Leverage location in your everyday workflows

In this episode, Simon, Ta and Josh reveal how even non-GIS users can unlock spatial superpowers in the Microsoft suite, bringing rows and columns to life with dynamic visualisations. Think geo-tagged documents, location-enabled lists and interactive maps for immersive reporting.


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    GIS Directions – Spatially-enabling Microsoft essentials

    Josh: So, there's a definite pattern here in what we're talking about, bringing together data in your Microsoft world, whether it's in Excel or Power BI with the authoritative data that you hold in your Enterprise GIS or ArcGIS Online.

    Disclaimer: This podcast is brought to you by Esri Australia. To get your hands on more short, sharp and immediately usable resources, head to the Esri Australia website and search for goldmine.

    Ta: Welcome to GIS Directions. I'm Ta Taneka.

    Josh: I'm Josh Venman

    Simon: And I'm Simon Jackson.

    Ta: Now just before we kick off, I also just want to give a little shout out to our friends in Southeast Asia. Guys, we’ve started trending! Particularly in Singapore and Malaysia so thanks so much guys, it’s great to have so much support from the Esri community across the Asia Pacific.

    Simon: Yeah. Great to have you on board.

    Simon: Now as a GIS nerd, my tool of choice for messing around with spatial data is ArcGIS Pro. However, in this episode, we're going to take a look at options for the non-GIS professionals. The normies to unlock location intelligence in their data workflow.

    Ta: Yes. And while you both know my passion for Pro, I have to say this appeals to me as the humanist in this trio, as it's putting the maps in the hands of pretty much everyone, because the apps we're talking about are on many, if not most people's desktops.

    Josh: Yeah, look, I don't know where I fit in that spectrum of nerd to normal that Simon mentioned but I guess we'll find out, but let's get to it.

    So we're going to be talking about Microsoft apps specifically. So, Excel, PowerPoint, Power BI, and more. And they're not really what you'd normally associate with mapping or GIS are they, but we want to change that perception by sharing some tips and tricks to get you all using those apps and switched onto the value of using geography in work that you wouldn't class as GIS. Simon, do you want to kick things off?

    Simon: Sure. A lot of organisations are making use of Power BI for creating interactive business reports from the various business data sources they have, and look, out of the box Power BI actually includes an ArcGIS Maps for Power Visualisation.

    This lets your Power BI users pull GIS content from your own ArcGIS system, be it ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise. Perhaps they've got a location field in a business table from another system. Maybe it's an address or postcode or a boundary, or even just a pair of lat longs. They can then enrich that data and plot it onto the map alongside the other GIS datasets from your system.  

    Josh: And is that really part of Power BI it's not kind of Power BI plus some ArcGIS thing that you have to install?

    Simon: It's definitely out of the box. So out of the box, you download Power BI or get it from the windows app store, and on the right-hand side in the visualisations, there's a little, little map icon for the ArcGIS component.

    Josh: Easy.

    Simon: You can also enrich the map with additional content. So maybe you want to add some drive times or some detailed infographics to provide a more immersive experience for the downstream users.

    And then this ArcGIS map visualisation. It allows for filtering and interactivity across the other Power BI visuals in your dashboard. So things like charts and tables that you might already have.

    Ta: Okay, Simon. So I've done all that. Now is it just me who can see the results and how can I share this with others?

    Simon: That's a good point Ta, so sharing is definitely caring and this ArcGIS visualisation Power BI, it's there for everyone to use and you could use it for free against publicly visible ArcGIS Online datasets, but as soon as you want to use your own secure ArcGIS content, again, be it ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise, you are going to involve a named user.

    So if you're creating reports, then you will need to be at least a creator, but to view reports, you need to be at least a viewer, and Power BI users can share their workbooks either directly or embedding them or publishing them by Power BI report server or the web.

    Ta: That’s awesome.

    Josh: I think for some people who might have looked at this before, they might've found it a little bit confusing on the licensing front and the goalposts have moved in recent times. So,  you used to have to have a special user type extension in ArcGIS Online or Enterprise, but now it's much simpler.

    So, everything you said Si is true about the user types, but that's all you need, you don't need this kind of add on to make you a special Power BI user. Really simple now, just a named user will do the trick.

    Ta: Alright. Now, putting my pro passion aside for one moment, and one moment only…

    Josh: Okay, you're prepared to do that?

    Ta: I am prepared to do that. And that's because I want to get people excited about two completely different types of clients to the ArcGIS system. Now, the good old Excel and PowerPoint - yay! You wouldn't typically think of that pair of apps as a tool for working with geography, but if you add ArcGIS Maps for Office to the mix, great things are possible.

