Bond is lost, camping out in a bunker underneath a volcano 150 km outside Petropavlovsk, in northwest Siberia. It’s been three months since he was sent to investigate the interests of Spectral Corporation, the largest wheat producers east of the Urals.
Shivering from the cold, he stares at a computer screen showing a montage of overlapping spreadsheets, various visual interpretations of grain production data, a heat map illustrating the top production zones, and planning permission documents from the Russian government.
Having clearly identified what he was sent to find – Bond quickly shuts the computer and places a call to M, informing her that the mission is complete and that he’s on his way home.
This modern day interpretation of how we gather and analyze data is something we can all innately understand, regardless of our generation. A movie director knows that overlaying data on a map is a great visual shortcut for the audience.
Whether you use a plain old paper map or a sophisticated piece of analytics software, you gain access to a perspective that only the geo-context can provide.
In Bond, the maps have blinking graphs, flashing lights, as well as multiple forms of visual analysis. The maps can drill down to a hut in the Siberian wasteland and in a few Nano seconds they can calculate automatically how long it will take a foot soldier to march to the hut from Vladivostok. It looks complex, but we intuitively understand what we are looking at – no longer does this type of analysis seem futuristic. And the reality is that it’s not.
So why then doesn’t life look more like a James Bond movie (a subject I’m tempted to explore on several levels, but let’s stick to the technology for now)? We may not have all the high-tech gadgets or capabilities depicted in the films, but access to intelligent and interactive software is increasingly accepted and expected. Let’s face it, it’s become critical to maintaining a competitive advantage.
I’m struck by an image circa 1970s-’80s of hordes of gray people in gray suits visit their gray offices, spending countless hours exploring (and trying to understand) mountains of business data – the image is fading fast.
The reality is that the mundane and manual exercise of bringing piles of data together in a way that provides insight and leads to intelligent conclusions has evolved considerably in the past few decades. It is very quickly becoming highly sophisticated, instantaneous and all-the-more interactive – not only across data sources but the business itself.
As a result, data analysis is increasingly becoming a priority function within many organizations playing a key role in:
- Driving strategy
- Informing business decisions throughout
- Identifying high-risk scenarios
- Uncovering opportunities
- Providing a safe environment for testing hypothetical business scenarios
If we were directing the movie “The Life of our Business” we would use maps – maps of our existing and potential customers, demographic segmentations and densities, maps of our locations and our supply-chain logistics, competitor location and performance etc. We would highlight breakdowns in the factory, log jams in the packing area or hot spots in our retail stores on maps. In short, maps would have a starring role.
With 80% of available business data having a geographical location associated with it – it only makes sense that we leverage the location context of the information available to us. Furthermore, we understand the physical world much faster and more comprehensively through what we see. And for this reason alone, using geo-visual representations of data has a key advantage over any other way of representing data, period.
Show me a map and how my data interacts in space and time and in relation to multiple types of data and I will understand. Show me a fancy infographic or numerous spreadsheets and I will show you the beginnings of a migraine.
Context is Critical
As the map becomes the background onto which all other forms of analysis are overlaid and accessed, the big picture comes increasingly into view. Increasingly interactive analysis, including geo-contextualiztion, opens the door to a much deeper and comprehensive understanding of your market and business potential – in short, you can now have access to an intelligent “atlas” for your business, helping you to better chart your way forward.
In this big data world we may have to accept that our ability to analyze our business grows at a slower pace than the pace at which the data is flowing in, but we don’t have to accept our limitations in leveraging this wealth of information or go it alone. Benefiting from a geo-visual representation of our data is one sure way to speed up our understanding and reaction time.
Visualization is Key
Imagine, you are the villain in search of Bond. With the right analytics platform at your fingertips – including the option for geo-visualization and location analytics – you might quickly conclude that the first place to look for Bond would be beneath a volcano. But a map showing all the villains’ lairs across the globe that served as hiding places for Bond, the current weather forecast, road conditions and where your own intelligence officers are stationed, would make that much more obvious and the search for him that much more efficient.
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Senior Manager, Product Marketing at TIBCO Spotfire