Curricular Resources and Messaging for Teaching Location Analytics in Business

Blog Post created by jkerski-esristaff Employee on Apr 29, 2020

Given that location matters in business, and that Esri location analytics tools and geospatial data are increasingly used in business workplaces, how can faculty effectively teach principles and applications in location analytics?  This blog, which will be refreshed often, aims to assist business faculty in fostering critical thinking skills, spatial analytics skills, and problem solving in their students. 


This essay includes:

  • 10 key messages for faculty to share with colleagues and students about why location analytics matters to business education.
  • Hands on activities aimed to foster location analytics skills.
  • A syllabus for a short workshop on location analytics. 


For more information, see the Location Analytics in Business Education landing page.  

10 Key Messages 


  1. Businesses exist to add value.
  2. Location is vital to all aspects of business.
  3. Location analytics adds value to business.
  4. Location analytics are increasingly used in decision making in business.
  5. Location analytics enables businesses to achieve their mission, serve their customers, and benefit society.
  6. The world of business is in a state of continual change.
  7. Location analytics enables businesses not only to manage current operations, but to plan for and enable change. 
  8. Cultivating location analytics skills increases an individual employee's value to a current or future employer.
  9. Adding location analytics courses and programs helps any School of Business become more vibrant and relevant for their campus and the greater society.   
  10. Location analytical tools, data, and output increasingly exist in a cloud-based environment, which offers a rich platform for collaborating, analyzing, and communicating.  


Feel free to use all or a subset of the attached slides that expand these messages.

Slide about the value of business and the value of GIS.

Slide about the value of business as part of the attached presentation. 


Hands-on Activities


The attached example hands-on activities about (1) regional business patterns, and (2) choosing the optimal location for a business have been used in a variety of schools of business, and focuses on developing spatial thinking, critical thinking, and problem solving with GIS.  Along with each lesson is the answer key. 

Slide from Business Analyst Web.

Location analytics in Business Analyst Web as part of the attached lesson. 


For additional hands-on activities including Learn Paths of multiple lessons, including the above tools as well as ArcGIS Pro, see the Learn ArcGIS library of business-related lessons.


Location Analytics Workshop Syllabus


The following 10-item syllabus for a short (1 to 3 hour) workshop on location analytics is one that has been tested and used in many university and college settings, for an audience of students, faculty, university administrators, or all of the above.  However, the syllabus can be adapted and modified as needed as audience, time available, and needs change.   


At the beginning of the workshop, state who you are (as the speaker) and why the audience should listen to you.  Provide a background along with an explanation of why you are passionate about location analytics.


1.  What challenges are communities and societies confronting from a local to a global scale? Health, energy, water quality and quantity, rapid urbanization, economic inequalities, ecosystem degradation and species loss, climate, natural hazards (floods, hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, mudslides, tornadoes, others), sustainable agriculture, vibrant but sensitive tourism, public safety, locating the optimal site for goods or services, and others are global problems that increasingly affect our everyday lives.  All of these issues and problems have a location component.  Hence, location analytics will increasingly be depended on for smart decision making for a healthier and more sustainable future in government, private industry, nonprofit organizations, and academia?


2.  What challenges do businesses regularly confront?   Site optimization, understanding consumer behavior, supply chain management, assessing risk, understanding demographic and behavioral trends, corporate security, enhancing company reputation, and many others.  All of these have a location component.  Hence, location analytics are used by all businesses to achieve their corporate and societal goals.  One such set of challenges exists during the COVID-19 crisis, as detailed on this operational awareness page about business continuity and recovery.


3.  What are the key components comprising Location Analytics?   Components include technology, data, and communication instruments. 


(3a.) Technological components to Location Analytics:  Geographic Information Systems (GIS), web mapping, remote sensing, and Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS)/Global Positioning Systems (GPS).  This technological framework for Location Analytics exists increasingly in a cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) environment.  This framework allows for web mapping applications, such as dashboards and multimedia maps and apps, to be built upon it, shared, and used.


(3b.)  Data:  Consumer preference, lifestyle, demographics, environmental, location of competitors, suppliers, stores within the same franchise or chain, distributors, and more.  All of this data contains a location component, such as street address, latitude-longitude, city-country combination, place name, census enumeration area, or political area from town to country.  All of this data exists as either points, lines, polygons, tables, images, or grids.  Much of this data is scaleable from local to global scale.  Much of this data exists as cloud-based Data-as-Services, accessible via ArcGIS Hub sites, open data sites, Business Analyst Web, and libraries such as the ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World.   


