The need to understand the power of location data is creating a new type of business analyst. As the digitalization of information has accelerated, yielding massive amounts of data, corporations have discovered that almost every dataset contains or can be explained using geographic insight and relationships.
As a result, this new generation of up-and-coming specialists understands both business and location. They bring a constellation of highly desired traits to their companies, including the ability to use data to tell strategic stories about people and place, brands and markets. They possess the technical skills to understand and apply insights from location intelligence to solve some of the most pressing and important problems facing businesses, including the following:
· How to analyze and adjust supply chains for efficiency and sustainability
· How to determine the optimal routes for deliveries, services, or sales, and stay agile in response to local needs, time of day, traffic conditions, delivery loads, and weather
· How to analyze changing demographics to decide where to expand operations and provide services that better support the community and customers
These analysts mine location intelligence, and apply deep analysis powered by geographic information system (GIS) technology for competitive business insights. Rather than use spreadsheets, they apply visualization techniques with smart maps and interactive dashboards that highlight critical insights in a manner that is easy to understand, communicate, and share. The range of possibilities include measuring up-to-the-moment sales at multiple locations; tracking asset performance in real time; and visualizing predictive analytics that uncover risks, patterns, and trends. Awash in real-time data and historic trends, business leaders across industries are looking to these new analysts to drive growth, efficiencies, and innovation.
The use of location analytics and GIS expands beyond traditional priorities to include the entire bottom line—profit, people, and planet. These new analysts develop contingency plans to maintain supply chain operations in the face of natural and human-made risks, improve environmental sustainability, and monitor social equity metrics associated with company and partner operations.
Here are a few examples of this new kind of analyst at work and how these analysts are making contributions and creating change.
The New Analyst, CSR, and the Bottom Line
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is now a vital part of a company’s brand and a metric by which consumers gauge the company’s standing as a good corporate citizen. The new analysts are using location intelligence in conjunction with CSR principles—such as sustainability and environmental stewardship—to help companies succeed financially while remaining ecologically responsible.
In some cases, financial profitability and environmental sustainability are directly linked. For instance, companies that plant and harvest trees in natural forests have found they must have a comprehensive understanding of the ecologies in the forests they interact with. If animal, plant, and insect life are not in balance, then the forest as a whole will be weakened.
GIS-based data collection, synthesis, and analysis and smart maps help track the locations and size of indicator species, and even combine aerial image analysis to assist users to evaluate the health of plant and tree species. As preserving biodiversity becomes an even more essential part of sustaining business, the new analyst role will grow more relevant and wide reaching.
In the example of lumber resources, without the insights of location intelligence and the dashboards to monitor the forest, and without the new analysts to interpret the impacts and mitigate risks, the next crop of harvestable trees might be in jeopardy. This could mean higher raw-material prices, diminished profits, and increased risks for the lumber producer and any companies that use its trees.
Tell a Powerful Digital Story to the Client
The new analysts are storytellers who use GIS to build compelling interactive presentations rather than PowerPoint slides to communicate options and present outcomes. And they do it from the clients’ point of view, using hard facts, up-to-the-minute analytics, and a visually expressive narrative that speaks to clients’ business needs.
Even the most successful of storytellers can have problems making facts come alive for the audience in order to help make the best business decision. That’s where the new analyst can help by providing smart maps and dashboards that let the client explore scenarios.
Instead of hard-to-interpret spreadsheets, location analysis translates information into intuitive color-coded visuals that better communicate market and demographic trends. For example, location analysis can identify the best places for companies to add distribution centers, open health-care facilities, or invest in new product launches. Using GIS technology, the new analyst examines factors that will determine success, such as local wages, accessibility, population growth, traffic, and commercial real estate prices. These variables are used to surface opportunity and areas of concern that indicate the best or riskiest places to do business. Some companies offer their location intelligence services to clients such as advertisers, retailers, banks, hospitals, and entertainment industry organizations to help them build strategic marketing and expansion plans.
Get the Message to the C-Suite
No matter how great an idea, no matter how valuable the insight, the message remains an abstraction unless leadership supports it. Sometimes that means overcoming inertia, traditional thinking, corporate boundaries, information silos, or healthy skepticism.
Knowing how to approach the C-suite is a specialty of these new analysts, many of whom have learned to translate tech speak and statistical analysis into the language of business culture.
Winning buy-in from leadership requires the ability to translate data and analysis into compelling insights. The new location analyst can summarize and synthesize data to the pertinent and the actionable. These analysts are contributors to both the short-term game plan and the long-term success strategy.
Bring Location to the Client
Just about everybody knows the adage “location, location, location” in regard to real estate investments—the new analyst brings a spin to this industry truism with the emphasis on location intelligence.
Over the decades, brokers have taken clients on property tours that include the surrounding area as well as the property and structure themselves. But the COVID-19 pandemic has curtailed much of that time-honored, in-person practice. To safely show buildings and neighborhoods during the pandemic, brokers and developers have turned to tech-savvy analysts and software experts to create apps that take the client to a 3D, realistic model of the properties and surrounding areas.
Using these apps, clients and brokers explore realistic 3D models of the neighborhood or take a virtual walk through a building. They can also engage with relevant information and data about the space and its assets and amenities.
While not every new analyst can create a 3D model, GIS tools easily integrate with CAD software, so the analyst can merge data from these once-separate disciplines. The new location analyst understands the power and value of big data and immersive tools to create the insights and engagement that close sales using virtual tours.
The new analysts look for trends in area sales, tax districts, political voting trends, market demographics, and types of businesses opening nearby. They understand business needs well enough to know how to describe interrelationships between the many factors. They also understand how to present these relationships so that it’s easy to grasp as well as relevant to the client.
The New Analysts Are Already in Training
Colleges and universities are already responding to the growing demand for this new kind of analyst. While the problems that each industry has may be different, the approach to solving them is consistent and the techniques are the same. Convinced of the value, corporate leaders are partnering with colleges to hire and train business professionals with the right set of skills to help transform the business.
Some companies are even sponsoring business-analyst competitions between teams of college students or corporate executives and managers. The teams work with real problems using GIS-based location intelligence and other software to find prize-winning answers.
In industries ranging from energy to apparel to agriculture, this new breed of analyst is filling a void and driving growth in new business areas—and its ranks are making a name for themselves as spatial business transformers.
To find out more about how businesses are tapping the new analysts and their location intelligence expertise, visit esri.com/location-intelligence.