The answer is decidedly ‘Yes’ – business mapping software can provide critical intelligence that enhances plan development. It can also help to clearly communicate key components of your plan.
Whether you’re running a small business or managing a department you’ve got goals and objectives to meet. By this time in the annual business cycle, you’re starting to plan on next year’s goals and objectives. This may be your first planning ‘rodeo’ or you may have been through the annual planning process dozens of times.
Regardless of how often you’ve conducted business planning and goal setting exercises consider adding affordable business mapping software to your quiver of arrows, the list of tools you can count on to inform your business planning and effectively communicate your plan’s details.
The fact of the matter is business mapping software is predominantly cloud-based now, which makes it readily available, easy-to-use and very affordable. There’s little pain in your taking a business mapping tool for a spin to see how it can help plan strategically. Have an administrator or assistant manager sign up for a free trial. All they’ll need is access to the mapping software and an address spreadsheet of accounts, patients, properties or donors – whatever location-based data your business typically generates.
In the past, many organizations purchased Microsoft MapPoint’s desktop mapping software. A great tool in its day for about $300. Sadly, MapPoint was canceled by Microsoft in 2014 leaving thousands of users scrambling for a replacement – like Map Business Online – and seeking a solution at a similar price point.
MapPoint provided tools for sales territory management, sales planning and field technician optimized route management. It offered marketing analysis tools and demographic map analysis that supported competitive analysis, strategic planning, and basic business visualizations that can expose business trends and shed light on what’s working and what may be a serious problem in your business future.
Microsoft MapPoint also gave a way a lot of advanced functionality like fleet tracking and GIS analysis which may force some users to turn to significantly more expensive solutions.
For most users, business mapping software remains an affordable option for supplementing strategic plans, building basic business analysis, route planning, and sales territory alignment.
Next Year’s Business Plan
If you’ve never applied a business mapping software to your business planning or daily business analysis, “Darling, your luck’s about to change,” to steal a film noir quote from the Big Easy.
Any plan worth a bucket of compost will look at the past and project the future. This is a basic component of a business plan. Even if that plan simply says, “In the past we failed. Now we’re moving forward.”
Business maps can clearly display sales activity on a map – point maps showing specific account by account sales activity, heat maps showing hot spots of field support activity, or perhaps county or zip code color shaded maps to reflect the number of donors each area over the past year. It all depends on your business. Just import a location enable dataset. Location enable means you have columns for addressing, or even just zip codes. Import all the extra data columns you need to create maps that support your plan.
Business maps can be manipulated to reflect demographic break downs of major areas of work concentration – by zip code, city, county or other jurisdictions. Demographic data, presented as a color shade or as an actual numeric figure, can support significant changes in business approaches, making the selling of your plan an easier task.
For example, a business manager for a field medical agency might want to adjust staff placements across the state based on changes in the organization’s patient census. A demographic map view can support that plan’s implementation by displaying a growing population of 65 to 99 year olds across the coverage area along with dots or symbols of your choice representing actual patient locations (no identities of course.) Your business plan proposes a change, outlines the process, and supports the concept with a business map view.
Maps for Research vs. Maps for Communicating
Working with a business mapping software opens-up a world of spatial assistance. Many business planner use maps to conduct research. Once again, demographic analysis can display trending opportunities or threats. By importing some of your key address-based business data layers your map will incorporate your particular business reality. In this way, your business map will help to flesh out your business plan, informing your analysis about obstacles that may block plans or perhaps exposing paths to achieving results in-spite of obstacles.
These research maps could include multiple layers of data, perhaps two or three map iterations of the same area highlighting different data layers on different map views. Your imported data is a critical element. By adding product, sales, staff, or even competitor data to these map views, your expanding your business awareness. Though this business mapping exercise you are trying to expose areas of commonality, obvious duplications of field effort, surprise areas of sales success and perhaps the lack of presence in critical areas. Let your mind wander over your business map.
Use these research maps to assist in developing your plan. Then pick and choose some map views to help communicate your plan. Make sure those map views are focused on the issues that most support your plan. Avoid too much data or map clutter. A complicated map can detract from you plan while a focused map with a couple of keep data sets can make a striking point for the right audience at the right time.
You’ve got three ways to share maps in your business plan.
- Save map images or static map views and embed them in Power Point Presentations or similar software. This is a great way to emphasize points in your plan. Simply save the map image as a PNG or JPEG file. You can also use the MS Snippet tool to grab full map images or map sections.
- Set up interactive web map URLs of your plan maps. These web maps will be available at the same URL for as long as you require them – all year if necessary. Your associates can click into these maps for reference at their leisure for no cost.
- Use the application itself – Live! You’ll want to make sure you’re comfortable with the business mapping application, but this can be a powerful way to support your ideas and your business plan. Think how those interactive electoral maps add value when watching the latest poll breakdowns on TV. Just make use you’re ready to use the application in front of an audience. I saw an epic fail electoral map presentation on The Today Show last week that was not pretty. Know your application before you go live, use static maps in the interim.
Be the Map Hero
For companies who have not been using maps for business planning, or who let mapping software go a few years back, here’s a little secret: executive decision makers love maps. By bringing a focused, uncluttered business map to the planning process, one that answers a few critical questions, you will enhance your position in your organization. Managers and business owners are always looking for people who bring solutions. They want problem solvers. Maps address problems, maps communicate. Be a hero.
A carefully considered business mapping analysis could lead to your new position at work. Napoleon was in his twenties when he suddenly became a general. At the time, he had just been appointed to the cartographique section of the army. “Mon dieu!” Be the map hero, before that other dude is.
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