The Geospatial Information & Technology Association (GITA) has been in a flux of change as they move from a paid staffing model to one that is volunteer-driven. While GITA National is mapping out an ambitious plan going forward, GITA Southeast is forging ahead with an equally aggressive plan that includes events and activities that focus on education and the industry’s best practices.
GITA Southeast territory includes the states of Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee. Quarterly, GITA Southeast hosts a popular venue called “Lunch and Learn”. These events, scheduled during the lunch hour, are a great way to get out and meet new people who share a passion for our industry. Typical programs include skills training, product application training, and professional development.
The April 2013 Lunch and Learn, “Using GIS to Support the Disaster Preparedness and Disaster Response of Electric Utilities”, held at the Esri Atlanta office focused on gaining insight into work done by Photo Science in support of Georgia Transmission Corporation (GTC). Presented by Donald Enderle, he demonstrated how the use of GIS will better support disaster preparedness and response. Efforts that support disaster preparedness were highlighted such as the use of Vulnerability Maps and associated reports, staging site analysis and tabletop drill exercises that address those ‘what if?’ scenarios. Mr. Enderle also highlighted how the use of facility maps and Disaster Response Plans become critical tools for the utility industry.
The highlight of the presentation came when Mr. Enderle demonstrated how it was possible to overlay existing weather event data to visualize impact of a new site location. He walked our group through the overlay of the April 25–28, 2011 tornado outbreak (the largest tornado outbreak ever recorded) onto a new area – Atlanta, GA! Being able to demonstrate the ‘what if’ scenarios will go a long way to assisting the industry implement better, more responsive plans when disaster strikes.
In the works, GITA Southeast is planning a networking event at one of the Atlanta Braves games over the summer, a fantastic opportunity to meet and greet those developing innovative ideas in our industry.
To participate in this networking event or to sign up for GITA Southeast’s next “Lunch and Learn” go to the GITA Southeast website at: gitasoutheast.org.
If you provide a product or service, things will invariably go wrong. A deadline will be missed, the product will break, or an expectation won’t be met. It goes without saying that we must direct most of our attention toward doing what we say we will do. If we continuously miss commitments and make it hard for our customers to do business with us then we won’t be a business for long. However, how do you continue to deliver service excellence when thing go wrong? Here are a few thoughts:
Run Into the Fire
It is often tempting to avoid the conflict or dance around the issue at hand. This just makes things worse in the long run. As the service or product provider, begin the process of dousing flames of anger and disappointment with blunt truths and full disclosure. This may cause the flame to flare up temporarily, but in the long run you will build trust and have a much better chance of salvaging the relationship.
Tell the Truth
Do you want to do business with a liar? Enough said.
Bad News gets Worse with Age
When you know there is a problem, tell the customer sooner rather than later. Don’t try to buy time. Getting out in front of the issue helps you minimize the impact on the customer and gives you a better chance of developing a joint solution. Obviously, our customers don’t need to know all the gory details behind the sausage making process. However, when you know something is going to go completely off the rails, err on telling the customer.
Change your Shoes
We are in business to serve our customers…so serve. That means that we need to set aside our own self-interests and look at the situation as if we are in our customers’ shoes. Have empathy and work hard to minimize the impact on your customer first and yourself second.
When things really go bad, get in your car or buy an airplane ticket and go see your customer in person. This is one of those running into the fire actions. It won’t be fun, but good things usually happen when you go see customers.
Take the Opportunity to Keep your Mouth Shut
When things go wrong, there usually is plenty of blame to go around. This isn’t the time to blame the customer. Let your customer vent. Hear what they are saying. When they are done, begin the process of building a plan for resolution. If you try to start working on the plan too early, or (even worse) you insist on pointing out what the customer did wrong you are only going to meet resistance. Give the customer some time to “get it off their chest”. There is a time for everything under the sun…but this is the time to shut-up and listen.
Leave the Contract in the Drawer
When the contract comes out, you are way past the point of delivering service excellence. You are trying to win a battle. So you have to ask yourself a few questions: Is this a customer you want to have a long-term relationship with? Do they have a point? Did you mess up? If the answer is yes, then leave the contract in the drawer. Pulling out the contract turns the situation into a legal issue and it hurts your ability to salvage the relationship. There will invariably be times where you have disagreements on project scope or a product’s capability; however, whenever possible, deal with these disagreements through ongoing expectation management and discussions…not the terms and conditions.
Make Bad News Good News
Let’s say you have decided to trade in your 5-year-old car and buy a new one. Let me ask you a question on these two scenarios:
Scenario One/Dealer One: The car you currently own has performed great. You have had 5 years of trouble-free service with the car and the dealer you purchased it from.
