It’s easy to fall into a trap of considering data for data’s sake. Knowledge is power, after all, and by democratizing data; you spread power to more places and more people.
To what end? When an organization considers the means to acquire, analyze and present data, the investment has to be driven by both its cost and its impact on the bottom line. By performance, more than power. In this case, performance means the Return-on-Investment (ROI) in democratized data.
The military faces this challenge regularly in its goal of making personnel “human sensors,” adding what they see on the ground, in front or behind them in real-time, to satellite and unmanned aerial system sensors to provide situational awareness to commanders miles or even continents away who are making life-or-death decisions.
In industry’s case, decisions can make or break a company and careers, and those decisions have a goal. In his blog, Michael McCarthy writes, “investing in democratizing data needs to have a wide range of influence over many decisions across the organization … The objective is to excel at decision-making. The reason for doing this (in business) is to realize revenue growth.”
He adds, “More emphasis needs to be placed on making better decisions faster and identifying the data needed to support those decisions, and not the other way around.”
That’s why TerraGo created OpenGeoPDF – to combine the latest, most appropriate geospatial and IT standards, practices and capabilities to extend the reach of GIS to the widest possible audience. These capabilities include a bi-directional relationship with field operations that can offer decision-makers a better sense of situational awareness than data limited to that normally available at headquarters. It can do so with mobile data input and decision reception from an iPhone or Android device.
This audience can then drive decision-making away from the realm of the “gut” and the limitations of company policy to allow managers to adapt to changing times. Data to support these decisions can be more up to date and adaptable to operational environment ebb and flow. Data behind the presentation maps can drive other decisions, as well as creativity and innovation in areas not imagined when the data was harvested. That’s democratization.
Measuring return on investment in GIS is easy enough if you limit it to reducing time-to-customer and man hours saved with the capability. But what about savings attributable to using data available to a wider range of people within an organization and the impact on revenue and market share growth? On measuring efficiencies vs. opportunities?
On attracting and retaining employees at decision-making and information-gathering levels because they see the “why” in the work they are hired to do, rather than just the less-rewarding and often-frustrating “what?” Those metrics can be softer and more elusive, but they are no less real or of diminished importance in cost-benefit analysis that drive ROI.