Chapter 1: Why use mapping software for decision-making?

Conquering mapping software - The ultimate guide

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Map software brings your data to life with visualization

Whether you are a small organization or a large multi-national, mapping software can empower you with a more insightful understanding of your business leading to more impactful decision-making.

At the basic level, use Mapping Software for data visualization, which is about using our eyes to assist our brain make insights that traditional approaches might hide.

It's important to understand that mapping software is not only about showing data graphically on a map. It's also about being able to interact with and interpret the visual display. Users can change the display, drill down into the data, create filters, focus on sub-sets, and look at different graphs, maps, and reports showing the same data simultaneously. The best systems also allow for the data to be annotated and shared with others to enhance communication and collaboration.

Information and locations

Much of the information that organizations must monitor and understand is location-based:

  • Where are my sales and service teams located in relation to customers?
  • Where are our sales occurring?
  • Where are the highest-value sales potential locations?
  • Where are my outlets?
  • Where are my depots?
  • Is our marketing spend in our customers' locations?
  • What is the best location for an event?
  • How near are my customers to my service center?
  • Can I match a volunteer with the care needs of a client?

The best way to represent this data visually is on a map. But it's not enough to plot data on a map –users need other contextual data that adds value to their business data, such as demographic data, census data, and boundary data sets.

You also need to graphically analyze the data on the map using techniques unique to mapping software, such as color-coding the data by region based on quantities. It's also essential that you combine maps with other forms of data visualization such as tables, charts, and legends.

High-level use of mapping software

There are numerous high-level purposes organizations use mapping software.

Radius map of depot locations
Depot locations and all customers within and outside a 20-mile radius

They use maps for 'lookup' purposes, where the primary requirement is to present information in a way that makes it easy and efficient to find the individual facts they want. A basic lookup is to see a pin on a map in the correct location.

Other datasets that people visualize include market share by territory, service coverage areas based on spatial distance searches, drive time analysis, routing patterns, etc. Lookup is a straightforward use case but common.

Very closely related to lookup is monitoring. Analyzing sales performance by territory, monitoring the current state of an asset, identifying gaps in-service coverage due to asset downtime or personnel gaps.

Visualizing data on a map also facilitates analysis and fact-finding. Use mapping software to inform, explain, or persuade for 'narrative' purposes. It is helpful for reporting, for feedback, for telling stories. An essential requirement here is the ability to share maps through web portals, web links, email attachments, presentations, and printouts.

Of course, many organizations will use map software for several reasons, and one display may serve multiple purposes.

Business outcomes of using mapping software

Some of the most common business outcomes from using mapping software are:

  • Increasing your sales revenue
  • Impactful decision making
  • Understanding where your customers are
  • Optimization of your workforce
  • Controlling your expenditure
  • Optimizing and aligning your sales territories
  • Better collaboration and operational awareness
  • Better site selection
  • Removing requirement for specialist consultants
  • Finding gaps in your market or coverage
  • Highlighting new sales or marketing opportunities
Sales territory heatmap showing customer-locations
Sales territories and a heatmap of customer locations for each area

Initially, capital cost and support skills needed to invest in mapping software were challenging. With cloud computing, the total cost of ownership for mapping software is now within reach of all organizations. Furthermore, companies like eSpatial make mapping software easy to use regardless of skill level.

Industries using mapping software

Mapping software is now used in most industries, especially where location or geography is a factor in influencing business performance. Businesses not only visualize their business data on maps but also perform powerful analytics to improve decisions (for instance, Scenario Planning).

For example, Insurance companies will use mapping software as part of their process for pricing insurance premiums. If you are unfortunate enough to live in a flood plain or an area prone to extreme weather conditions, your insurance company has probably used mapping software to determine the potential risk associated with your location.

Examples of other industries that leverage mapping software as a business-critical tool are:

  • Manufacturing (for sales, marketing, or distribution)
  • Distribution (for sales, marketing, or distribution)
  • Medtech (for sales territory optimization and management)
  • Retail (for site selection or targeted marketing campaigns)
  • Utility (for asset management or job allocation)
  • Food and restaurant (for franchise management or customer loyalty programs)
  • Educational (for alumni management or student prospecting)

In the next chapter, we will outline some mapping fundamentals in advance of Chapter 3, which details specific examples of businesses using mapping software.

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