The value of a map to Caesar, Napoleon, Zhukov and Eisenhower is well-known. Their business was war and winning always involved using maps. Your business may be somewhat less dramatic and historic but applying map visualizations to your business is just as important for your business battles.
So, how do you prepare your business data for use within business mapping software? Well, it is not difficult, but the process should be approached with care. The common IT adage “garbage in, garbage out” certainly applies here. You will typically be importing your business data as an Excel spreadsheet, a CSV file, or a tabulated text file for use on a business map. Yes, you can map Excel data.
Preparing your Business Data for Excel Mapping
Make sure your soon to be imported business dataset is clean. Clean up random characters that sometimes appear when you export data from legacy applications or CRM software. Tick marks and spaces can cause havoc as an online mapping application attempts to accurately place your business data on a map. Review your columns of data for clarity. Make sure place-name columns are place names, all the way down. Make sure zip codes are formatted as zip codes. In general, review your spreadsheet data columns for consistency and to make sure you populated your columns with data. Empty data records won’t stop the application from geocoding your data but you may want data in those empty buckets. Sometimes people have inadvertently typed notes in their spreadsheets that interrupt formatting.
Create sensible column headings along your first row. In other words, label city data column as “City.” Avoid odd business vernacular like “Port of Call” which can fool a geocoding engine. I always label my headings this way:
Last, First, Organization, Address, City, State, Zip Code, County, Country, Status, Type, Date, Beds, Sales, Account Rep, etc.
The geocoding engine, within the mapping application will look for those columns that indicate accurate placement on the Earth (italicized and underlined above.) You do not need to include every geocoding category. The application will locate just a city or a zip code, but including more geo-columns makes your placement more accurate. In some situations, like in third world countries, address geocoding may not be available and latitude longitude coordinates should be used instead. Nothing is more accurate than a latitude longitude coordinate. See Breaking Bad Season Five, Episode 7 – “Buried.”
Data Classification – Color-Coding by Type
To the right of the placement columns, I listed a few common data category column headings. These represent classifications of business data that you may want displayed on your map. These would be specific to your business. If you’re a sales organization you may want to see customers, in which case include a column for customer type. Customer types might include: Key account, prospect, inactive, house account, credit watch, or distributor
Classifying your data lets you color-code and symbolize your information by type. Hospital organizations like to show bed counts, clinicians, and resources. Marketing organizations often display prospects, or demographic data. Think about what is important to your business. Color-coding and symbolizing your data points is one the most important and cool features of a web map.
Use Multiple Map Views
Remember, you usually can import multiple spreadsheets into mapping software – perhaps one for sales, and one for resources. And you don’t need to show your entire business all on one map. You could set-up one map for revenue analysis and another one for work flow.
A little effort and thinking invested into cleaning and preparing your Excel spreadsheets will pay-off on your business web map. Pretty soon you’ll be planning campaigns, calling up reserves, and marshalling artillery. Well, maybe not all of that but you’ll be acting pretty cool at parties just the same.
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