Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Business gets on the map

Through spatial solutions, businesses can easily visualise their enterprise business intelligence data, says Mike Steyn of Aspire Solutions.

A lot of organisations are moving to display data geographically through mapping, as it gives a completely different insight to a business in a highly visual and impactful manner, say business intelligence (BI) experts.

Mike Steyn, director at Aspire Solutions, maintains that spurred by the Internet revolution, virtually every organisation has a geographic component to its business.
In addition to mapping, he adds, an organisation's own data such as distribution of clients, sales figures and other value-adding datasets can be overlaid on the map to assist with business decisions.
“The dataset extends to items such as competitor facilities, retail tends, lifestyle measures, crime and other socio-economic data.”
Steyn also points out that spatial solutions allow companies to pinpoint positions on the map to obtain 'clean' addresses and GPS coordinates which can be integrated into an organisation's enterprise resource planning (ERP) system automatically.
He believes that the key component is to generate GPS locations of clients, suppliers and other relevant data in the GIS, and store these in the ERP system along with the address information.
“Once this is done, these locations can be fetched from the ERP, displayed on the map and linked to any data within the ERP through simple queries. The result is a very light integration between the GIS and the ERP on a database level, but with a powerful outcome.”
Steyn is of the view that companies can then take all the data and generate spatial trend reports on what is going on with their business.
“The solutions depict and predict geographic trends on items such as turnover, stock and requirements; through that, you can see how powerful the tool is because you can easily visualise your enterprise business intelligence data,” he says.
The biggest benefit of implementing spatial technology, Steyn believes, is that it is able to identify business problems and provide viable solutions.
Describing how spatial technology can provide viable solutions from a logistics and delivery stand point, he says: “Using a GIS map viewer to confirm a client location and to yield a correctly formed address along with a GPS coordinate is key to assisting any company that delivers any product.”
He explains that there is a wide distribution of companies with poor address books which yield incorrect deliveries of product.

“Using a spatial placement of the address reduces incorrect deliveries, which saves money, time and embarrassment.”
According to Steyn, mapping also provides viable solutions from a geo-planning and geo-marketing point of view.
“Displaying BI data on a map gives a comprehensive view of where best to concentrate marketing efforts. Mapping current locations versus competitor locations and adding data such as lifestyle measures, income brackets and other such data allows for good planning of new locations,” he says.
Routing and supply chain management is further enhanced by having a spatial view of the business, Steyn adds.
According to Etienne Louw, MD of MapIT, the demand for geographically located goods and services on 'content-rich' maps is growing at an astonishing pace.
He says there is an increased need by users for maps that 'talk back' or respond to specific human needs.
“We're ultimately talking about 'intelligent' maps that feed off 'live' incoming data; maps that interrogate the environment and deliver tailor-made information onto a smartphone, a navigation device or an office PC,” Louw explains.

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