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LESSON - Who, What, When, and WHERE


Greater ROI from DW and BI Assets
By Steve Trammell, Corporate Alliances, ESRI

Nearly all organizations, both public and private, have a valuable but underutilized asset in their data warehouses. Furthermore, most organizations already have many of the tools necessary to exploit this asset and realize more ROI from those same data warehouses. This asset is location: the WHERE in the title of this article. While valuable analysis has been done on who, what, and when, the analysis of “where” has mostly been overlooked or confined to departmentally isolated groups.

The analysis of “where” is accomplished with geographic information system (GIS) applications. Over the years, organizations have discovered many valuable uses for GIS, such as sales territory alignment, risk analysis, target marketing, supply chain management, warranty analysis, fraud detection, and route optimization. Most organizations would benefit from many of these proven applications, but private sector organizations rarely implement more than one or two of them.

Practically every organization hasthe data to fuel geographic analysis,and most organizations havepersonnel that already understandand use the technology.

You Already Have the Data and Skills

Geographic analysis is fueled by location data, which is already present (in the form of addresses) in approximately 80 percent of operational data aggregated in data warehouses. This figure is even higher with business data. In addition, we have spoken over the past two years with a number of companies using BI, and have discovered that a surprisingly high number already have GIS implementations existing somewhere in their organizations. Not surprisingly, it was obvious that the BI users we spoke with had no knowledge of their organizations’ existing GIS usage. The reason is simple: GIS had been deployed in these organizations as an important tactical solution to a specific departmental problem. The data warehouse and BI users were working at different levels within the organization: the operational data was being collected at the departmental level, so the GIS users of the source data had no impact on the DW and BI projects.

An example of this would be a real estate department that uses GIS to analyze potential sites for new facilities. The result of each analysis moves up the organization as a GIS-generated report, often with maps, until a decision is made. But rarely is anyone outside of the process exposed to the underlying technology, so other departments are not aware of potentially valuable in-house skills and applications. The lesson here is that practically every organization has the data to fuel geographic analysis, and most organizations have personnel that already understand and use the technology.

GIS and BI Integration Right Out of the Box

Today’s data warehouses and BI applications make it possible for many departments within an organization to benefit from geographic analysis. The data warehouse aggregates data from many operational units, so the GIS needs to connect only to a single source. BI provides a user-friendly analysis and reporting platform to simplify the actual application of geographic analysis and map-enhanced reporting. GIS applications are now server-based, so all three technologies (data warehousing, BI, and GIS) can work together in an integrated IT environment. Realizing the value of GIS for enhanced reporting and forward-looking analytics, the major BI providers and their partners have built the linkages to GIS into their latest releases. In many cases, creating an interactive map-based report showing status, performance, or simple locations, is no more difficult than setting up a new report in your BI system. Now that you have the data analysis and distribution platform, it’s time to start exploiting the real value of WHERE.

This article originally appeared in the issue of .

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