    Josh: I've used this. Absolutely great. Excel just becomes so much more useful.

    Ta: Isn't it? You know my favorite part is this is really for everyone that's what make me really excited. Okay. So imagine yourself, you've got location in your data and you can turn it into maps inside your worksheet. So classic examples are you've got columns with X, Y coordinates in them, or you've got a column or columns with an address.

    Now suddenly, your rows and columns tell a totally different story when they're visualised on a map. And the best bit is you can discover and add data from your ArcGIS Online or Enterprise organisation onto that same map to get the best of both worlds.

    Josh: I like that a lot. It's something I've done, but can I take advantage of spatial data that isn't points? So, what if my spreadsheet data like refers to areas?

    Ta: Oh, well, I'm glad you asked and it's, it's no problem at all. You can create something called a ‘custom location’ to match up with the name of an area that appears in your Excel data with an attribute inside a feature layer coming from your GIS.

    So Maps for Office will then snap that location between the two. And you can visualise your data as areas. So think sales territories, or health districts like any polygon you like. But wait, there's more, as well as mapping, you can enrich your data with data from the Living Atlas. So things like demographics.

    So you can add extra columns to your spreadsheet and populate it with say average spend for the area or average income, that each of your rows lives in the real world. So you can actually add data to your existing and enrich it.

    Simon: Yeah, that's a really Powerful one. So I've seen, particularly in the commercial sector with banks and retail using it to kind of join their performance data back to their territories and sort of visualise that on the map and show it to others.

    And I think there's also a PowerPoint plug-in as well that kind of lets you take that and sort of push it to the PowerPoint as that like a live kind of slide as well which is pretty cool.

    Ta: Everyone has access to Excel. So how good is that?

    Simon: Yeah, that's true. Opens it up to a lot more people.

    So Ta I've got this awesome map that I've prepped in Excel. What's next, what can I actually do with this?

    Ta: So that's where ArcGIS Maps for Office displays it's chops as a client to web GIS. Now you can publish your map or individual layers in the map, to your web GIS and share through all the channels that it offers.

    So of course you can also share the Excel workbook as a file, and then the map goes with it. And finally, since we're talking about delivering maps, think about a briefing presentation. What if you could incorporate live maps into your PowerPoint slides? Imagine that right. Well, ArcGIS Maps for Office, it makes it completely simple.

    So you just add map, search for web map in your web GIS and you add it to your slide. And then when you're presenting, you can either leave as a static picture of the map or light it up by making it interactive.

    Josh: I got to add to that I've found some really interesting new features in Teams this week, where I could do what you just described Ta, I've got my interactive map slide up in PowerPoint, and now I can have my head and shoulders super imposed on top of my live briefing map or reporter style, pretty cool stuff with Teams.

    Ta: Very fancy!

    Josh: But more seriously, to do that what kind of named user do I need to take advantage of all the Office goodness?

    Ta: Pretty much any type, exceptions are insights, analyst and storyteller.

    So all the rest bundle the Office capability, but obviously if you're a viewer, you can't create content or contribute data, but you can certainly consume and view it.

    Josh: That's nice and simple. So, there's a definite pattern here in what we're talking about, we’re talking about bringing together data in your Microsoft world, whether it's in Excel or Power BI with the authoritative data that you hold in your Enterprise GIS or ArcGIS Online.

    I'm going to continue on that theme and look at another Microsoft app that's often found the Enterprise SharePoint. And as we know that Powers many a corporate intranet including our own and much of SharePoint is powered by the concept of lists, the SharePoint equivalent of a table and ArcGIS Maps for SharePoint can do some really clever things with those lists.

    And that, there's really three big things you can do that ArcGIS Maps lights up. The first is really basic, and both of you have talked about it already and that's location enabling a list. So turning either X, Y coordinates or an address into a location that's now a field in that list, something that can be mapped. So suddenly your table can become points on a map.

    Ta: Very nice.

    Josh: Second thing is making those maps and including them in SharePoint pages, you know, classic intranet thing. You've made a really good-looking map that delivers your message, same powerful combo that you talked about Ta, when you were talking about Excel. Get that map, your web map into a page on SharePoint so there's live access to your authoritative data.

    ArcGIS for SharePoint's just had a release which takes us to a, another level with new options for styling, time animation, infographics, drive time analysis. And this is kind of a common theme you're going to see where the ArcGIS JavaScript API has been upped to the four X API to be used in these products. So it's a lot smarter.

    Ta: Oh, very cool. Now, before I get overexcited here, is that all flavors of SharePoint, so I can do SharePoint either online or on-premise right?

