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LESSON - Business Intelligence by Any Other Name

By Steve Trammell, ESRI Alliance Marketing

In July of 2009, ESRI introduced MapIt, a program that helps organizations quickly discover and exploit the geographic aspects of their data. MapIt plugs into Internet Information Server to create connections to Microsoft SQL Server 2008 databases and deliver highly interactive maps through SharePoint and Silverlight Web-based applications. With MapIt, you can put interactive maps that display your information virtually anywhere within your organization. In short, MapIt was developed to bring geographic analysis and map-based reporting to the Microsoft business intelligence environment.

End users were already using many of MapIt’s individual components, and some developers were using prerelease versions of MapIt to address specific opportunities. We were surprised to hear that one of these developers had quickly implemented MapIt for a large incident management project (described in “BI on the Fly”). Since MapIt was ostensibly built for the BI market, we were naturally curious why it had been used on this particular project.

We discovered that incident management requires input of data from many operational units within an agency, as well as outside private organizations. This disparate but highly relevant data should be presented to decision makers as a comprehensive “big picture” view into the overall status of an event. At the same time, this view must provide an intuitive means of accessing granular asset and readiness data for all available assets. Finally, decisions based on information derived from the data should be distributed to those who can act quickly and effectively. Access, analysis, and communication are the hallmarks of successful BI projects, so incident management can be viewed as a very specialized form of BI.

The differences between BI and incident management are more a matter of degree than applications. For instance, collaboration in the decision-making process is extremely important. The analysis and status of an unfolding event is typically presented on multiple screens. Many are touch sensitive, so map-based views of an event can be zoomed, panned, and queried rapidly by a team of people. Drill-down to granular asset and resource data is achieved by tapping symbols on the map.

Wireless updating of data in the field is the norm rather than the exception for incident management. Tablets and handheld devices with map-based interfaces are used to access and update asset data and readiness information for various resources in real time.

The lesson we learned with this particular project was that our preconceived ideas regarding BI users were in fact too narrow. We also learned that our new application was not just a BI tool but a solution that could address a wide variety of challenges faced by many different types of organizations.

The lesson for BI users: There are probably other units in your organization facing challenges that can be addressed with your skills and knowledge.

The lesson for BI users: There are probably other units in your organization facing challenges that can be addressed with your skills and knowledge. These departments may use terminology that seems unrelated to your skills, but a discussion may reveal issues that can be resolved with your help. This offers the potential of improving your organization’s overall performance and also gives you new stakeholders invested in the maintenance and expanded usage of your applications and skills.

For a free white paper on this topic, click here and choose the title “GIS and Business Intelligence: The Geographic Advantage.”

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