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LESSON - You Can’t Offer a Solution If You Don’t Know the Problem

By Steve Trammell, Corporate Alliances, ESRI

ESRI’s geographic information system (GIS) applications had been used for many years by a major food and beverage provider. GIS was an indispensable part of the decision processes in its business. The end users in the company were satisfied with the functionality of their GIS applications as well as the support they were receiving. Therefore, we were surprised when we were approached by a large consulting firm to meet with the company to explore potential solutions to an increasingly critical challenge they were facing.

We also learned at this time that the company was using a number of BI applications, and the providers of those applications were being asked to join the discussions. Our account manager was completely unaware of the company’s challenge, even though he was in regular contact with its GIS users.

In the conversations that followed, it became apparent that the existing GIS and BI applications could solve parts of the problem, and some additional GIS applications could solve the rest. There would also be some GIS and BI services work necessary to tailor the resulting solution to the specific needs of the company.

What was proposed was an integrated solution that provided a common point of interaction with the GIS and BI applications. Fortunately, over the past few years GIS has been integrated with virtually all major BI platforms, so a comprehensive solution could be built that leveraged many of the company’s existing GIS and BI applications.

This experience showed us that today’s technology environment requires account managers who are willing to engage their customers in discussions about technologies that may fall outside the account manager’s area of expertise. In this case, the GIS account manager never inquired about non-GIS related technologies being used by the company.

It was also obvious that the BI providers had never asked the same type of questions of their users at the company. Had the GIS or BI account managers proactively engaged the company’s other technology users, they might have solved the company’s problem sooner and avoided the cost of consulting services.

ESRI has been participating in business application conferences over the past few years, most notably BI and enterprise content management (ECM) events. Well over half of the “prospects” we engaged at these events were from organizations that were existing ESRI clients. However, many of these individuals were either unaware of the GIS implemented in their organizations or did not know it could be integrated with their departments’ existing applications. This indicates that the segregation of applications experienced at the food and beverage company is a common, yet often unacknowledged, problem.

We have applied the lessons learned from these experiences in both our marketing and sales efforts. Account representatives with domain expertise in application areas other than GIS, such as BI, are no longer assigned to accounts based on location, but to accounts where their expertise will be most useful.

Our marketing efforts have spread to publications and events not targeted at traditional GIS markets. The marketing efforts are aimed at making the end users of other application platforms aware of GIS so they begin asking about GIS resources already being used in their organizations.

Now that GIS can be deployed in serviceoriented architectures (SOA), it is imperative that account representatives become familiar with their clients’ entire technology landscapes. The ability of SOA to provide solutions by using services from numerous applications, including GIS, requires that account managers be cognizant of a wide variety of technologies. It also requires that technology providers make information about other technologies readily available to their account managers.

This article originally appeared in the issue of .

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