    Josh: Yeah. Really good question. And the answer is, it's a bit complicated. The version and whether you're running on premise or online does make a difference to what's possible, we could kind of run dry on time here talking about the specifics, but I will make sure we include a link to the documentation to help people understand what's possible with their scenario.

    So saving what I think is probably the best for last, it's kind of a unique thing that really lights up SharePoint when you add ArcGIS, and that's the ability to geotag documents. So, people store a lot of documentation inside SharePoint and what this geo-tagging capability lets you do is, for example, consider I've got a list of documents and I've got a map showing building footprints for a portfolio of real estate that my organisation looks after.

    If I want to associate location with my documents, all I have to do is drag a document and drop it onto a feature on the map, and that connection's snapped automatically. And then, next time I look at that document, I can say, “where does it belong to?” and equally I can be looking at something on a map and say, tell me about the documents that are associated with that feature. Really powerful way of hooking together the spatial and non-spatial.

    Ta: That's awesome.

    Simon: Yeah, as someone that also struggles to find the documents I need from SharePoint, being able to sort of filter it down to, I'm assuming can you kind of use like a filter, like look at the map and just show me documents in this kind of view, is that a thing?

    Josh: Yeah, definitely. So, show me stuff in the current extent, in that example I gave you, click on a building and just show me the documents, you know, CAD documents, word documents associated with that.

    Simon: That seems like a very powerful functionality. So, whilst it's not a Microsoft app, I did want to give a shout out to the Azure cloud platform. Over the last few years, I've seen quite a rise in Australian organisations, particularly down in the state of Victoria, shifting their ArcGIS environments over and into Azure. Now there's a whole bunch of Esri tools and documentation to make it very easy to deploy ArcGIS Enterprise into Azure, but then also take advantage of the various Azure services to support that deployment.

    For me personally, I run my Sandbox environment of ArcGIS Enterprise and I take advantage of services like Azure SQL to store my geodatabases, Azure Monitor to keep an eye on the environment, and Azure Backup, so if I ever kind of make a mistake, I want to revert to a previous state, Azure Backup allows me to do that.

    Josh: Yeah, me too. I do the same with my test environments for ArcGIS Enterprise. Really easy.

    Simon: Yeah, I'd definitely rate it, something worth looking into.

    Josh: I'm gonna take the mic back and talk about another one that, the developer in me really likes, but then again, you don't have to be a developer to take advantage of this, and that's talk about Power Automate for ArcGIS. And I know lots of people have used this already, but it's definitely worth noting. And particularly if you're a Survey123 user, and you want to make things happen in places outside of ArcGIS when someone submits a survey.

    And there's an easy way in Power Automate using the Esri Survey123 trigger as part of a bigger flow. The arrival of a new survey could trigger say a new entry in your work order management system, or start an approval process. So take a look at the docs on this, and I'll make sure we add them to the website for more examples of what's possible.

    Simon: Yeah, I've only dabbled around with, with Automate but the huge range of output connectors to sort of connect with other business systems, I really feel like there's a big opportunity for governance workflows, so being able to sort of detect when certain things happen in, in your ArcGIS system, but then do things like, trigger for a script to run or trigger for sending a message to someone in Teams or even updating a list back on SharePoint, those types of workflows.

    But, also if you're a developer, there's a lot more that you can do in this area using web books, with both online or ArcGIS Enterprise, there's a whole range of custom stuff that you can do in Power Automate. We'll include a link in the docs to this on the website, but just a heads-up though, web hooks in ArcGIS Online, are slightly different to what's in ArcGIS Enterprise. So, check out the docs for more detail around that.

    Ta: That sounds really, really exciting, for someone who's been using Survey123 extensively, particularly as part of our desktop licensing wizard, that sounds like a great feature for me to make sure that I get hooked into.

    Okay, one last quick one from me and that's ArcGIS for Teams. Now I've mentioned it in a previous episode, but again, if you're a Microsoft shop with an ArcGIS Online organisation, this could be really valuable. To quote a Governor Martin O'Malley saying, you can literally have people gather around the map in the context of a Teams meeting or conversation. It's a game changer.

    Simon: That is a lot of GIS without any visible GIS. I think there would have been something for everyone in this episode.

    Ta: Absolutely. And to help get you started with getting the most from your ArcGIS and Microsoft apps, we've added all the resources we’ve spoken about to our website. So head over to gisdirectionspodcast.com.au.

    And we'd also love to hear from you guys. So, make sure you follow us wherever you get your podcasts and leave us a review and feel free to give us a five star rating. No pressure!

    Simon: Thanks for joining us. Stay spatial.

    Josh: Until next time.

    Ta: Happy mapping.

    Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are solely those of the hosts and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Esri Australia.

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