(3c.)  Communication instruments:  The output of the work done in Location Analytics is increasingly varied, and ranges from 2D and 3D maps, web mapping applications, tables, charts, dashboards, infographics, and other multi-media visualizations.  The boundary between maps and visualizations is increasingly blurred, as the number of tools multiply.  


4.  List the 10 key messages provided above, or a subset, depending on the needs of the audience and the goals of the speaker.


5.  The SaaS environment for tools and spatial data offers several key advantages for today's business students, faculty, and business professionals:   


(5a.)   The tools can be accessed on any device, anywhere, at any time.  This vastly increases the number and diversity of people who have access to use the tools to analyze the data, and people who can view the results.  


(5b.)  The data available for use in business education mirrors the "big data" movement, increasing in velocity, volume, veracity, and variety.  The data arise from a variety of sources, from near-real-time and real-time data feeds, to data from academic institutions, government agencies, private companies, and nonprofit organizations.  Much is available aggregated at the neighborhood level.  Much data on current information and projected information are updated on a regular basis.  Much data is documented in terms of its scale, lineage, source, accuracy, format, permitted uses, and other characteristics as metadata. 


(5c.)  The tools update on a regular basis.   With each update, the tools become easier to use, better documented, and more powerful. 


6.  Provide several powerful, engaging case studies clearly showing the use cases for who uses location analytics.  These include Fruit of the Loom, Starbucks, Esri, Chick Fil A, John Deere, and others.  See a selection of videos in the middle of the Business Analyst overview page.  For more case studies, see those on the business education landing page and on the Esri industries page.  


7.  Explain why should the audience should use location analytics:   For students, Learning and using Location Analytics adds value to business content knowledge, in marketing, management, risk assessment, and supply chain.  Location Analytics adds value in skills such as proximity, routing, choropleth mapping, geocoding, creating infographics, reports, and storymaps.  Location Analytics adds additional skills in presenting, communication, and cartography.   For instructors, it helps them to teach core content in more relevant and exciting ways.  It helps anyone understand how to work more effectively with data, how to consider change over space and time, how to consider scale in business, how to think critically, and how to solve problems.  


8.  Lead a short activity in hands-on mode, in a teaching lab or via a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) mode in any classroom, or online, using Location Analytics.  Use any of the attached activities or other resources mentioned on this page.  You could begin by comparing two different types of businesses (bail bonds and car washes map in Oklahoma City) or the Starbucks around-the-world "Manhattan Coffee" map in ArcGIS Online, or the San Bernardino County parcels with property values, and then move to an activity that incorporates analytics, such as analyzing convenience store regional chain patterns (attached) or siting a new business.


Image of business analytics.Business analytics image.

Images from Starbucks analysis map (left) and property values map (right) in ArcGIS Online. 


9.  Encourage your audience to dig deeper, given the skills they have just learned and practice, into ArcGIS Online, ArcGIS Insights, or Business Analyst Web (overview of slides attached to this essay) with the data they have been using in the previous step.  Start by noting patterns and relationships.  Zoom in and zoom out and note how patterns sometimes change as the scale changes.  Then change the symbology and classification.  Filter the data on different criteria by building expressions.  Add additional variables, such as demographics or consumer behavior at different scales and analyze the patterns and relationships.  Map competitive businesses and business that aid another business.  Then, create reports, infographics, and storymaps, and share your results. 


10.  End the workshop with a discussion of how the audience can learn more about Location Analytics.  Selected key resources are as follows: 


(10a.)  The resources on the business education landing page. 

(10b.)  Obtaining an account on www.arcgis.com (via, for example, the university's existing Esri license or via the ArcGIS Developers site).

(10c.)  Taking a free, fun, and rigorous Esri MOOC, especially the Location Advantage MOOC that focuses on business.

(10d.)  Taking courses and watching webinars on the Esri training site, on analysis tools, field apps and tools, and reporting tools. 

(10e.)   Learning about Python and Javascript via the tutorials on ArcGIS Developers site.   These tutorials show in side-by-side fashion, how the code runs the map.  The tutorials ask you to make adjustments in specific lines of code, and there is instant gratification as the map changes when you make these adjustments!