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GIS Means Business

Where are our customers?
Where should our stores be located?
Where are our suppliers located?

Businesses need answers to lots of questions that begin with "where." GIS answers these questions more effectively than any other information technology by integrating a wide variety of data into one easily understood format--a map. The development of more powerful and affordable desktop computers coupled with the increased availability of business data have accelerated the use of GIS. Now more than ever, GIS means business.

Data that already exist in a business can be more easily accessed and related to spatial information to perceive patterns and relationships not apparent when the data reside in tables or charts. Data on demographics, business locations, and specific industries, such as finance or real estate, are available from commercial sources at a reasonable cost.

Business applications have come a long way from an electronic substitute for the pushpin map. GIS has moved from being primarily a presentation enhancement to an important decision support tool. Increasingly businesses rely on this information technology to run day-to-day operations by supporting product sales and distribution, focusing on marketing efforts, routing service personnel, and monitoring and analyzing productivity. New, powerful GIS tools, designed for users at many levels of expertise, have been developed specifically for business applications.

ArcView Business Analyst, a customized version of ArcView GIS that requires no previous knowledge of GIS, provides task-oriented software solutions that make users quickly productive. Extensive market research and interaction with retail, banking, insurance, manufacturing, marketing, and advertising experts went into the development of this application. Comprehensive business data for the United States--demographic, business, and consumer information--from industry-leading data companies come with Business Analyst as well as ArcView StreetMap, a streets database for the United States; ArcView Network Analyst, an extension that performs routing and drive-time analysis; and PresenTable, a report writer for publishing the results of analysis in easy-to-read reports.

ArcView Tracking Analyst, a new extension to ArcView GIS, adds direct feed and playback of real-time data such as global positioning system (GPS) data from within ArcView GIS. This extension can perform temporal and spatial analysis of these data in real time for use in activities such as vehicle tracking. ArcLogistics Route, formerly known as RouteXpert, provides desktop vehicle routing and scheduling to help businesses deliver goods and services more efficiently.

Industries such as utilities and telecommunications that have long used GIS to manage facilities or materials are finding they can expand GIS use into business operations areas such as marketing and customer service. For these more experienced business users, Spatial Database Engine (SDE) enables spatial information and maps to be stored and accessed using the same system. These spatial data can be viewed, mapped, or served over an Intranet or Internet using ArcView Internet Map Server, or MapObjects Internet Map Server with ArcExplorer used as the viewer for data created in ArcInfo or ArcView GIS.

GIS use is expanding in insurance, finance, and health care. Insurance companies are using GIS to manage their exposure to risk and estimate costs so premiums can be accurately determined. Many banks and financial institutions began using GIS to fulfill Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) requirements but have found they can use GIS for target marketing, goal planning, facility management, and consolidation of assets following mergers and acquisitions. In health care, GIS applications help manage finance and human resources, aid in marketing services, improve operations and customer service, and help coordinate research and planning efforts.

This issue of ArcUser magazine features three different business applications that use GIS for decision support, site analysis, and market information. RealtiCorp Commercial Investment Fund designed its operations around the use of GIS with other information technologies. This unique commercial real estate firm uses ArcView GIS to locate optimal sites for companies, such as The Home Depot, Target, and Hampton Inns, and negotiates and manages the acquisition of these sites.

The South of Market Foundation (SOMF), a nonprofit economic development corporation in San Francisco, California, helps small businesses identify affordable and suitable locations within the district it serves. SOMF has developed an ArcView GIS-based application tool that integrates information on businesses, local economics, demographics, and transportation with real property information from real estate brokers to help businesses find available properties that will fit their needs and contribute to their successful operation.

With funds from a state agency, Benjamin Zhan, Robert Larsen, and Xinnong Zhou of Southwest Texas State University used ArcView GIS, ArcView Internet Map Server (IMS), Avenue, and HTML programming to develop the Recycling Markets Information System (RMIS). This Internet-based application allows interactive access to data on recycling materials in Texas to bring buyers, sellers, and manufacturers together.

For further information on using GIS in business, please contact one of the following industry solutions managers:

Steve Trammell, real estate solutions manager at strammell@esri.com or 909-793-2853, ext. 2366
Lee Burton, banking/insurance solutions manager at lburton@ esri.com or 909-793-2853, ext. 1098
David Bunten, retail/commercial solutions manager at dbunten@esri.com or 909-793-2853, ext. 2176

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