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Types of Data GIS Can Gather to Benefit Your Organization


Data analytics are critical to discovering the "what, why and how" of business activities, such as customer interactions, market conditions and enterprise systems. It is also crucial to accelerating decision-making processes that gain efficiencies, reduce risk and cut costs.

Geographic information systems (GIS) add a new dimension to business operations by using digital mapping technology in collaboration with other analytics processes to help public and private enterprises and individuals make data-based decisions.

For instance, American public health officials are using GIS tools to track the impact of COVID-19 across counties, states and the regions, according to Anna Tribolet in an article published by the Utah Geospatial Resource Center. She notes that answering the "where are COVID-19 cases increasing" question requires multi-agency collaboration for data on boundaries, population demographics, numbers of reported cases and outcomes and other variables.

"If you were to verbally write out this information, it may take several paragraphs to talk about the trends," she notes. However, collating the data with maps presents an easily digestible, comprehensive visualization that connects "each of these complicated layers and help[s] us understand the overall trends of COVID-19 data."

How Do Businesses Use GIS Technology?

By creating, managing, analyzing and mapping data, GIS connects "where" data with other types of descriptive data to provide decision-makers with more meaningful insights into patterns, relationships and geographic contexts.

Those insights and understandings facilitate the communication of complex data sets, support deep-dive analyses and simplify the wide distribution of information. One example is the COVID-19 dashboards that health officials use to keep the public informed.

"Location analytics is the intersection of business analytics and information technology," notes a report published by Esri, a global GIS software provider. "Whether in a single department or across an entire organization, location analytics and GIS offer boundless possibilities."

What Kinds of Enterprises Use GIS?

Nobel Systems outlines 20 business and public-sector applications for GIS, ranging from the development and implementation of telecommunications and network services to pest control management. Others include:

  • Environmental Impact Analysis: Geographic information systems mapping are critical for conserving natural resources. Geospatial impact analysis enables planners to assess the magnitude of potential land development and allow the development of alternatives.
  • Banking: Success in the retail banking sector often depends on an institution's ability to provide customer-driven services through its branches, making GIS analysis critical in planning, organizing and decision-making in the financial services industry.
  • Managing and maintaining physical assets: GIS data helps organizations become more efficient with finite resources, including properties and infrastructure. Understanding geospatial relationships enables planners to make allocations more efficiently.

What GIS Skills Are in High Demand?

As GIS analytics become increasingly important, the demand for analysts, programmers, specialists, technicians, coordinators and instructors likely will continue growing. Professionals with in-demand skill sets in analytics, project management and relationship-building will be especially valued.

According to Directions Magazine, more than half of all job postings across all functional GIS fields ranked analysis and modeling among top skills, putting particular emphasis on aerial image and data analysis. The article also included data mining, database development and spatial statistics. Employers' second most essential abilities include aptitudes in communication, interpersonal proficiency and independence.

"Skills are things which we can acquire and learn, while abilities are things that we have naturally. Importantly, both can be refined through training and education," the magazine noted.

What Educational Opportunities Develop GIS Skills?

A Master of Science in Geographic Information Science, such as the online program from Northwest Missouri State University, combines environmental science, data science, and cartography to prepare graduates for GIS positions in environmental protection, climate science, public health and more.

By exploring the disciplines of geography, computer science, engineering and statistics, graduates gain insights and understanding in database design; user-needs assessments and analytics; and the fundamentals of geostatistics in public and private sector enterprises.

Learn more about Northwest Missouri State University's online Master of Science in Geographic Information Science program.



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