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Business & ICT Trends, Applied to Your Organisation

The potential of Location Intelligence

Posted on May 19th, 2011 by TimClaes

Location Intelligence?

At first sight you probably think of this as a niche solution for your business, with lots of ”nice-to-have” features, but with low priority for running the core of your business.

But if you start thinking about this in more detail, location could be an important extra dimension to consider when analyzing your data and could (or better said ’should’) influence your core decision processes. Address information is all over the place in your organization: customer data, account data, employee data, production sites information, facility management… Nevertheless organizations do so little with this.

If you’re lucky, location intelligence is already used in your organization by a single department (e.g. marketing –> for geomarketing, site selection, routing… purposes) using an isolated approach, but until now it is rarely integrated enterprise wide. However lately I see some movements in this area, where location intelligence is integrated in the complete enterprise architecture of organizations, where location intelligence gets integrated into Master Data management initiatives. I can only support this, because in the end it is not all that complex to set up. So with a minimal amount of extra effort, you can realize a lot of quick wins.

What needs to happen? First of all the address information needs to be geocoded, basically this means that you are going to attach an X and Y coordinate to the address information. (and in some cases – for 3D purposes – a Z coordinate) Simple services exist in the market who can support you on that. Doing so enables you already to visualize this information on the map (e.g. Google maps, Bing maps…) This is typically free of charge and we call them Map Viewers.

But you can also take it one step further for analysis purposes, where you will divide the map into polygons, representing either company specific information (e.g. sales territories) and/or geographic specific information (e.g. counties boundaries, cities…) These polygons will be stored in what they call a spatial database (SQL spatial, Oracle spatial) This information can be set up internally or can be bought. Typically you will buy the geographic specific information and build your own organization specific information starting from the geographic specific information.

And now it becomes really interesting because you can start building thematic maps, providing real-time business insights. It can show all kinds of information linked to address information (e.g. income of people, travel time to site, number of visits, interests of customer…) and doing calculations against the chosen polygons. For doing these kind of things, specialized tools exist in the market to support you, we call them Map Analyzers. You should look at this as an extension to your BI environment, offering you real-time information, combining different sources. Towards the end users easy web access exist and often integration possibililties exist  with your other information systems such as ERP, BI and/or CRM.

As such location intelligence can become part as a service in your organization (in line with a service oriented architecture), enabling anyone to use the location dimension as extra dimension to analyze information and to make the right decisions, at the right moment in time.

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Business ICT Alignment… a topic with many angles. So thé key in this blogpost is the statement: “How to get more out of what you already have?” Especially from an ICT point of view.

As your organization most probably has invested quite a lot of money and time on this topic; you are not interested in how the ideal world would look like, but you’re more interested in how you can re-use your current investments to a maximum? You are interested in an APPLIED business & ICT alignment… applicable to your organisation.

As CIO/ICT director you are typically confronted with 2 types of high level questions:

  1. How can you optimize your current way of working and be as cost effective as possible? –> AS IS
  2. Where do you want to move to over the coming years to create an optimal business driven IT architecture? And what are your concrete action plans to make it happen? –> TO BE

 

Using a more abstract terminology to say the same thing would be using the term ‘Enterprise Architecture’. When people talk about setting up the enterprise architecture of an organization they basically try to answer the above 2 questions. It is not my intention however to start here a theoretical discussion about this buzz word. (I’ve been there and believe me I sometimes think enterprise architects keep this term so complex on purpose.)

No, I just want to assist you in breaking the above 2 questions down in more manageable chuncks, so that you can really apply business ICT alignment to your organization, starting with what you have in place and moving from there. In order to do so I simply make use of 1 easy drawing, which I call the ‘Unified Integration’ helicopter view.

Unified Integration

You need to look at the business ICT alignment from 8 different angles, and each time identify the AS IS situation and describe the ideal TO BE situation:

  • from a business process point of view: BPMS
  • from a governance point of view: SOA
  • from a proces integration point of view: EAI, User Interface Integration
  • from a data integration point of view: Data Quality, Master Data Management, Enterprise Data Integration
  • from a security point of view: Identity and Access Management

 

By doing so you can really identify the blind spots in your current architecture and you can carefully plan the TO BE architecture without jeopardizing the good investments already made so far. At the same time you can also identify multiple quick wins by simply starting to optimize your existing components in your current architecture. You will see that you’re getting more out of what you already have in place!

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