Don’t turn GIS into a dog’s dinner

Letter of the month prize. Every month the editor will award this de luxe fountain pen to the writer of the best letter. The chrome and 22ct gold pen, made by AT Cross, is worth 85. The editor’s judgment will be final.

As an individual who has worked both for a GIS software vendor and market analysis company I was amused by Greg Bradford’s comments regarding the adoption of GIS being dependent on “whether the system has been specifically designed for marketing or has been adapted from existing land-use programmes”, (MW January 24).

As is fairly common knowledge, the likes of Arc/Info, SmallWorld and Laser Scan’s GIS products were all originally developed for, and adopted by, local governments, environmental agencies and utility companies. Why is it then that these types of systems (Bradford’s “Dog Turd and Lamp-post systems”) have become the choice of companies including Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Boots, Safeway and Sainsbury’s?

The parallels between siting a new superstore and the use of GIS in choosing where to run pipes and cables are obvious – the techniques are basically the same but the data inputs are different. It is, of course, the GIS (whether developed initially for a utility or a grocery retailer) and, more importantly, the data, which enables us to carry out these types of analysis.

Geographic information systems are a means to an end – they are designed at different levels for handling different types (and volumes) of data and answering different business questions.

Should you be looking to invest in GIS, I would suggest you worry less about the delivery of quantifiable business answers – if you don’t, you could find yourself knee deep in dog turd!

Andrew Day

Managing consultant

Claritas

Teddington

Middlesex

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