Companies that connect with Earth make more money

There is no doubt that spatial data is making a hugely positive impact on profitability for a lot of South African organisations.
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It’s not often that we get to say that helping businesses save millions of rands every day and generate millions more in revenues and new opportunities is all about being connected to the Earth. It is also never more pertinent to be profitable than during tough economic times.

In fact, specialist management company Redflank, in its BeyondCOVID initiative, found that smaller, micro and medium businesses are 26 times more likely than their corporate counterparts to close during times of economic hardship.

Spatial data is making a hugely positive impact on profitability for a lot of South African organisations, because most businesses cannot sell services or products to people if they don’t know where they are. It’s how we buy products and use services, get deliveries from retailers and fast foods. We have an address that other people can find.

Being able to find an address is critical. But, once we can, we can do more than just do business there. We can start to learn heaps more about what happens there, what people do there, and how we can start to be relevant in ways we never previously knew existed.

But what does that mean in real terms?

The case for logistics: A prominent South African courier company improved its first-time delivery success rate by 93% in two years. That’s a crucial benefit to improve customer satisfaction and have a big impact on profitability. A major win was how it is able to guide customers as they enter addresses by automatically completing their addresses from the National Address Database. It also now ensures packages go to the correct distribution centre and are assigned to the correct driver. This helps it to be quick, efficient and profitable, which is why it is one of the biggest names in its industry.

Most large businesses need centralised spatial data to support decision-making.

Mass rapid transit: Using good quality geospatial data, a mass rapid public transit system created a web portal for passengers so they could easily use interconnected types of transport to get where they are going.

Big four bank: One of the big four South African banks has more than eight million clients. But it had multiple addresses in a number of databases in different business units. The challenge was that some or all of those addresses were incorrect for a number of reasons, including spelling errors, duplication and incompleteness.

The result is the bank couldn’t know its customer very well, it consequently developed conflicting analyses, and that was having significant downstream product and customer expectation impacts. It was also losing market share and paying penalties for lack of compliance.

It now has accurate address data at the first point of capture. It has also batch validated, fixed and geocoded its existing addresses. And each record has a unique identifier so the bank can still have a single view of clients even if they use multiple address formats or even completely different addresses.

Mobile network operator: An MNO improved its first-time handset delivery success rate, which has a direct impact on profitability. The same cellular service provider also developed a closest points of interest application for its subscribers to find things like ATMs, fast food, restaurants, healthcare, accommodation, retailers, recreation and more.

These are very common business challenges.

Most large businesses need centralised spatial data to support decision-making. Without it they make poor decisions that have a real impact on profitability through things like opportunities, revenues and compliance.

But, when they get accurate spatial information, they get managerial reporting harmony, less risk exposure, fewer penalties, more revenues, more opportunity wins and more profitable operations.

In South Africa, getting that accurate data means collecting it from 226 local municipalities and government organisations such as the Surveyor General. You also have to check it, fix it and link it so that you know the data from one source is linked to the data from another source.

It’s a monumental task. In tech terms it means extracting, transforming, cleaning, verifying, validating and assigning a unique identifier to every record.

The key to success in doing this is the addition of two seemingly simple words, which are often overlooked: verified and validated. That’s the real trick. Crowd-sourced geospatial data cannot do that, which means for a lot of business applications you cannot really trust the data to be accurate. And that has potentially huge impacts on profitability.

Time-honoured testimony

Take the example of a company doing widespread national statistical analysis. It needed real-time, location-sensitive feedback of more than 130 000 field personnel.

“The USSD application helps field workers document their position on a mobile device and submit their data, which is immediately visually represented on a map,” it said.

There is certainty of the correct information, it is time and date stamped, location sensitive, and the end-to-end system has eliminated thousands of hours of time and resources allocated to an ultimately error-prone capture process.

The earliest recorded civilisation was finding a fractured femur that had healed 15 000 years ago. It demonstrated that someone had cared for another who had broken a bone.

Today, addresses are the starting point of our entry into civilisation. It’s how we get all our government and private services. It’s how we buy and sell things, which is how we survive. Getting addresses right is important. And that means making geospatial insights and analyses a little more of a science, every day. 

Marna Roos

Senior account manager and standards enthusiast, AfriGIS .

Marna Roos is senior account manager and standards enthusiast at AfriGIS . She has been developing her passion, knowledge and skill around geospatial data for more than 20 years, and helps organisations to use location data as a powerful tool to unlock and accelerate business potential.

Roos is a member of the ISO committee ISO/TC211 for Geospatial Standards and a technical member of the Open Geospatial Consortium. She believes geospatial information is the missing link that connects every business with the physical world, so we can make better decisions faster, for more dependable outcomes.

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17 Aug
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