You could call them maps with attitude. They’re maps with business intelligence information overlaid on them and they can provide rich insights into business performance.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a good map is worth at least a thousand dollars, especially when combined with customer data, demographic profiles, sales region performance and even competitor information.
Until recently, combining business intelligence, customer relationship, enterprise resource planning and related information with spatial information via GIS (geographic information system) was rather difficult – and expensive.
But now, with the advent of more widely available digital base-maps, advances in browser-based and application based map interfaces, and improved methods for geo-coding, it has become easier to map business activity. As a result, savvy companies are taking advantage of smart maps to give themselves a competitive edge, increase profits, make better decisions and streamline their operations.
But first a little explanation: geo-coding – this is the process of placing point, line and polygon (objects, such as buildings) information accurately on the base-map.
One industry that has taken this new technology onboard is the contact centre industry. And one company that is taking location intelligence tools very seriously is Jet Interactive. It has an in-house system called Call Tracker to which it has now added geographic intelligence. “Adding customised maps and the location of in-bound callers to our Call Tracker online dashboard is a significant point of difference between us and our competitors,” says Justin Graham, Jet Interactive’s CEO.
The company is one of Australia’s largest in-bound number providers. “Media companies especially like the ability to see immediately where calls originate, as they’re then able to gauge the effectiveness of advertising campaigns. When our customers can see exactly when and where calls originate from they can make more informed decisions on where to focus their advertising initiatives.”
The Australian contact centre industry employs 250,000 staff dealing with around 16 million calls per day – with numbers like these, competition is intense and companies have to have a competitive edge to attract and retain clients. Providing clients with business intelligence through the use of call mapping is one tool they can use to do this effectively.
Maps on the dashboard
The new technology works by integrating location intelligence with that staple of business intelligence – the dashboard, making information easier, and quicker, to view by managers, as well as analysts.
Business analysts are used to working with tables and spreadsheets, but many upper-level and line managers don’t have the time to spend hours and hours sifting through the numbers to identify patterns and make associations. They want to be able to quickly see, for example, how many sales there have been, which sales people made them, how long it takes to deliver the goods sold and other key performance indicators (KPIs).
Most of these KPIs have a time aspect to them and many have a dollar value assigned to them, but now KPIs are being associated with a location value too. Jet Interactive provides a good example here.
“Our customers can see call volume by exchange, city, state and slice it up by demographic metrics on a map view,” says Graham.
“We have mapped some 5,000 exchanges – which can vary in size from a few city blocks to huge expanses – across Australia. Each time a call comes in it is assigned to an exchange. Then using the Call Tracker Dashboard, users can click on a tab and immediately see from which exchange the calls originated. They can also aggregate up to cities and states. We have added the capability to look at demographic profiles of the exchanges too – 250 individual categories, licensed from the Australian Bureau of
Statistics – so customers can compare the exchange to national averages.”
“Being able to offer location intelligence has given us a clear advantage in the marketplace,” says Graham. “We’ve made the whole process easy to grasp for our users. They can now visualise where their callers are, compare demographics and then make more informed decisions on how
best to structure their marketing programmes.”
Jet Interactive’s Call Tracker LI interface has been developed inside Yellowfin’s BI platform.
Ahead of the curve
Melbourne-based Yellowfin is ahead of the curve when it comes to true location intelligence (LI). LI differs from traditional GIS in as much as end-users can access the map-based interface from inside the BI application itself. Advanced GIS capabilities are limited – for instance, LI users can’t create polygons.
This has to be undertaken by a third-party and then loaded into the BI solution. However, LI users can take advantage of the many benefits of GIS – without having to become mapping experts.
“BI and LI users often have a very basic requirement,” says Glen Rabie, CEO of Yellowfin. “They want to see where they can sell more stuff. It is up to us, as solution providers, to ensure that they have the tools to help them do just that.
Before Google Maps, location intelligence was too obscure a concept. Most people thought of maps as static, paper-based sheets. But once they started to see the possibilities of online mapping, the seed was planted.” “We can now tap into the available digital maps –
Google Maps and Bing Maps – via API (application programming interfaces) and use these as the base for overlaying customer data, continues Rabie. “We can also add demographic data from [say] the Australia Bureau of Statistics, as Jet Interactive have done. Keep in mind, though, that this data is not free. There are licensing arrangements to sort out, depending on how you want to set up your maps. But, once customers start to see their data in a geographic context, they’re invariably impressed.”
Empowering a new class of users “Location intelligence has the potential to bring the power of spatial analysis to a much broader range of users,” says Francisco Urbina, manager of business development strategy at ESRI Australia, the local office of the world’s leading GIS software and service provider. “LI provides what people would expect from a mapping solution, with a simplified interface.
The average user doesn’t care about metadata, centroids, polygons or any of the other technical features that define GIS. They want to see maps that show them customers, transactions and patterns. And that is what LI delivers.”
LI can provide a number of benefits for users. “You can track your assets from the map,” continues Urbina, “ and perform basic geographic analyses. With the capability to display the maps on a hand-held data terminal, your field staff can quickly identify assets in the field and service them as required.”
Integrating LI capabilities into enterprise solutions such as business intelligence has become much easier. “There are a lot of tools available now,” says Urbina. “For instance, most developers have a library of APIs that can link capabilities. Plus web services and SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) can be employed to add mapping capabilities to non-mapping solutions.
But regardless of the actual techniques employed, the power of smart maps is now becoming more accessible to a whole new class of end-users.” Clean data Location intelligence is here and it’s powerful. But, even though the map interface is intuitive and can be called up
with a single click, the amount of pre-processing to get to that point is not trivial.
Companies like Jet Interactive are already using LI to give them a competitive advantage, but like any advantage it’s not gained without effort.
The investment is likely worth it though. LI can take your company from being an also-ran to a leader. However, it takes vision, commitment and lots and lots of clean data. But, if you want to give your company a jump-start in your field, LI just might be the technology to take your ompany to the next level.