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Maps are quickly becoming a new language for organizations. They effectively communicate large quantities of information and provide insight like no other visualization tool. They are invaluable for improving communications, whether it is with the person in the cube next door, the department down the hallway, or with the supplier overseas. Maps are the one communication medium that just about everyone can understand.

In the book Age of Context, location technology and the maps that location technologies produce are listed as one of the five pillars of this new age. Right along with Social Media, Big Data, Sensors, and Mobile Devices; Maps and Location Technology are critical for providing perspective to the user. Most business leaders intuitively get this. They understand the power of a map and its effectiveness as a universal language. As a result, many are considering how best to geo-enable all or part of their enterprise systems.

If this is you, I suggest you “Think Platform”.

The analogy I use to explain this approach is my iPhone. It is a great example of a platform. I add targeted applications to the platform as I need or want them. News apps for current events, navigation apps so I don’t get lost, travel apps for booking hotels and flights, music apps for entertainment, etc. When I bought the iPhone, Apple didn’t try to anticipate all of the ways I would be using the device with hardwired capabilities. They provided me the technology platform and gave me the mechanism for adding and removing functionality by way of apps.

Consider this same platform approach when geo-enabling your organization.

In business, a geo-enablement platform will allow a Supply Chain Manager to install an app for visualizing n-tier supplier locations; Distribution to easily and cheaply perform routing and vehicle tracking functions; Sales to visualize sales volume by zip code; Service to push work orders to smart devices in the field; Marketing to combine accounting data and demographic data to better understand regional trends; and analytics groups to better understand and exploit big data. The list goes on and on.

This geospatial platform will create the environment for coordinated sharing. With the proper security protocols and integration with existing enterprise systems, the federated approach results in the controlled and managed sharing of information across internal business units and external partners, vendors, and customers. Lines of business gain the flexibility to address their specific business challenges and opportunities. Simultaneously, organizational silos and communication barriers are torn down as stakeholders engage one another inside this common arena.

When it comes to providing a robust geospatial technology platform, no one does it better than Esri. With their platform in place, your organization will have what they need to share, analyze, organize, and visualize geospatial data across multiple devices. The development of new apps is facilitated through their ArcGIS for Developers framework. And, the apps are readily shared with the masses through their ArcGIS Marketplace environment.

If the app you want doesn’t exist, you can build it. Or, partner with a company to build it for you. Whether you buy an existing app, build a new app internally, or partner with a company, the platform approach mitigates risk. Your organization will be equipped to take incremental steps toward spatial maturity, one targeted app at a time. The worst case scenario becomes the failure of a cheap and quickly developed application, as opposed to the failure of a multi-year, expensive, all-encompassing system.

In the end, the importance of geo enabling your enterprise a given. As you look for the best path forward, I suggest you “Think Platform”. This approach will equip your organization for the long haul and mitigate risk in the process. After all, it is a proven approach utilized by one of the most successful companies on the planet.