Esri Brings Location Intelligence To Microsoft Office Docs

Microsoft Excel spreadsheets tend to be used to organize data, such as business addresses. Esri is providing geospatial analytics to those lists.

Mapping analytics provider Esri is trying to do what it can to reduce some of the eyestrain — and lack of immediate insights — from staring at Microsoft Excel spreadsheets by bringing geospatial analytics into the Redmond software giant’s Office documents mix.

As Helen Thompson, Esri’s director, Commercial Marketing, notes in a blog post, there is a clear additional value to be had by adding location analysis within the contents of a spreadsheet or other Office document format.

“Every business executive has hundreds, if not thousands, of Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. Most customer records, contact sheets and property lists contain addresses but they are hardly ever analyzed or used to get new information and insight,” Thompson says.

“There are lists of customers but often no idea of the average income in their neighborhood, the median home price or annual household expenditure,” she adds. “There are lists of properties but no concept of who lives nearby, what types of restaurants they visit, entertainment they like, or how their age varies.”

Location-based IoT Advances

The ability to add greater understanding based on location listings in an Office document was first discussed between Microsoft and Esri last September.

The deal called for Esri’s GIS platform, ArcGIS, to support Microsoft’s Power BI (Business Intelligence) unit, which enables its enterprise users to create dashboards, reports, and data visualizations through a cloud-based service. Power BI, which has more than five million subscribers, can access Esri’s interactive basemaps, US demographics, and secure access to organizational data.

On top of that, Microsoft is also using Esri location analytics to further enhance its Azure Internet of Things software suite.

The moves come amid several other location-centered partnerships Microsoft has struck to build up its IoT offerings and its search tools within its Bing search platform.

In December, Microsoft expanded its long-standing alliance with navigation platform HERE with a specific focus on providing services to connected cars, “with a view to improving in-car productivity.”

For example, Microsoft wants to be able to incorporate mapping, traffic, and weather data alongside a driver’s schedule and to-do lists for personalized planning and routing.

Last summer, Microsoft began employing location technology in a partnership with Starbucks. That project involved Microsoft Outlook’s email and allowed users to embed a Starbucks extension in its dashboard to automatically set up meetings at the nearest Starbucks.

A Restaurant’s Real Estate Dilemma

To illustrate the value Esri’s location insights can provide to Microsoft users, Thompson tells of a a local restaurateur in the middle of deciding on a major move in the location of her business.

The restaurant owner in Redlands, CA had a clear idea of where she wanted her next spot to be: it had to be accessible to a local freeway exit as well as near established shopping and businesses districts.

“A local real estate broker drew up a short list of potential sites, complete with building size and annualized costs,” Thompson says. “They also provided a map to show how well each location met those criteria. But, it left the restaurant owner wondering what was she paying for.”

After asking the real estate broker for an analysis of the sales potential of the locations in order to help focus the search, the broker contacted Thompson.

“Using the list, the broker compiled in Microsoft Excel we were quickly able to use ArcGIS Maps for Office to generate a new interactive map,” Thompson says. “We know that Redlands residents travel seven to 10 minutes to eat at local restaurants, so we used this insight to add new fields to the spreadsheet.”

The broker called his client back and said he wanted to meet to discuss his new-found insights and his advice to help decide the restaurant’s move.

“The information he shared enabled her to understand the pros and cons of the top three sites, assess her needs for capital and her ability to finance plans not just to move, but to expand,” Thompson says. “It was advice that she could literally take to the bank.”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.