Scenario Two/Dealer Two: Five years ago, shortly after you bought your current car something went wrong. In fact it went wrong because the dealer messed up. You were disappointed and livid and you let the dealer know. The dealer, however, listened to your issue, admitted their mistake, and fixed the problem. In fact they exceeded your expectations in the process of fixing the problem. You got the car back and have driven it for 4.9 years of trouble-free service.
So my question: who are you going to buy your next car from, Dealer One or Dealer Two?
I bet you picked Dealer Two. At first, this might seem illogical because, after all, at some point in the experience you were very upset with the dealer. However, they made it right. We inherently know that it is impossible for things to always go as planned. And when they do go wrong, we want someone to be there to own and fix the problem. My point is to be like Dealer Two when things go wrong.
Let me reiterate, compensating for poor operational or product performance by getting good at begging for forgiveness is not a business strategy. It is a bankruptcy strategy. We have just a few chances to recover from our mistakes. If we can’t deliver, the customer might think we are a nice person/company, but they will eventually dump us for someone who is competent.
In my years of working in complex and highly technical service oriented industries where things often go wrong, I have learned the above concepts through the school of hard knocks and from some very intelligent and street-smart people. To include my buddy Mike Sorrentino, Jim Morgan, a former CEO of Applied Materials, Roger Cameron from Cameron-Brooks, and several “salty” bosses from Navy and private industry – Thanks for teaching me these concepts folks. They have served me well. For those reading this article, I hope they serve you well too.
If your organization is evaluating the feasibility of a GIS solution or already has a mature Location Analytics platform, calculating the derived benefit to the bottom line is powerful and constructive exercise. The goal of this post is to help build the business justification with ROI (Return on Investment) as the quantitative yardstick for measuring the cost/benefit and value achieved from a GIS solution.
There are many tangible and intangible benefits derived from the problems a GIS solution will solve. Qualifying and quantifying the results of the ROI exercise and then documenting them is a common practice and many tools are available to assist with the calculation.
Building the business case
A business case is best described as a financial story based on facts, structured assumptions, and logic. It provides a vehicle by which the financial impact of the options can be examined and conclusions drawn.
A bank wants to analyze its customers and loans by location, product, industry, risk and risk exposure. The bank would like to assist a manager’s ability to visualize their accounts in an easy to use dashboard. After review of their capabilities, a spider chart was produced with current and desired functionality.
By Risk Rating
By Collateral Class
By Catastrophic Scenario
By DPD (Days Past Due)
The bank had considerable gaps between where they were and where they desired to be as an organization. They wanted the ability to overlay a map of customers along with a hurricane’s path or see what customers or facilities are within 25 miles of the San Andreas Fault or below 25 feet above sea level along coastal areas. Working with senior management, gaps were prioritized and then assigned a value. Results were tabulated and reported back to senior management using a standard ROI template.
The above use case has been oversimplified but building justification can be boiled down to a few basic steps. The outline below uses a five-step process derived from standard practices around calculating ROI. These steps were adapted from “The Business Benefits of GIS: An ROI Approach” but summarized for a more agile approach.
The 5 steps are:
Determine the need and benefits of a GIS solution
Outline and prioritize business requirements and opportunities
Assess budget and project timelines
Document and present results
Step 1 – Determine the needs and benefits of a GIS solution
Does your GIS solution align with your organization’s strategic objectives?
The first step in calculating your ROI will involve looking at what’s driving the need of a GIS solution. You’ll need to assess your organizational pain points and weigh them against your goals and objectives. During this step you must consult crucial stakeholders and identify the improvements and benefits of a GIS solution. Key decision makers must be identified and should be made aware of the ROI study. Their involvement and approval is crucial to the ROI process
Step 2 – Outline and prioritize business requirements and opportunities
Defining the scope of the project is next. Getting agreement on what problems the GIS solution will solve and the functionality needed, along with knowing what is nice to have versus what you need to have, should be documented. The pain points should be objectively laid out and prioritized with the end users and business partners. Also you should outline the opportunity costs and what the risks are of not having a GIS solution. The intangibles are much harder to quantify but a value should still be placed on them. Critical objectives should be benchmarked for a before and after appraisal.
Step 3 – Assess budget requirements
After the scope of the solution is agreed upon, the cost of the project should be estimated. The steps are the same if the GIS solution is already in place and you are just adding features or functionality.
The ROI model allows you to break out the elements associated with the specific projects in your portfolio to allow comparison between the benefit value of a calculated base case without GIS and a calculated case with GIS. To complete the template, it is necessary to revisit the original opportunity list.
