Wednesday, May 07, 2008

College Students Use GIS in Business Intelligence Competition

For the second year, ESRI provided geographic information system (GIS) software and staff resources to assist in the design, staging, and judging of the Business Intelligence (BI) Competition at the Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP) annual National Collegiate Conference held March 27–28, 2008, in Memphis, Tennessee.

The BI Competition was hosted by Central Michigan University (CMU) and the Central Michigan University Research Corporation (CMU-RC). The objective of the competition was to introduce the use of GIS and BI software tools to a large audience of future technology leaders. "We chose ESRI's Business Analyst Online software because it is a true BI tool that combines GIS technology with extensive business, consumer, and demographic data to deliver relevant reports and maps," says Roger Hayden, CMU-RC. "The software was also easy for us to integrate into the competition because it is a Web-based solution and doesn't require that any additional software be installed on the participants' computers."

Sixteen undergraduate and four graduate teams were given four hours to solve a business problem that involved prioritizing potential retail store locations from a list of six available sites. A budget of $85 million and a set of key factors were part of each analysis. Participants used ESRI's Business Analyst Online trade area analysis tools, such as drive-time and buffer analyses, and the reporting functionality to generate demographic, consumer spending, market potential, and retail marketplace profit reports to derive revenue-to-asset ratios based on primary, secondary, and tertiary service areas for each potential site. Contestants used the Excel data retrieval feature in Business Analyst Online to make the query results readily available for their continued economic analysis in a spreadsheet.

The participants' task was to use Business Analyst Online and the included data to determine the retail site location or locations containing the highest revenue-to-asset ratio that could be constructed within the $85 million budget. Most participants had no experience using GIS software prior to preparing for this competition; however, they found Business Analyst Online to be an intuitive software tool to use.

"Business Analyst Online comes with comprehensive documentation and well-organized tutorials that made it easy for most of the students who had never used the software to get up to speed quickly," says Tim Pletcher, CMU.

Findings were presented to a panel of judges in a three-page executive summary including maps as appropriate. The top three graduate and undergraduate placements received awards. Honorable mention awards were also provided.

The undergraduate winners were

* First place: Zach Waugh, Nick Tuttle—Oklahoma Panhandle State University
* Second place: Nathan Bower—University of Alaska, Anchorage
* Third place: Steven Bauer, Matthew Brickner—Central Michigan University

The graduate winners were

* First place: Adeyinka Owotuyi, Iris (Yuyin) Qiu—Central Michigan University
* Second place: Robb Winkie—Missouri Western State University
* Third Place: Shirish Modi, Nilesh Hardikar—University of Central Missouri

"ESRI is proud to partner with AITP and the National Collegiate Conference," says Simon Thompson, commercial business industry manager, ESRI. "We are committed to providing the best education for future business leaders and are pleased to offer hands-on experiences to show how the geographic advantage benefits companies."

ESRI is continuing to offer more GIS education in the business environment. As part of this ongoing effort, ESRI teamed up with the University of Redlands to develop a special Academic Track to be featured at the 2008 ESRI Business GIS Summit. The Academic Track was specifically designed for universities and academic professionals looking to develop or expand GIS education in traditional business curricula. A special session also explored the potential creation of a national business certificate in GIS program. The Academic Track took place on Wednesday, April 30, 2008, at the Drake Hotel in Chicago, Illinois. To learn more, please visit


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