division, or a corporate headquarters, then it can begin to plan and manage its assets (buildings, sales personnel, advertising, vehicles, etc.) accordingly.
The second phenomenon relates to the specific business model of the company.If the company's primary business is absolutely dependent on geospatial information, the necessity to have an integrated business system that relies on a single geospatial data warehouse becomes more important.Sounds like an obvious statement, but how many real estate brokerages, for example, do you know that are truly leveraging location-based information, whether they are in the residential or commercial sector.Certainly, the ones we know are not leveraging the information fully, and much has to do with deploying the information to field-based real estate representative.Recently, we spoke to one broker with commercial real estate firm The Staubach Company, who still calls "the GIS person" for maps and demographic information.We would suggest that this is an inefficient, not to mention ineffective, use of technology and people.The company needs to understand where the information will do the most good, and clearly that would be in the hands of the people negotiating the real estate transaction.

The symposium also exposed companies who were leveraging information more fully.All four presenters and the panel moderator of our "Meeting Higher Expectations of Customer Service: Field Service and Logistics" exemplified the efforts needed by companies who rely on location information.UPS Logistics, DHL, and Haverty's Furniture are companies that are engaged in routing vehicles as efficiently as possible And yet, it was perhaps Scott Fingerhut from TIBCO, a company that focuses more on business intelligence, integration, and processes than specific location-based technology that said it best.In his final statement, Mr.Fingerhut said, "I want to leave you with the case that location is on piece of context and if you want to break thought the business side, where they need context, its critical, but it can't be everything, but it does show a picture." Again, along the continuum, there are varying degrees of opinion.

The conference certainly convened an audience of risk takers, early adopters, and forward thinkers, each with their own perspective on enterprise interoperability of location technology and how it is turned into relevant information that yields usable business intelligence.Even just within the two days of the conference, we could perceive that the discussion was moving forward, but perhaps at a pace coincident with the emotional composition of the entire information technology marketplace.That is, moving with cautious optimism.

Published Thursday, May 20th, 2004

Written by Directions Staff

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