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Matt Sheehan
Matt Sheehan
Matt holds an MSc in Geography and GIS. He has been working with clients solving problems with GIS for over 17 years. Matt founded WebMapSolutions whose mission is to put innovative, intuitive GIS driven applications into the hands of new and existing users.

Looking in the Crystal Ball at GIS and BI

April 28th, 2016 by Matt Sheehan

So young Matt and I were chatting yesterday. As ever our GIS conversation was wide and interesting. As our discussion meandered we started looking in the crystal ball at GIS and business intelligence (BI). A fascinating conversation. And one in which GIS lite and GIS business specialists emerged.

When referencing GIS we often talk in terms of ‘WHERE’ or ‘Find the Nearest’ questions. At its core GIS answers these questions. Asset management has been a key reason to use GIS eg. where is the broken pipe in need of replacement? The public sector has gravitated to GIS in part for this reason. WHERE are our assets is a very obvious use of the technology, combined with map generation for visualization.

But that’s pretty narrow.

Commercial use of GIS has been somewhat limited versus the public sector. Why? It’s a good question, and one I often ponder. But that is changing. Mobile devices have brought the notion of location to the fore. In our new smartphone/tablet world, WHERE questions are often asked. The commercial sector have begun to realise WHERE is a key business question. That’s good right?

Well maybe

Today we live in a world of platforms. Business questions are answered by BI platforms. WHERE questions by GIS platforms. Business analysts work with BI. GIS folk largely work with GIS. The adoption of GIS in the commercial sector has two primary challenges:

1) Business analysts often use one BI platform. The BI tools available are designed to be simple: click click to an answer. Turning to a GIS platform to answer WHERE questions is unfamiliar territory.

2) No matter how simple we make GIS, the technology remains complex. Start with data: gathering, cleaning, updating requires geo-skills. Then move to thinking spatially. Understanding and answering WHERE questions. This again requires geo-skills.

So where does that leave us? Young Matt and I speculate two GIS systems. Traditional GIS as a separate platform. And GIS-lite likely integrated into BI platforms. Simple tools in line with current BI tools. GIS will be another set of tools in the business analysts tool-set. We speculate business analysts will be trained on thinking spatially and using the GIS tools on offer. Does that leave GIS specialists out in the cold? Absolutely not. GIS will move from the ‘mapping or GIS department’ to the ‘business intelligence department’ as GIS business specialists.

GIS has a rosy future. Today we live in a time of disruption. Exciting stuff.

What do you think? Contact us on 801-733-0723.

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Categories: ArcGIS Online, cloud GIS, Mobile ArcGIS, Mobile GIS, Web and mobile GIS

2 Responses to “Looking in the Crystal Ball at GIS and BI”

  1. Jim Horstman says:

    Hi Matt, once again generally in agreement with your thoughts. However, I think we have passed the time of thinking of GIS as a platform and instead think of it as a capability (I know that can be a loaded term) that is available in many platforms. Several BI platforms already embed GIS capabilities. In the utility space, Space Time Insight (STI) is an example where the GIS capabilities are used both for visualization as well as understanding the ‘where’ component and the ‘how’, as in how are the assets connected in a network aspect, component. While there will always be a need for ‘GIS Specialists’, those involved in the data maintenance aspects of GIS (ignoring the cartographic debate), I don’t see them moving anywhere. As GIS capabilities are further expanded into the BI space the BI specialist won’t become GIS specialists but simply have another capability available to them. Similarly where GIS capabilities have been embedded in production applications, like Outage Management Systems in the utility world, the individuals using those applications simply have more capabilities that they don’t even know to call GIS.

    • Matt Sheehan Matt Sheehan says:

      Thanks for your thoughts Jim. I agree, particularly with your last line: “individuals using those applications simply have more capabilities that they don’t even know to call GIS”. I’m thinking GIS capabilities will become more pervasive with time in the BI world.

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