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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Close Read: What You Need To Know About Location Intelligence In 2020

Another GIS Article on Forbes

A free generic map image from Pixabay.
The article uses one from Getty.
A post on LinkedIn liked by a college at Esri feted a contribution on Forbes titled What You Need To Know About Location Intelligence In 2020 by Louis Columbus. Another LinkedIn post called it "One of the best articles I have seen on the adoption of Location Intelligence."

I know many people are impressed when they see that something is hosted on Forbes.com since at one time, it was considered a top level business publication. Today it's a mishmash of earned content, contributions by paid bloggers (contributors) and paid content as I noted last year. For that reason, I suggest you look at content on Forbes.com with care.

In this post I will use my six keys to identifying authoritative content to have a look at "What You Need To Know About Location Intelligence In 2020." Then, I'll share what I found when I read the article.

The Six Keys

1) Domain

The article is hosted on a well known website, but it's not earned content. Instead, it's from a contributor: "Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own." That means, based on my research, Forbes selected this individual to be what I'd refer to as a paid blogger. Bloggers get a base fee for a required number of posts, plus a bonus for hitting page view targets.

To be clear, this does not mean the content is necessarily suspect, it just means this is not earned media put together by a journalist. 

2) Look of the Site

Again, this is Forbes.com and it mostly looks like a business magazine. I will note that it does have quite a bit of each webpage covered in Ad Choices advertisements. 

3) Author Information

Louis Columbus, the author, has the text "Enterprise Tech" next to his name. That's the area in which the author has expertise as a contributor. All of the Enterprise Tech articles from all contributors in that specialty are collected on an Enterprise Tech page. Other articles on the page are about robots, Tesla and Twilio.

I've been involved in GIS for several decades. I've never heard of Mr. Columbus. Again, that's not necessarily a concern, just an observation. Let's have a look at Mr. Columbus' extensive bio included on the article page.
I am currently serving as Principal, IQMS, part of Dassault Systèmes. Previous positions include product management at Ingram Cloud, product marketing at iBASEt, Plex Systems, senior analyst at AMR Research (now Gartner), marketing and business development at Cincom Systems, Ingram Micro, a SaaS start-up and at hardware companies. I am also a member of the Enterprise Irregulars. My background includes marketing, product management, sales and industry analyst roles in the enterprise software and IT industries. My academic background includes an MBA from Pepperdine University and completion of the Strategic Marketing Management and Digital Marketing Programs at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. I teach MBA courses in international business, global competitive strategies, international market research, and capstone courses in strategic planning and market research. I've taught at California State University, Fullerton: University of California, Irvine; Marymount University, and Webster University. You can reach me on Twitter at @LouisColumbus.
Do you see any indications he's spent time working in or researching location intelligence and related topics? I do not. Again, that in and of itself is not a concern. He seems to know something about enterprises and industry analysis.

4) Date

Forbes is good at including not only the publication date, in this case Feb 16, 2020 but also the number of views the article has had. There are 614 as I write this on Feb 17.

5) Organization

Who is behind this article?

I'd guess Dresner Advisory Services. The article is all about its January 31, 2020 report titled 2020 Location Intelligence Market Study, which is available for purchase for $595. This is the seventh edition of the report. I've never heard of Dresner Advisory Services, but I do know of many organizations that put out these sorts of reports.

A quick look at just the top half of the Dresner website shows the company offers similar reports on Analytical Data Infrastructure and Big Data Analytics and will host business intelligence conference at MIT in May.

It's also interesting to note that Columbus authored four articles on Forbes related to Dresner in 2019. That suggests a longstanding relationship.

6) Who's paying?

Since Columbus is a Forbes contributor, we know Forbes is paying him something. And, it's possible Dresner may have paid him, too, to feature its new report.

The Article

After reviewing the six keys, I kept a few things in mind as I read the article.
  • the author may not be too familiar with GIS 
  • the company behind the report covers many technologies and may not be too familiar with GIS
  • the author may have been paid by the report producer
The article opens with a series of bullet points, a kind of executive summary. Having read many reports like the one covered in the article, it's possible these may in fact have come directly from the executive summary. This bullet gave me pause:
Location Intelligence vendors providing specialized apps and platforms include CARTO, ESRI, Galigeo, MapLarge and Pitney Bowes.
Those are all familiar names, so that's a good sign! However, Esri is not capitalized correctly. I point that out just as one might note a spelling error in a resume; it relates to "attention to detail." The bullet refers to Pitney Bowes. That company sold off its data and software business, including its location intelligence business, to SyncSort last year. The deal closed December 2, 2019. I wonder if that change is noted in the report? It's not noted in the article.

The first paragraph is nearly verbatim from a Dresner press release. A quote from the press release follows, along with a cryptic message about visiting page 11 and 13. It reads as if it might be a direct quote from the introduction to the report.

What follows are short paragraphs each followed by chart. There are a references to geocoding, geofencing and reverse geofencing. I was surprised to find Mr. Columbus chose not to define these terms for a broad enterprise technology audience.

The final paragraph and chart are the most interesting. They describe how important the integration of specific technologies are for survey respondents. Google is on top, with Esri (still mis-capitalized) second. Further down are "Pitney Bowes (MapInfo)", "Carto" and "Here (formerly NavTec)". The list gives me pause because:
  • MapInfo is a desktop offering; I would think integration would be with Pitney Bowes/Syncsort's enterprise offerings like Spectrum or MapXtreme.
  • CARTO is correctly written with all caps; it's correct at the top of the article but wrong in the chart. 
  • Here was formerly NAVTEQ; I'm not aware of it being NavTec.

Further, there's an error in the article text indicating "Database extensions (30%) are the next most cited, followed by OpenStreetMap (20%). All other choices are requirements at less than 20% of organizations." The chart does not match that summary; OpenStreetMap is noted at 22% on the chart. I do know if if that error was copied from the report or introduced by the article author. In either case, this is another indication that there is room for improvement in "attention to detail" by the article or report author.


Based on the information collected in this close read, I would suggest proceeding with caution when referencing the article or the Dresner Advisory Services report.