5 steps to digital transformation using GIS

Geographic information systems (GIS) empower analysts to query complex data sets to thoroughly understand their data and create actionable insights. These five steps show how spatial analysis can be used to transform an organisation

1. Bring all your data together

Start by ditching your data silos and empowering your whole organisation to access accurate information from one reliable system. Spatial analysis enables you to work with data stored across your organisation as well as external data you have found, bought, collected or crowdsourced.

National Grid use spatial analysis as part of a business transformation programme that is expected to lead to cost savings of around £35 million per year.

As a core part of its transformation, National Grid took the radical decision to reduce its business systems from 40 to four to create a simplified, standardised and integrated systems landscape.

>See also: New report paints a mixed picture for the UK on digital transformation

GIS was the only solution National Grid carried forward to the new IT environment. GIS software was integrated with National Grid’s enterprise asset management (EAM) system and customer relationship management (CRM) system from SAP, as well as its Syclo mobile applications.

The integration of GIS with SAP eliminates data duplication and inconsistency and makes more accurate asset information accessible to support decision making.

Up to 5,000 National Grid employees now use GIS to work more productively, improve operational efficiency and make better-informed decisions.

2. Expose hidden relationships

Mapping and analytics platforms allow organisations to work with layers of data. No more tables, sheets or pages of data to compare – users can instantly visualise their data sets on a map, layer by layer, taking away the complexities of finding relationships by making them vividly apparent.

Large data sets can be interrogated easily by adding and removing variables from different data sets, to expose hidden trends and patterns that would otherwise be difficult to find.

In a key business initiative, Red Kite Community Housing is working with layers of data to identify areas of land suitable for development.

“GIS is revealing strips of land, previously not identified as having development potential, and unlocking new revenue opportunities for the business,” says Jessica Horwitz, insight team leader at Red Kite Community Housing.

3. Create actionable insight

Add immense value to decision making with advanced analytics capabilities. Spatial analysis tools can be used to query large, complex, data sets to understand behaviours, identify hotspots and predict future outcomes – making it easy for analysts to uncover actionable insights that will help shape a sustainable growth strategy.

Sompo Canopius, a global insurance business, underwrites billions of pounds worth of business with domestic, commercial and reinsurance customers on every continent every year. Consequently, it needs to be able to collate, analyse and, critically, understand vast amounts of information about potential natural catastrophes at millions of separate locations all around the world.

GIS gives underwriters access to accurate information on localised hazards such as flooding, as well as more wide-ranging risk factors including hurricanes and earthquakes.

GIS supports underwriters, enabling them to make the right decisions about which policies to offer, and at which price, to make the company more profitable over time,” says Rob Porter, head of catastrophe research, Sompo Canopius.

4. Share intelligence

Empower your entire organisation to access these real-time, actionable insights. With everyone working off one version of truth, teams are much better equipped to make informed decisions as well as respond to customer queries quickly and with accurate information.

These insights can also be shared securely with external organisations, such as partners and suppliers to improve collaboration, or with the public to share information through a website or on social media in highly interactive formats.

Responsible for 38,000 homes across the south and south west of England, Sovereign Housing Association uses GIS to help deliver more responsive customer services.

When residents contact Sovereign with an enquiry about a boundary, employees can quickly check on the intranet-based GIS and often clarify issues instantly. Previously, such boundary enquiries had to be passed on to the company’s legal team, and responses could take up to 21 days according to the company’s key performance indicators (KPIs).

“Our employees are empowered with information that they simply didn’t have before,” says Alice Rhodes, GIS analyst at Sovereign. “Customers get accurate information much more quickly.”

GIS is also enabling Sovereign to improve its operational efficiency, as all employees can share information much more easily. They no longer have to send emails from team to team, requesting data and wasting time chasing up further details. Instead, they can simply look up the information they need straight away and work more productively

5. Optimise mobile working

Empower your mobile workforce to collect and update information while out in the field. Mobile GIS apps take away the need for paper processing thus improving the accuracy of data collection.

The ability to make real-time updates while on the move can massively increase productivity and saves time by removing the need to do it once back in the office.

>See also: Why government-driven digital transformation is a train wreck

Working on behalf of UK Power Networks, Black & Veatch succeeded in surveying 30,000 assets, over an area of 29,000 km2, in just six weeks using mobile GIS, enabling it to deliver a fast and effective service for its customer.

“We wouldn’t have been able to even print 30,000 maps in six weeks using the traditional survey method, let alone visit 30,000 sites,” says Hart. “GIS enabled us to do, in weeks, a project that might otherwise have taken years.”

The project led to cost savings of over £130,000, delivered high-quality asset information and improved the tracking of surveyors in the field.

“Using our previous survey method, it took around a week before we knew which cable pits had been visited,” Hart says. “With our new approach, we could go online, at any time, to see exactly how many cable pits each team had visited. We could also see the current locations of survey teams, improving safety for our sub-contracted surveyors.”


Sourced from Esri, developer of the ArcGIS mapping and analytics platform and spatial analysis tool. Esri runs one-day digital transformation workshops exploring the benefits of using GIS to improve business issues.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...