Imagine this: The CEO of a major telecommunications company walks into the boardroom. Around the table sits the entire C-suite. The CEO projects a spreadsheet, filled with data points, and says, “We need to reorganize our operations. It’s time to expand our coverage areas and open to new markets. Here’s all the information you need – now run with it.”
The COO looks at the data and asks, “Where is our current coverage?”
The CTO asks, “How’s the signal strength surrounding the cell tower locations?”
The CFO asks, “Where are we allocating funds to build new towers? Are these locations the most logical for the customer demographic?”
The CHRO asks, “Where have we deployed personnel? Are we strategically staffing our physical locations?”
The CMO asks, “What’s our demographic of customers using contract vs. prepaid services? Are we marketing the right service to people in these geographies?”
The C-suite pauses. Collectively, they say, “How are we supposed to interpret this spreadsheet of data to answer our questions?”
This story is not fiction. It’s something I’ve witnessed consistently, across a number of industries. For some of you, perhaps it’s even one you’ve experienced firsthand.
Traditionally, companies have data specialists who will take a spreadsheet full of data points and make sense of it all. These experts have spent the majority of their careers training to run these types of analyses and represent them in a visual, understandable way. Likely, these experts are GIS professionals. But over the past few years, we began to notice that the responsibilities of these experts have become shared responsibilities. As we see in this client anecdote, making sense of data no longer involves questions asked of trained, GIS professionals. It now involves questions asked of the entire business.
But while mapping technology gives us a visual representation of data points and allows us to see connections we may not have easily seen without it, not everyone can make a map. Location intelligence providers are failing their clients because their product capabilities can only be used by trained professionals.
When I first moved into my neighborhood, the shop on the corner was a spa. Within a few short months, it went out of business, and the new owners turned it into a book store. Again, the store was closed within months. Then it became a cafe. Every time I walk past the cafe, the tables are empty; it’s just a matter of time before it too will display a for lease sign.
These businesses haven’t closed because they’re no good. Across the street, a road crew has been doing major construction for more than a year. The corner is noisy and grimy with dirt from the construction. If you’re standing at the opposite corner of the street, it’s difficult to see the signage in front of the corner store because it’s usually blocked by scaffolding.
Now think about the demographic of customers for a spa, a bookstore, and a cafe. They are likely passersby, popping in for a quick treatment, new reading material, or a cup of joe. Likely they’ll be alone and want to sit in peace and quiet. It’s evident that the loud environment and lack of street visibility is a recipe for disaster when trying to attract this demographic. Had the store owners had a map that highlighted surrounding areas, incorporated residential demographics, and visualized planned construction, they would have been more informed about their site selection, and most likely would have found a more conducive environment to their targeted clientele.
Whether you’re a small business owner or an executive of a Fortune 500 company, in retail or risk management, banking or the public sector, mapping technology will affect every business decision you’ll ever make. With mapping technology, a CTO will know what locations customers are receiving 4G service. A CFO will have a complete view of where funds are being allocated. A CHRO will understand staffing needs. A CMO will be able to predict the best go-to-market strategy. And, most importantly, a CEO will now see where the company’s strategy exists and visualize where it should go.
James Buckley is senior vice president and general manager at Pitney Bowes.
Edited by Dominick Sorrentino