Geographical Information Systems (GIS) was once a Dark Art – a bunch of propeller heads in a backroom producing maps for executive reports or specialist analytics as part of a customer project; sometimes publishing a paper map. They would layer as much data as possible, trying to provide users with a ‘one-stop-shop’ for viewing data geographically, to complex manipulation and trend analytics.

Luckily those days are gone. It was costly to build generic GIS products, users found them difficult to use and required specialist skills, complicated manuals and training to make the most of the tools.

Today, spatial is no longer a specialist industry; it’s part of common IT. Data Analysts and Developers can enable and integrate spatial independently as GIS uses the same standards and frameworks.

The opposite to traditional map viewers is happening. Now it’s all about user stories, fewer clicks and simplified interfaces.

That would mean today’s GIS team is like any other IT team, right? Well not quite – they have their own language and are not often understood by others.

Spatial isn’t special anymore, but the terminology seems to be.

Why spatial hasn’t reached its market potential

Spatial is integrated with everything. The value of knowing where your customers are, what types of services are available in different locations and how to get from one point to the next fastest – it’s all undeniably clear.

Unfortunately, the spatial industry isn’t realising its full potential.

Spatial is finding it tremendously difficult to involve itself with other industries, mainly because it’s very insular. Just visit a spatial conference – any one of them – and you always meet the same people. It’s basically spatial people preaching to spatial people and there are very few representatives from other industries.

Look at the stats;

  • In New Zealand the current market share of the spatial sector against Gross Domestic Product is under 1%.
  • The potential however is almost 10-fold – in the US the spatial sector market share is 8.7%.
  • The GIS industry is predicted to double in size by 2023.

The spatial sector can be grown by grabbing hold of the technology available as well as growing what’s technologically possible.

This is where SAP come in.


Why SAP and spatial services will take GIS to the next level

SAP already has over 20 years of spatial expertise and 27 global partners in the spatial industry.

SAP and Esri (the world leader in GIS software, web GIS and geodatabase applications) have a joint technology integration roadmap – Esri was the 2018 SAP Pinnacle Award Winner for ‘SAP Global Partner of the Year’. Both parties are committed to working together to build services that complement each other and benefit customers.


  • 60% – 80% of utilities and Public Sector companies (asset intensive industries) share both Esri and SAP within their core systems and data sources.
  • 60% – 70% of specialist GIS work was reduced as there is no longer a need for summary tables or extract, transform and load processes to integrate with business systems.

There’s a lot of spatial content already enabled within SAP, such as addresses and postcode boundaries, as well as SAP provided services for mapping, geocoding, validation, cleansing, APIs and application services.

SAP’s in-memory database, HANA, is natively spatial.

It supports the Open Geospatial Consortium standards with all relevant spatial data types (2D, 3D and 4D) and functions. SAP HANA spatial has been integrated to several business applications via the SAP Geographical Enablement Framework SAPUI5 and Fiori, into SAP Business Objects, along with several mobile apps.

SAP HANA is supported by Esri as an Enterprise Geodatabase and therefore enables ALL Esri GIS products.

SAP is committed to joining the two worlds; SAP and GIS landscapes, so there is one central source of truth for all data. Whether it’s core business data, core spatial data or spatial reference data; there will be no need for additional databases on either side, just table joins on the HANA instance. This is expected to improve efficiencies for GIS team support by up to 70% per support person.

What’s also worth noting is the availability of services-based access to HANA without the need for apps or user interfaces and often no need for a map at all. This enables Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning applications to access and manipulate spatial reference data to create additional value from these datasets as well as deriving vector data from aerial and satellite imagery.

SAP HANA is certainly becoming a game changer for its 31,000 customers worldwide.

Consider the spatial services provided by the HANA platform and how new products could be envisioned like;

  • Power Outage Chatbot as a Service.
  • Natural Disaster as a Service.
  • Wildfire as a Service.
  • Landslide as a Service.
  • Storm Tracking as a Service.
  • My Business Processes as a Service.

For examples on how these are already being used, see images below.

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It’s an exciting future to be a part of! Join the charge with Zag Spatial Services.

Zag Spatial Services

Zag’s spatial experts can help your organisation by acting as the ‘co-between’ for your GIS, IT and Business teams to get you talking in the same language. We can even manage your spatial platform, while complying with IT standards and best practices, providing an efficient self-service capability to the business units and master data management for the GIS team.

Get in touch today for a free one hour workshop.