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Applications of GIS Mapping in Business

Businesses ranging from entrepreneurial start-ups to multinationals rely on analyses of data from operations to make better decisions more quickly, gain efficiencies, reduce risk and cut costs.

Remote digital mapping, population surveys and other externally sourced location-based data add a new dimension to business intelligence that augment the “who, what, why and when” of business with the “where.”

Known as geographic information systems (GIS), the technology incorporates geospatial and demographic data and business analytics. As a result, it changes how organizations in the private, nonprofit and public sectors make vital decisions.

In agriculture, for example, Nespresso uses the analytics technology ArcGIS to make environmentally responsible and sustainable decisions in sourcing coffee from producers around the world.

“Innovation and sustainability are deeply ingrained in the Nespresso DNA,” said Yann De Pietro, the company’s sustainability digital and operations manager, to the 2021 Esri End User Conference. “It’s no wonder we started to use ArcGIS to support our journey to a positive impact.”

How Do Organizations Use GIS to Make Decisions?

Nobel Systems, a GIS resource center, outlines 20 GIS applications for organizations in verticals ranging from development and implementation of telecommunications and network services to pest control management. Some uses are:

Environmental planning
As Environmental, Social and Governance Reporting continues to become a critical factor in an organization’s health, decisions that support responsible and sustainable operations give businesses a competitive advantage. GIS enables planners to assess the impact of potential physical expansion and develop alternatives before committing resources.

Retail outlet location
Starbucks, for example, uses GIS technology to collect and analyze traffic, pedestrian and customer spending data. This information helps them locate new shops as well as implement new products and technology for brewing coffee.

Resource allocation
GIS data improve efficiencies in siting, maintaining and expanding physical assets. Geospatial analytics enables planners to account for location, geography and transportation and utility infrastructure to manage costs and reduce risk in making decisions.

Charitable organizations rely on public financial support to achieve their goals. Analyses of household income demographics and community-need mapping create powerful data visuals that development directors can use to target the likely contributors and increase return on the fundraising investment.    

Online dashboards reporting COVID-19 statistics are an ongoing and very public example of GIS usage at local, state, federal and global levels.

Answering “where are COVID-19 cases increasing” requires multi-agency collaboration for data on boundaries, population demographics, reported cases as well as outcomes and other variables, according to Anna Tribolet for the Utah Geospatial Resource Center.

“It may take several paragraphs to talk about the trends,” she notes, but integrating the demographic, health and geographic data creates digestible, comprehensive visualizations that connect “these complicated layers and help[s] us understand the overall trends of COVID-19 data.”

What GIS Skills Are in High Demand?

According to Directions Magazine, more than half of all job postings across all functional GIS fields ranked analysis and modeling among top skills, followed by “soft skills” that support cross-functional team interaction.

“Skills are things which we can acquire and learn, while abilities are things that we have naturally. Importantly, both can be refined through training and education,” the magazine noted.

A Master of Business Administration with a Concentration in Information Analysis and Decision-Making, such as the one at Southern Oregon University (SOU), equips graduates with both technical and soft skills.

The program’s Using GIS in Business course explores how integrating geospatial data and operational analytics enriches business intelligence and supports effective, data-based decision-making, giving businesses a competitive edge. Students gain hands-on experience with ArcGIS state-of-the-art online software for business analysts. Assignments and projects provide skills in researching, mapping, and presenting data sets across a variety of business sectors. The course also explores alternative methods of mapping data outside of ArcGIS tools.

Students also gain insights and expertise in the theory and practice of individual and group behavior, including leadership and decision-making in diverse, cross-cultural professional environments through advanced organizational behavior studies.

Learn more about Southern Oregon University’s online MBA with a Concentration in Information Analysis and Decision-Making program.

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