Step 4 – Estimate benefits
In order to estimate a type of return on an investment in location analytics, a value must be assigned to derived dividends of the solution. Mapping out capabilities at the start (current) of the project and what’s expected to be achieved (desired) allows you to see the “gap” and assign that gap a value. Working with senior executives and your organizational goals, you should be able to team up and assess the value of reaching your desired capabilities. It’s a great exercise to get buy-in and prioritize which capabilities add the most value.
There are many different ROI templates available for free on the web and you can dive as deep in the financial weeds as you want. How deep is dependent on what level of detail your management requires. Using these templates and mapping capabilities you should be able to use the estimated benefits to assign a quantitative value with the templates. Based on the results of the analysis, it may be necessary to adjust the budget or seek additional examples of quantitative benefits that can be modeled in order to make a strong argument for GIS.
Step 5 – Document and present results
The final step will have you compiling your templates and creating reports with the purpose of demonstrating to senior management the value of funding a GIS solution for location analytics. There are many different styles you could use to format your report but I suggest you start with an outline containing the following key components:
Executive summary -It should be a high-level overview of your findings and a proposal for moving forward. It should be written with your senior team leadership in mind.
Background and history – Describe the need or shortfall that started this project and why your organization decided to look at this type of solution.
Purpose and scope – Next you need to provide an outline of the justification for this project and a review of processes and capabilities.
Proposed project – The next step is to describeas the solutions to the problems outlined above. It should be detailed enough to accurately describe what features and functionalities will be included.
Cost and time frame – The almighty budget and dollars will receive the most scrutiny. Time frame and internal and external resources should be included in this section. This is the most challenging section of the report and should receive the most attention. If this part is not deemed accurate then it will put the entire solution in jeopardy.
Recommended action – The purpose of the final section is to summarize the results and make a recommendation to senior management that the program should be funded as proposed in the report. This final section should be very focused on your key arguments and should be no more than a few paragraphs.
Glossary of terms – The last section should content an appendix with a glossary of the terms used in your report. Your glossary should include both GIS terms and ROI financial terms. Most likely the report will be presented to both audience and there is a good chance that only readers will only know either financial or GIS terms, not both. So it will be useful to keep everyone on the same page.
A positive ROI tells a compelling story, especially if the advantages line up with your organization’s mission and strategic direction. Both tangible and intangible benefits can be achieved along with better access to data and improved quality of a data for decision-making. Without ROI estimation, senior leadership can only focus on how much a GIS solution costs and not the organizational advantages. Estimating the value of your GIS solutions provides an effective framework and roadmap for the location analytics solution.
If your organization is about to evaluate a GIS solution, our team can provide help in calculating its ROI. We offer a few free hours to help guide you on your project and get started in the right direction. If you would like more information, feel free to fill out the form below and we will be in contact with you shortly.
Recently the Navy Shore Geospatial Energy Module went through its fourth successful promotion release in the GeoReadiness Explorer Production environment, and the hype is heating up about it, so I thought I would give everyone a little background on the program and what NSGEM can do….
Commander, Navy Installation Command (CNIC) instated the CNIC Energy Program in order to provide guidance, policy, and tools for implementing mandated energy reduction and sustainability practices. The main goals of the program (as outlined in OPNAV policy OPNAVINST 4100.5E) are:
50% reduction in energy consumption by 2020.
50% renewable energy source consumption by 2020.
50% net-zero participation by 2020.
In order to meet these goals, CNIC adopted a Facility Energy Strategy that includes: reducing energy demands (facilities and building practices using less energy consumption), expanding energy supplies (adopting alternative/renewable sources), enhancing energy security (sustainable energy usage), and advancing new technologies (installing smart meters on each building, using GIS to leverage and provide metrics from available consumption information, etc). Ms. Sandrine Schultz, the CNIC Energy Program Manager, had a vision of an overarching geospatial tool that provides the Navy with centralized information access for tracking, measuring, and planning such practices. Up to this point, there was no effective way of visualizing and displaying the important tabular data in the business systems that tracked energy usage. GISi was consulted with reviewing current capabilities and building a suite of tools upon the GeoReadiness Explorer application already in place and maintained by NAVFAC (Naval Facilities and Engineering Command), and so began the birth of NSGEM.
As the NSGEM Team started development, the data sources were gathered and compared. The initial goals package (created by Booz Allen Hamilton) provided benchmark scores for energy consumption and set reduction numbers in place, which in turn established the baseline metrics CNIC needed to go forth in their mission. A Gap Analysis was performed initially to identify where disparities lied between the main data sources: iNFADS – the Navy’s real property database, CIRCUITS – the utility allocation and billing system, and the GeoReadiness (GRX) CIP – the worldwide geospatial data. This effort pinpointed further needs and issues, some could be resolved and some still in flux, and generated a Data Quality Score that is shown in the current interface. Gap Analysis layers are available as well, to highlight the specific facilities that have these particular issues.
