Editor’s note: Location intelligence is a form of business intelligence software where the dominant dimension used for analysis is location or geography. What kinds of businesses currently use location intelligence in their BI initiatives? Will location intelligence have far-reaching impacts on BI software and business in general? We caught up with one of the world’s foremost thought leaders in business intelligence – Howard Dresner, founder and chief research officer at Dresner Advisory Services – to find out the trends in location intelligence. In this interview he discusses some of the findings from his 2015 Location Intelligence Market Study including user sentiment, implementations, future plans and analysis of vendors’ product support.
Q: This is the second year you conducted a market study on the use of location intelligence in BI software. Did you find that it’s a big hit, or still heating up, or is it enjoying an adoption pace somewhere in between?
Howard Dresner: Respondents in this year’s survey ranked location Intelligence in the top of the middle third of initiatives they consider strategic to business intelligence. Even so, it is still a new and mostly underpenetrated area in business intelligence. So there is a mix of perspectives on its importance. For instance, more respondents in 2015 say it is “critically important” than held this sentiment in 2014, but fewer this year rank it as “very important.”
Another important growth data point is the fact that use of location intelligence in 2015 is moving downstream from executive and mid-management to line managers and individual contributors. We almost always observe this kind of mainstreaming and penetration as a positive sign of BI maturity.
Q: I assume that location intelligence in BI is a sign of the times in an increasingly mobile world. Is mobile use a driver for location intelligence over the past year?
Howard Dresner: Small organizations tilt more toward mobile use, but this trend reverses at midsize and large companies. As large organizations are more likely to own and operate hardware and network infrastructure with dedicated IT, they lean toward the desktop. There are also some feature aspects that need a larger screen than a mobile device provides.
Among the 14 location intelligence features we track, we measured three mobile features this year (location-based query filtering, reverse geocoding and geo fence alerting). More than 80 percent of respondents say mobile location-based query filtering is at least “somewhat important” to their use of location intelligence, and 70 percent rank it as “critical” or “very important.” This requirement assumes that a device and its software are capable of managing a request by a mobile user to understand its location.
Q: How much of an impact is the proliferation of Internet of Things devices having on location intelligence this year?
Howard Dresner: The IoT sensors are resulting in new business opportunities for many organizations based on the intelligence from sensor data. This is already a factor in the growth of importance of location intelligence features in BI software in 2015.
Location intelligence is one of the key aspects of data that sensors capture, as it provides information about the physical location of assets as well as relationships among objects and people. So it’s an essential BI element that is bound to become a differentiator and even a game changer as the IoT opportunities grow even larger.
Q: The report on your location intelligence market study is full of details and examines the data from many variables. Can you please share a little of the information you found about the use of geocoding?
Howard Dresner: Sure. More than half of the respondents say native geocoding (in which software recognizes a data point such as a street address and can plot latitude/longitude) is “critical” or “very important.” They also rank automated geocoding (without manual manipulation or input) higher than last year.
Q: Can you give an example of how organizations use the geocoding functionality?
Howard Dresner: Retail and whole businesses use it for supporting, measuring and analyzing inventory, customer and suppliers.
Another example: Government respondents use location intelligence in managing public infrastructure, resources and capital assets. So they place a high priority on geocoding features around custom geography, and province/state, latitude/longitude and physical location.
Q: How does location intelligence use vary by users’ departments, industry, etc.?
Howard Dresner: Among the functional areas that we track, this year’s survey finds sales and marketing users have the highest opinion that location intelligence technology impacts their job. From an industry perspective, retail and wholesale users are the most likely to view it as “critical” or “very important.” In fact, they view it as table stakes for competitive purposes.
From a geographical perspective, users in geographies with a preponderance of smartphones and tablets as well as mobile payment technologies place a greater level of importance on location intelligence. Among the Latin American respondents, for example, one-third say it is critically important to their organization.
Q: Which are the most important location intelligence features from the perspective of users?
Howard Dresner: We track the preferences and prioritization of 14 location intelligence features. Interest in location intelligence features rose across the board from 2014 to 2015. This year’s survey finds map-based visualization of information as the top priority, and more than 95 percent of respondents rank it as at least somewhat important.
More than 60 percent report that the functionality for layered visualizations is “very important” or “critical” for their organization. The report presents feature prioritization from user perspectives according to department/function, organization size, vertical industry and geography.
Q: What about vendor support for location intelligence technologies today? Are their priorities aligned with users’ priorities?
Howard Dresner: Vendors are only somewhat aligned with user expectations. As I mentioned before, the top user requirement is map-based visualizations; but this ranks as #3 among vendor support priorities. The greatest vendor support is for value/range-based shading, which is fifth in customer priorities.
The good news is that the number of vendors that view location intelligence support as “critically important” more than doubled since 2014. For every feature we measured, more than 70 percent of the vendors already support or plan to support every feature.
Q: With the increase in organizations that consider location intelligence as strategic or critical to their business, did user penetration also increase over the past 12 months?
Howard Dresner: Among users, location intelligence penetration remains modest in 2015, but respondents indicate they expect it to increase over the next three years. Seventy percent of respondents report less than 10 percent penetration in their organization. So there is room for growth, and software companies have an open field to demonstrate their product advantages as the uptick occurs over the next three years.
Click here to access the report on the 2015 Location Intelligence Market Study.
Howard Dresner is president, founder and chief research officer at Dresner Advisory Services, LLC, an independent advisory firm. He is one of the foremost thought leaders in Business Intelligence and Performance Management, having coined the term “Business Intelligence” in 1989. He has published two books on the subject, The Performance Management Revolution — Business Results through Insight and Action, and Profiles in Performance — Business Intelligence Journeys and the Roadmap for Change. He hosts a weekly tweet chat (#BIWisdom) on Twitter each Friday. Prior to Dresner Advisory Services, Howard served as chief strategy officer at Hyperion Solutions and was a research fellow at Gartner, where he led its Business Intelligence research practice for 13 years.
Kathleen Goolsby is managing editor of SandHill.com.