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Geospatial Data: The Missing Piece in Your Business Narrative

Written by Kurt Janssen

30 May 2023

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Harness the power of geospatial data to craft narratives that captivate and engage your stakeholders

In today's data-driven world, you have access to more information than ever before – including geospatial data! But when it comes to driving decisions, how you present your information matters. A lot! Although analysts and tech folks are usually comfortable with tables and spreadsheets, when it comes to engaging your customers and stakeholders, you need to do better. Which is where data storytelling comes into play.

Data storytelling is a powerful tool that can help you break down the complexity of your data by turning it into compelling business narratives.

In this article, we’ll explore the unique advantages of geospatial data when it comes to data storytelling. By embedding your narratives into a place-bound context, you can breathe life into abstract numbers and translate them into tangible stories that resonate with your stakeholders.

Because presenting data is good, but telling a story is better.

Ready? Let’s dive in…

The Benefits of Geospatial Data Storytelling

As the name implies, data-driven organisations thrive on data. They collect it, store it, and analyse it in vast amounts to drive better business outcomes. But, in many cases, organisations view their diverse datasets in isolation. Instead of layering them on top of one another to see the bigger picture emerge.

That’s where geospatial data comes in. Everything happens somewhere and sometime, and that spatiotemporal component is the key to effective data storytelling. Because when we layer together multiple data sources based on a common location, we’re no longer looking at isolated data points, spreadsheets or figures, but at a story that unfolds across space and time.

This is effective for several reasons. First, it gives your audience context and a reason to care. When you present raw spreadsheets to clients or stakeholders, they may find it difficult to grasp the immediate relevance of what they are looking at. But by contextualising that same data into a story about a place they care about, you start to form a personal connection that wins over their heads and hearts.

Second, by understanding data not just in isolation but as a story that unfolds across space and time, you get a much deeper understanding of patterns and trends. At a glance, you can see the spatiotemporal story of how a phenomenon came to be and predict how it may continue to unfold. These insights can help you make sense of complex data, use it to inform your decisions, and craft compelling business narratives.

And, lastly, geospatial data storytelling helps you communicate complex concepts and strategies to clients and stakeholders in a comprehensible manner. Because although your tech team might be perfectly comfortable looking at raw data inputs all day, communicating the essence of your data to non-experts requires some level of translation. And the most effective form of translation is turning your insights into compelling narratives by contextualising them within geographic and cultural landscapes.

Let’s look at New Zealand’s MMR vaccine rollout as an example of how geospatial data can bring a data story to life.

Example: The MMR Vaccine Rollout in NZ

Like with most vaccination campaigns, uptake of the MMR vaccine varies greatly across New Zealand. And understanding what these spatial patterns look like is crucial for optimising public health campaigns to increase uptake. But the best way to identify deprived areas is not by sifting through tables, statistics, and spreadsheets. Rather, it’s by layering CSV data onto a geographical map, so public health officials can quickly visually identify areas where vaccination rates are low.

In the example of New Zealand’s MMR rollout, officials saw a clear picture emerge. The geospatial data showed a typically low uptake in rural communities. Based on this spatial information, officials deployed mobile vaccination units to reach underserved areas. A decision that may not have been made had it not been for the story told by the geospatial data.

But that’s not the only visual, spatiotemporal trend that emerged. The geospatial data also highlighted variations among ethnic groups, identifying those with lower uptake levels. This valuable insight prompted further targeted interventions and outreach programs, addressing cultural perspectives on vaccination.

Over time, updated geospatial data allowed monitoring of vaccine uptake, revealing whether interventions were effective. This understanding of spatial-temporal trends led to better-informed decisions and enhanced community health outcomes. This real-world application underscores the potential of geospatial data to inform, guide, and enhance decision-making processes.

The Challenges of Geospatial Data Storytelling

Despite its benefits, harnessing geospatial insights for data storytelling presents challenges. First, the sheer volume of available geospatial data can be overwhelming. Especially since nearly all data is – in essence – spatial. And, second, without the right tools and expertise, deciphering its hidden narratives can prove daunting. This is particularly challenging in organisations that struggle with a siloed GIS department, and where geospatial thinking isn’t embedded in organisational culture.

Because when your geospatial knowledge, tools, and capabilities are locked away in siloes, you can’t unlock the full potential of your geospatial data. This comes down to several reasons, including a lack of collaboration between different subject matter experts, analysis bottlenecks, and communication issues. All of which hampers your ability to see the big picture trends in your data across space and time.

Overcoming these challenges could help you enhance your business narratives, and...

  • Improve your strategic planning and decision making for greater efficiency
  • Identify & capitalise on new opportunities for growth and innovation
  • Stay competitive (and ahead!) in the ever-evolving digital landscape
  • Find opportunities to develop innovative applications and services
  • Make more informed investment decisions
  • Position yourself for long term success
  • Allocate resources more effectively
  • Improve competitiveness

If geospatial siloes are the problem, democratising geospatial data, tools, and knowledge within your organisation is the obvious solution. Let’s take a look at what that involves.

Broad Access to the Right Geospatial Tools and Knowledge

Moving away from geospatial siloes and giving more people within your organisation broad access to the right geospatial tools and knowledge can be challenging. But it’s a necessary step if you want to gain a winning edge in today’s competitive business landscape. And the best place to start is by looking at your current GIS enterprise tech stack.

Although most GIS enterprise tech has powerful analysis and visualisation capabilities, it’s often not particularly user friendly. This applies both on an organisational level, where execs grapple with hidden costs, constraining licensing, and opaque pricing, and on an individual level, where it’s limited to proprietary data and formats, riddled with jargon, and hard to operate for non-expert users. All of which constrains business growth and further propagates organisational siloes. In short, the old-school approach to how we “do GIS” in an organisation is simply no longer fit for modern demands.

Instead, consider opting for a modern, cloud-native geospatial platform that removes the typical limitations of old school GIS. For example, the Orbica geospatial platform. Orbica helps you drive the value of geospatial throughout your organisation by making it easy for everyone to “do GIS”. This includes a flexible, scalable, and transparent pricing model that’s not tied to users, organisation-wide governance controls, access to vast data libraries, and a core focus on ease-of-use, collaboration, and simplicity.

Because with the right, modern geospatial technologies, businesses can easily convert complex data into comprehensible and compelling narratives. This transformation can help stakeholders understand various aspects of business operations, including customer locations, environmental impacts, and more.

Bringing your own Narratives to Life with Geospatial Data

As businesses grow increasingly data-driven, geospatial data is poised to take centre stage. The onus is on businesses to bring this element to the forefront of discussions and decision-making processes. Geospatial data is not a fleeting trend but a force that's getting more relevant and powerful with time.

Let's harness this force to empower our organisations, foster compelling narratives, and better serve our stakeholders. As we step into the future, let's keep geospatial data at the helm, guiding us towards insightful decision-making and compelling geospatial data storytelling.

Talk to one of our team today to learn more about how the Orbica Geospatial Platform can help you bring your narratives to life with geospatial data.