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Business trends: Democratising data in the organisation


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To draw maps and make decisions. GIS is a wonderful multi-faceted technology to help visualise current information and data meaningfully on a map to make better sense. 

As digital transformation spawns larger and more varied datasets, companies willing to expose actionable insights across the enterprise are realising better customer experiences and making smarter decisions.

These pioneering companies democratise data to more of their employees with the help of analytics applications that require little training. Tools such as a geographic information system (GIS), are now being extended to employees enterprise-wide. And since nearly all forms of business data are tied to location – where are field crews working, where are competitors gaining market share, where to place new utility infrastructure – leading companies are investing in employee-friendly GIS platforms that make business operations more data-driven. 

Data powers intelligent interactions 

Matt Zenus, global vice president for data management at SAP, noted in a recent podcast that companies are embracing data democratisation as part of a larger cultural shift toward data-driven business strategy: “We’re at a convergence point where there isn’t a lack of data anymore, but the demands on data are huge. What’s exciting for me is to see the innovative organisations that know how to take advantage of all this data to actually create insights. When those organisations make decisions on those insights and actually make them part of their businesses processes, they’re going to win.”

Serving up information to employees

Four years ago, one prominent US restaurant chain’s data was locked up in silos. In one silo, a team of nine data experts created GIS-based maps to identify potential new store locations – a common application of the technology.

At the time, the company had just become one of the 10 largest restaurants in the US. Today, it’s among the top five chains, and still growing.

Executives supported that growth in part by breaking down data silos and disseminating information throughout the organisation, helping employees make better, faster decisions. The process relied heavily on lightweight, often mobile apps that most employees find intuitive and quick to navigate. From its original corps of nine users, GIS technology now reaches hundreds of company professionals across 40 departments, many of whom use its location intelligence on a daily basis.

The system is fed in part by a group of field professionals who analyse the competitive market around each restaurant. Through mobile GIS apps, they make detailed assessments of competitor activities noting where and when new stores are being built, along with the dynamics of the retail environment each competitor occupies.

“Now, without people knowing they’re actually leveraging GIS, we’ve effectively turned many people across the organisation into a GIS analyst,” says a manager who helped shepherd the project.

Upending conventional wisdom on data

At one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies, data sequestration had become a way of life. The organisation took a ‘better safe than sorry’ approach to data governance – only a privileged few could access most information, and it rarely crossed departmental boundaries.

But under innovative leadership, even a company with more than $ 100 billion in revenue and a prime spot in the Fortune 50 can change course. Over several years, executives undertook a digital transformation that reached every corner of the business, including the geographic information system that helps the company manage nearly all its operations. Its drillers use the system to understand where oil lurks underground. Maintenance crews map efficient routes through vast, uncharted oil fields. And decision-makers consult the system looking for fertile ground for new investments.

Before initiating the GIS overhaul, however, leaders paused to consider the status quo. What they found, according to one VP close to the project, was a brand of conventional wisdom that was far from reality.

“The reality is that 95% of the geospatial data we use can be shared across the entire organisation,” he explains. “Only a few key datasets need to be locked down.”

Once this was clear, the corporate mindset changed drastically, and leaders made data open by default, keeping just five percent of it locked down. That move created a virtuous cycle of information exchange and innovation.

“We’ve seen many instances where a dataset that was considered basic information for one team turns out to be very valuable to another team,” he notes. Upstream teams began to collaborate with downstream teams, and the data-sharing trend spread through the organisation. That, the VP says, “led to new efficiencies, insights, and business opportunities.”

An ambitious growth plan demands better data

“We want regional director[s] to focus the attention of the whole operating team on a high-quality opening of each new store,” explains Igor Pletnev, the company’s strategic business development director. 

Toward a more intelligent enterprise

Organisations that embrace digital transformation, and have the gumption to disrupt traditional mores on data access, can separate themselves from the competition. When data is entrusted to employees across the enterprise, business intelligence increases at all levels – from the boardroom, to operational planners, to the edge where the organisation connects with the customer.

GIS Solutions Ltd. was appointed by Environmental Systems Research Institute Inc. (ESRI) as its sole Distributor for Sri Lanka. GIS Solutions is a group company of the JIT, a foremost systems integrator in Sri Lanka with a 23-year history, providing ICT solutions and service support to a niche market in Sri Lanka. GIS Solutions provides end-to-end Geo Information Systems software solutions based on the ArcGIS platform in Sri Lanka and the only GIS Software provider in Sri Lanka that fully supports its customers through a dedicated support team of technical experts who are contactable around the clock.

Esri’s GIS mapping software is the most powerful mapping and spatial data analytics technology available. For more information visit: https://www.esri.com/en-us/home.


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