Financial analyst David Tiger wrote an article in the LBx Journal this year entitled Visual Financial Analysis documenting his discovery of a new approach to forecasting, business intelligence, and financial analysis. He said, “It’s not a data warehouse and not an elaborate business intelligence system. It’s a map.” Shocking! At Stubb’s BBQ, a small, premium barbeque sauce company based in Austin, David was introduced to business intelligence. Then he found that “those long, tedious spreadsheets of sales, inventory, and store-level data were suddenly fun to work with.”
And useful. David is part of a rapidly growing location-based services community. The subtitle of the journal where I found his article is “Location in the Language of Business,” and the community actively promotes and develops solutions for people to use GIS and maps to make effective business decisions. I believe there are several lessons from this field that are instructive to the GIS education community.
First, according to David, the consumer packaged goods industry “hasn’t even scratched the surface of the potential for using location intelligence to manage the business, but there are endless possibilities.” I think this is true for other business sectors as well. In his view, location intelligence is a “dream” business development, marketing, and management tool.” Who will help show business decision makers the potential of maps and GIS? You, the GIS education community. The need is enormous. Now more than ever, companies need to be competitive through smart delivery, marketing, and reducing costs. GIS can help them do that.
Second, David points out that maps show “patterns and connections revealed in data,” and maps are effective and engaging communication tools. The GIS and geography education community has long placed emphasis on these same principles; it has never been simply on the software tools. We need to hold to that course, but make this message attractive to the university and community college business programs. I know several business professors championing GIS, but they are, in my view, still too few in number to meet the needs of the business community. The demand of the business community is still small, and I believe part of the reason is that the business community literally doesn’t know what it is missing. I can’t fathom teaching a course in business marketing, for example, without GIS, but this happens all the time. Many in the Colleges of Business have either not heard of GIS, or if they have, think it is just something useful “over in the Geography Department.” But Business GIS courses cannot be offered if only one or two students are signed up for those courses. Therefore, we need more professors teaching with GIS and more students demanding the inclusion of GIS in business courses and programs. Books like The GIS Tutorial for Marketing from Esri Press and my business-focused colleagues at Esri and in academia have helped. But we have much work to do.
How can we more effectively promote GIS in university business programs?
- Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager