Are Maps Useful Big Data Viz or the Next Pie Chart?

Maps and Location Intelligence will be a critical decision-making tools for your organization if they aren’t already. Maps are not like pie charts and gauges, but they are often treated as executive eye candy by Business Intelligence practitioners.

It is well documented that data viz experts hate pie charts because they are ineffective communication tools. Exploring the following questions will you transform maps from a modern-day pie chart, into a useful analytics approach:

1. Is the distance or proximity between your assets, events, or regions important?

Just because you have geographic data at your disposal to create a map, does not mean you have the right visualization approach.

Try to answer these questions with the following map visualization:

  1. What states are top/bottom performers?
  2. How is Maryland performing? Easy question if you are from the US and didn’t fail sixth-grade geography. What about your international users/management?

A scenario like this is where interactive maps with search or choosing an alternative visualization can better communicate your message. The more distance, proximity, and location matter, the more relevant a map will be as the visualization tool of choice.

SOURCE – Centigon Solutions: CMaps Analytics

2. Do you and your users know the difference between Location Analytics vs. Maps?

Location Analytics is the result of processing and delivering business and geographic data together.

Big Data location analytics can not be delivered with maps alone; Why? Maps are the visual and interactive communication vehicle, not the engine to create analytics.

While maps can excite and inspire new data viz initiatives, your business questions may outgrow the maps you have in place, especially as consumer mapping applications become more sophisticated.

The following example demonstrates what I mean by an analytics “engine” that can process and blend business, public, and geographic data together.

SOURCE – Alteryx: Rent-A-Center: Empowering Frontline Personnel and Increasing the Speed of Decision Making with Alteryx Analytics

3. Do you have the right tools for the job and can you use those tools effectively?

Your data visualization success hinges on your organization’s ability to communicate the right information to the right users.

Most BI tools and platforms have deficiencies in Location Intelligence, as you move from 50 locations to 50,000, to 5 million. While all BI tools can aggregate and filter massive volumes of data, few support big data Location Analytics today.

The market is moving fast. GIS vendors like ESRI are also making it easier than ever to inject Location Intelligence into Business Intelligence.

SOURCE – ESRI: Grabbing Hurricane Irene by the Tail

The barrier to creating location intelligence is getting lower every day. While there is no single solution that does everything perfect, there are some considerations you should think about if you have to find better tools:

1. Delivery and Device (web/mobile, cloud/on-premise, embedded/standalone)
2. Data integration and enrichment
3. Visualization Options
4. Interactivity and analysis
5. Included data (demographics, boundaries, etc.)

Want to talk maps?

Sound off below and share your experiences or cool examples of Location Intelligence you have seen in action.

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