Many of us have heard the ubiquitous statement that 80% of all data has a location component. Geographic Information System (GIS) software companies have pulled it out endlessly to market their products within industry segments where they are not traditionally used. While I certainly have found it common to apply a location component to the data I am working with, my experience is certainly biased, as I come from a 20 year professional background in working with spatial data. This assertion is typically used to push for more widespread use of spatial analysis as a means to grow a business, but I have found that to be a hard sell to many people who simply see location as a useful attribute to capture and maintain, but not a trigger for entering into a whole area of technology that they do not understand. The term GIS has a lot of baggage and frankly scares many who see it being an expensive endeavor without sufficient short term return on investment.
I have found that businesses want to more effectively manage their content and how it is used. This is a near universal truth. They want to be better at it because they know their inefficiencies in this area are costly and often times risky. The use of location is certainly one way a company can become better at what it does, but to most decision makers it is not at the top of the list, or even on it. The list usually consists of issues related to content management, such as storage, search, retrieval, security and ease of access. These are issues that everyone understands and are in plain sight every day. Loads of duplicated files across local and shared drives. Reliance on individuals to maintain linkages between data that should be managed together in a consistent manner. Getting people to grasp the use of location using GIS software, which introduces more content into the mix, while not solving their content management issues, compounds the problems. I have been there time and again. People like what you are saying and all the cool maps, but they know deep down that the bigger problems lie with how they manage the content they already have. If you could just fix that, then you could get their attention on how to better use location.
Instead of looking at GIS as the first step in using location I believe many businesses, large and small, should first address their content management requirements, but in a way that utilizes location as a central component that helps to solve their immediate problems, such as search. Over the past 3 years, we have worked with SharePoint, Visual Fusion and Bing Maps to develop geospatial content management systems that do just that. Our solutions manage all types of files in a secure application running in the cloud. Items related to assets are uploaded, tracked, reviewed and approved by the appropriate people. File versions are maintained where necessary and people can login to the solution from anywhere. Location is seamlessly integrated into the whole application so users can pull up a map showing not just their assets, but also the content related to them, such as documents and photos. Spatial analysis can be as simple as recognizing patterns on a map, or be sophisticated using intuitive tools for interactive data analysis. Once a business has a firm grasp on how it creates and maintains its content, including location, it can better take advantage of tools, such as GIS. Putting GIS adoption ahead of good content management is not a recipe for success.