GISinc Blog

GISinc Blog

Putting Business Intelligence on the Map

Published April 3, 2014 by Tim Calkins

Business Intelligence (BI) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) has been fusing over the last couple of years. Why are we seeing this fusion and, perhaps more importantly, why is this something beneficial to analysts? The simple answer is that data displayed using map visualization, when compared to basic charts, is visually more powerful.

Did you know that over 80% of business data has some kind of location component? It’s no wonder why Cognos, MicroStrategy, Business Objects and Information Builders have invested in mapping technology, specifically Esri’s mapping technology, to integrate location analytics seamlessly into their solutions. Even SAS and Tableau have built integration points in their products that can consume and produce geospatial intelligence. So what’s the point? The point is that when 80% of all your data has some kind of location component, it makes sense to visualize the data geospatially.

Let’s take a closer look

The relationship between BI and GIS technology is one that is mutually complementary. In most cases businesses will embed GIS technology within their BI systems.

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In the example above, IBM’s Cognos embeds an Esri map of Florida that interacts with the BI charts from a dashboard. Filters on the maps can display regional totals or customer information from a spatial query that drives information returned on the charts. The filtering functionality can also display what policy holders were affected by overlaying an additional map layer of a storm path – and this type of functionality is just one of the additional capabilities that is simply not available in standard BI platforms. The interaction between the map and the BI charts helps extend the value of the tool by adding insight through geospatial visualization.

 

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There are other ways in which BI and GIS interact together. Take, for example, an application that combines technology that measures foot traffic patterns of shoppers in a mall. The metrics generated represent the location data gathered from customer smart phones anonymously pinging their location and reporting it back to be displayed and analyzed within the application. The heat map you see in the above screenshot is an example of how an indoor space is being used by shoppers carrying smart phones. These interfaces can be customized in a way that enables the user to gain important insight from otherwise disparate data. Because “location” is the common thread that ties the data in silos together, a user is able to visualize the spatial relationships that may have previously gone unnoticed.

The value add

By combining BI and GIS, you get the best of both: (1) transformed raw data from disparate sources into meaningful reports and (2) more robust visualization of business intelligence due to the intuitive and visual nature of GIS.

With over 80% of data having a location component, value comes from the additional insight derived when overlaying information such as trade areas, optimized routes, political boundaries, customer location, buying patterns, store location just to name a few. The competitive advantage is obtained when you have spatial data that is integrated into your applications but shared in an intuitively collaborative fashion. This allows your company to better understand, predict and improve business processes and activities by revealing the power of location intelligence.

Check out Part 2 of this series for examples on utilizing GIS in your BI System.

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