Why you need a location strategy – part two

In this two-part article, I want to show organisations how to go about creating a location data strategy. The business operations of many organisations revolve around location. Whether you are thinking about your supply chain, asset location or customer address, location affects everything.

In part one, I looked at how you could express your business objectives in terms of location and what questions you should ask to frame a strategy. In this second part, I move on to describe some of the practical steps you can take to move your strategy forward.

Decide how to join the location data back to your addresses

Post boxMany organisations use addresses to reference their key business data, such as customer or asset locations. Addresses are codified descriptions of a location. To make them useable with other location data in a GIS, you need to  convert the address into a set of co-ordinates. Fixing geographic co-ordinates to an address is called ‘geocoding’. The first way to do this is to use the postcode. Postcodes are defined geographic areas created to help deliver mail. They usually refer to several addresses clustered together.  This can be used to approximate the location of an address. For better precision, you can geocode the address to a specific point, such as the centre of a building. To do this you need to match you addresses to an address register that is geocoded to building level, such as AddressBase by OS and GeoPlace.  Once you have the address co-ordinates, you can overlay this on other location data in the GIS, (such as the extent of a flood-risk zone) and extract your answers.

There are other methods of joining data together that do not involve a GIS, such as using the Unique Property Reference Number (URPN). Every address in the UK has a UPRN and more and more datasets being published are using them, meaning datasets can be joined together in a database using simple key matches.

Conduct a location data inventory

Chances are, your organisation already collects location data. But many organisations do not take good care of their location data assets, let alone exploit them.

Find out what location data you have, if it is well managed and ask whether it can be used for other purposes. For example, a bank that lends money against a house will obtain a lot of information about the house during the application process. If this data is retained, is well managed and made accessible to other departments, it could be used to issue an accurate home insurance quotation to the new owner.

Source new data to evaluate

Next, search for and evaluate location datasets against your objectives and constraints. Returning to the delivery example in part one of this article, your search criteria could look like this:

Location data needed Geographic reach? Level of granularity? How authoritative? Is open data OK?
Accurate geocoded addresses UK wide Property level essential Authoritative – must be accurate and maintained with support No – must always be available and consistent
Routable road and path network UK wide Routing to the exact Property essential Authoritative – must be accurate and maintained with support No – must always be available and consistent
On-road parking restrictions UK wide Area level OK Crowd sourced, modelled or derived is OK Yes – this is a ‘nice to have’
Distance from roadside to property entrance UK wide Area level OK Crowd sourced, modelled or derived is OK Yes – this is a ‘nice to have’

Once you have a shortlist, evaluate the data by creating a prototype to test if it solves the business challenge.

In conclusion

With a little thought and care, creating a location data strategy can be simple and straightforward. However, there may be times when it is better to get some expert help. The good news is that there is plenty out there. OS and our network of Partners advise businesses and governments on the data available to use and how to get the best out of location data.  If you are interested in learning more, get in touch.


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