They next proceeded to the development of the ETL processes. They were built to extract and transform the data from the business systems into spatial data that is published through ArcGIS Server as a map service. The published map service contains three layers depicting energy consumption and reduction efforts at the region, installation, and facility level. The GRX map publishing process is done via an ASP.NET web application called Map Publisher. The GRX Map Viewer is the front end of the GRX system. The Map Viewer displays the maps, layers, bookmarks, and other common functionality you would expect from a map viewer. Upon startup the GRX Map Viewer loads the appropriate map services, layers, tools, data and other configuration as defined by the map viewer instance created with Map Publisher. While the bulk of the NSGEM functionality revolves around the dashboard and the various tables and charts, it does leverage existing Map Viewer functionality to display and navigate to spatial data.
NSGEM was promoted into Production on the NAVFAC/RSIMS Portal on November 12, 2012. Upon release of the tool, it became apparent that there are many folks throughout the Navy that have a stake in its functionality and future. The various echelons have different reporting and analysis needs. One measure taken to support Headquarters with program oversight was to create the Regional Energy Map Books, which started with automating a map product. These automated processes provide high-level quality cartographic outputs for leadership at CNIC and NAVFAC to be able to view statistics and consumption information in PDF format for which the user(s) do not have to access a separate application. They are stored on CNIC’s own Sharepoint site, and will be updated on a quarterly basis for new consumption data. Another measure that was initiated was user outreach; a variety of individuals joined in the initial release training sessions, and new requirements stemmed from the awareness. The power users gave suggestions, data is being refined, and functionality developed.
The primary function of NSGEM and the REMB’s is really higher awareness and easier accessibility of energy consumption information. It provides the Energy Program with a one-stop shop for viewing and using consumption data. CNIC and NAVFAC now have the ability to reveal the story of data that has been isolated in a business system and to smoothly and dynamically transition across all necessary temporal (many years), spatial (zoom in/zoom out), and organizational (world, region, installation, and facility) scales. Development is currently underway to leverage and view specific billing information such as commodity and bill payer breakdowns. The tool will be able to not only show where energy issues are happening, but who may benefit from implementing new measures.
NSGEM is geospatially enabling the Energy Program with tools to track and measure with standardized methodologies their progress to reduction goals, pinpoint specific areas for improvements or restorations, view new and alternative energy sources geospatially, create sustainable practice methods, and increase overall energy usage awareness.
As an executive, how hard is it for you to get a complete view of what is really happening in all parts of your enterprise? Is the information you receive fragmented? Out of date? Do you have multiple versions of the “truth”? Can you spot trends? Would you like to wake up in the morning and use your iPad to review KPI’s? Can you can make timely decisions about your business with confidence?
In other words, are you getting the information you need, in the format you need, when and where you need it?
Organizations have worked for years to tear down information silos, but challenges remain. If this is the case for you, consider utilizing geography as an integrating platform to organize, analyze, visualize, and share your enterprise data assets.
Spatial, or location information is contained in much business data. For example, wouldn’t it be great to integrate and visualize:
Customer addresses and disaster event data
Supply chain requirements with weather and traffic data
Point of sale and demographic data
Indoor customer mobility patterns with product placement and customer demographic data
Regulatory compliance requirements with housing loans history
Store location and crime data
Location of related Tweets to marketing campaign actions
Asset information and maintenance compliance performance
The list goes on.
My point…… It makes good sense to utilize geography as an integration strategy because location is often the common denominator across disparate data assets and systems. Once these items are integrated and organized around location, the next logical step is to use spatial technology to analyze, visualize, and share the data.
Esri, a company who has been building Geographic Information Systems (GIS) since the late 60’s has developed an entire technology stack for utilizing geography as an enterprise platform. Wiring-up CRM’s, ERP’s, Data Warehouses, and other operational business systems to a geographic platform is not as hard as you might think. If you want, you can start with small investments in technology and services and quickly develop new and powerful ways of running your business.
The trends are clear. It will be common place for organizations to have specialized spatial analytics divisions. Interactive maps will be a standard part of the executive’s BI dashboard. Geographic platforms are increasingly being recognized as good options for dealing with Big Data, predictive analytics, risk analysis, and data from mobile devices, to name a few. Geography is also a great platform to use for providing value added services for your customers. Put simply, maps serve as a common language for effectively communicating complex ideas.
Geography as a technology platform is a game-changer that delivers a distinct competitive advantage.
Don’t get left behind.
Keith is the General Manager for GISi’s Private Sector Group. Please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-941-0442 x159 with questions or comments.