Articles

Can we unlock the value of ‘free’ data?

February 6, 2019

By: Harriet McQuade, Senior Geospatial Consultant

In a world where companies are hugely concerned with efficiency and productivity, there is one opportunity too many are overlooking. Spatial data. 

In laymen’s terms, spatial data is information that is located and displayed on a map. For large companies, it means an internal interactive digital map that can be used to find where their capability is, where their people are and where issues, like Health & Safety, are located. Most companies store this information in spreadsheets. And while Excel has its place, it’s hard to use it to identify where regional or site-based issues might be. 

At Atkins, we’ve created a tool called Atkins Go! that helps us view our data spatially. It supports business processes as well as individual projects. It gives everyone access to open geo data, like Ordnance Survey’s and utilities, so that people can save time finding it themselves and see how it impacts their site or region. 

What a spatial tool like Atkins Go! does is twofold: 

First, it helps you display open source data on maps so you can better manage your projects. 

From one spatial tool, you can see all of the challenges and constraints on a site, and more importantly communicate this to your clients. Before you even put a proposal together for a client, you know the complexities of their site and can reduce risk and assumptions. At Atkins, we’re using it especially on small projects where cost and time are limited. 

Second, it helps you map your internal corporate data so you can better manage your business

Imagine if you could see where the hot spots are for Health and Safety incidents. Or where the highest concentration of skills are in your business. A spatial tool can help you do this by taking all the data you store in various places and putting it into one place with a simple front-end map that anyone in the business can use. 

The idea here is to improve the way your business operates so that you are more efficient AND provide a better service to your clients. This is where we’ve seen real value in doing things differently at Atkins. 

Spatial data is one of our most underused resources, both from a project and a business point of view. And if we’re serious about improving efficiency and productivity, we can’t be afraid of doing things differently.  

We believe data is key to future proofing our profession and our projects. This article is part of a series on data and data management from Geographic Information Specialists (GIS) at SNC-Lavalin’s Atkins business.

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