Use GIS as an Integration Tool

As many have learned in working toward a information technology degrees, one of the classic problems in business has been operational silos. Different parts of companies become virtually autonomous, focusing on their own operations and mandates and making it difficult for executives to coordinate action for the good of the overall company. But technology in the form of geographic information systems may offer a tool to help reverse the trend. GIS, when integrated with traditional business applications and data, provides a way to integrate many types of data to give a holistic view of corporation operations and “optimize their processes and improve efficiency.” One example is the attempt to integrate GIS and CAD, or computer-aided design, to associate engineering documents with locations:

The logic of a map in the first place is to see more than you can as an individual from any vantage point. Imagine a map that drills down to the footprint of buildings, geo-referenced CAD files so you can see the structure, components as well as the visualization of what actually exists in geography.

There great efficiency to be gained if relevant business details can be associated by location. In addition to the building plans, a GIS system could also provide other important facilities information:

  • Internet and telephone capacity
  • available space for expansion
  • employee lists
  • important nearby customers
  • local hotel listings for out-of-town visitors to a facility
  • strategic goals from the most recent corporate planning sessions

Because location is a proxy for so much that happens with companies, customers, and vendors, GIS offers a natural way to bring important information together. It actually becomes the point of integration for often separate silos of data. As Kenneth E. Foote and Margaret Lynch of the Department of Geography at the University of Texas at Austin wrote some years back:

Rather than being completely new, GIS have evolved by linking a number of discrete technologies into a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. GIS have emerged as very powerful technologies because they allow geographers to integrate their data and methods in ways that support traditional forms of geographical analysis, such as map overlay analysis as well as new types of analysis and modeling that are beyond the capability of manual methods. With GIS it is possible to map, model, query, and analyze large quantities of data all held together within a single database.

Clearly, that statement would apply to many people other than geographers. As GIS systems become more tied to enterprise applications like ERP systems, they gain access to the most fundamental data for corporate management So the next time you’re wrestling with the need to more effectively pull together different parts of a business, consider whether GIS could provide a way to bring together the disparate data — and, as a result, the divisions or groups you need to cooperate. After all, the first step to cooperation is communication.

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