Teasing out the (GIS) Story
Why are you reading this post? Maybe because you saw GIS in the title and wondered what I mean by ‘teasing out the (GIS) story’. That means you either know GIS or are curious (we will come back to this latter term in a moment).
Mr L shared with me an initial client conversation. The stated problem “We need to sell more tickets”. Not a ‘where’ question I think we can agree. Now the client did not know GIS, but had a notion that a map might help in solving their problem. Thus the approach to Mr L, a mapping guy (and yes we have discussed this term, and though I dislike it, Mr L still uses it since it starts conversations like below). The client had a problem and were exploring ways to find a solution. Mr L dug deeper:
(Mr L). Where do you sell tickets today?
(Client). Across the city in various retail outlets.
(Mr L). Do you have sales volumes from each of these outlets?
(Mr L). Do you know if there is a certain demographic who are more inclined to buy your tickets?
(Client). Yes, we know low income males are key purchasers.
Mr L above is guiding the client to tell the story. The ‘where’ is becoming very obvious. Let’s continue:
(Mr L). So if we can get the sales volume data we can show on a map your sales patterns?
(Client). Yes, but how will that help us increase our sales?
(Mr L). If we generate a heat map we can show over-served and under-served areas.
(Mr L). If we also add demographic data (through enrichment), we will be able to discover the areas within the city of greatest potential given your target buyers (low income males ).
Voyage of discovery might come to mind as you read this evolving story. The client did not come to Mr L with a ‘where’ question nor have any knowledge of GIS. Actually they will likely never have any knowledge of GIS, nor should they need to (see What’s next: GIS for Everyone?” for more here). They simply need an answer to a question and turned to an expert to help provide that answer.
Do you think throwing GIS software over the fence to this client would have helped? NO. They care little about the technology, they care about solving their problem. Mr L is a business problem solver. An expert at answering ‘where’ questions.
I’ve gone off tangent a little in this post. But will write a new article to continue the thread. There are so many ‘where’ questions in need of answers. The ‘where’ question, as we describe above, is often not immediately obvious. As location intelligence experts (there I am using that term again, which I still believe is poorly understood) …. how do we engage with organizations to have them curious enough to allow us to tease out the (GIS) story?
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Author: Matt Sheehan
Matt Sheehan is a Principal at WebMapSolutions. Matt evangelizes GIS and intelligent maps around the world through keynotes, articles, tweets and his books. Follow him on Twitter: @webmapsolutions
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