April 1, 2008

GPS To “Wrongwhere” and Enterprise Architecture

A good enterprise architecture is measureable in large part by results of operation or outcomes for the end-user such as cost-savings, cost avoidance, or performance improvements.

Well, when it comes to GPS, you’d imagine that the desired outcome would be getting from point A to point B in the quickest, simplest way (a performance improvement from taking a longer route or getting lost altogether).

According to the Wall Street Journal, 18 March 2008, if you follow GPS directions blindly, you may find yourself driving literally off a cliff.

“By blindly following the gadgets’ not-always-reliable directions, they’re [the drivers] are getting lost, hitting dead ends, and even swerving into oncoming traffic.”

With the price for GPS devices coming down to an average of $225 over the 2007 holiday season, there are now an “estimated 49 million navigation devices…in use in the U.S.”

“GPS technology was first designed by the Department of Defense in the early 1970s to improve precision weapon delivery, Today’s commercial devices receive information transmitted from a network of government satellites orbiting the Earth and can pinpoint a user’s location”—sounds like a great architecture plan that commercializes defense technology.!

So what goes wrong with GPS that results in the following types of mishaps:“

  • Truck drivers erroneously sent to residential streets have crashed into fences and damaged walls and trees on narrow roads.”
  • “”After a half-hour of hairpin turns…the road ended at a guardrail and a 200-foot cliff.”
  • “Sent Mr. Wright off the highway and onto a paved road. The road turned first into gravel and then into a dirt trail littered with boulder and covered with overhanging branches…he dutifully followed the direction, which turned into a three-hour detour.”

“Map data companies…have employees in the field recording everything from street names to lane counts and speed limits…they also rely on sources including transportation departments, building associations, and public records. But the information can become outdated quickly as business move or close shop, new roads are built, and old ones are closed for repairs. Sometimes addresses are just wrong.”

“Map data companies say ensuring that information is accurate and up-to-date is a constant battle.” For example, one vendor has “about 5.5 million U.S. streets in its database. About 3 million changes are made to the maps each month.”

Some map data companies are encouraging users to report errors, so they can be corrected faster.

So following GPS directions and getting nowhere or to “wrongwhere” (my term)—is that an enterprise architecture problem?

It sure is. While it’s not a technology problem per se, it is a business process issue. And if the business processes are not in place to ensure current, accurate, and complete mapping information then absolutely, there is an EA problem that needs to be addressed with business process improvement or reengineering. So be careful the next time you take that road trip!


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