In the early days of business intelligence tools, it was impossible for users to harness the full benefits of mapping and geospatial analysis. Although mapping vendors made strides in both powerful analysis and ease of use, the best mapping tools were not accessible to business intelligence users because they were not deeply integrated into business tools such as SAP Lumira. All that has now changed with the release of game-changing tools that provide both advanced geographic visualization and geospatial analytics. They integrate deeply into the dashboard and design tools of SAP Lumira Discovery and Designer to provide easy-to-use mapping exactly where the users need it. This allows them to reap the benefits of both dashboard and geographic visualization tools and achieve real business value.
If you’ve been paying attention to demonstration dashboards for the past 10 years, you’ll notice that map visualizations have been a mainstay of the typical dashboard. However, in many cases, the maps are simple with low data volume and simplistic or non-existent analytical capabilities. The maps are simply eye-candy that provide limited or no analytical benefits compared to grids or graphs.
However, geographic visualizations can provide users with many more capabilities beyond eye-candy in a typical dashboard. Interactive maps can give end users the ability to not only see their data in a new way but also make critically important business decisions based upon geographic patterns that can only be observed on a map. With a fully-integrated mapping solution the user now has access to powerful analysis that SAP Lumira by itself is unable to provide. These newly empowered dashboards can provide new and valuable capabilities in a way that all users can benefit.
To take mapping beyond simple visualization requires six key features from a mapping platform:
- Handle large datasets
- Represent data that is familiar to users
- Advanced geospatial analysis
- User interfaces and workflows optimized for real-world use cases
- Deep integration into SAP Lumira Discovery and Designer
- An easy to deploy architecture
What’s so key about these six features?
Handling large datasets is fundamental to the geospatial process. Many datasets used in geographic visualization will have many thousands of rows or need to be compared to an external dataset that could be even larger – often more than 100,000 rows. Do you want to know the income profile of your typical customer? This will require a mapping system that can join your data to highly detailed demographic data such as a block group polygon layer. The most valuable of these layers contain tens of thousands of polygon areas at a minimum.
Representing data that is familiar to users such as their own custom regions or territories is key to map adoption. Almost all businesses will have geographic entities that aren’t directly available as a standard geographic dataset. While standard geographic datasets include countries, counties, postal codes etc., businesses often use custom geographies as sales districts, territories, office delivery areas or distribution zones. It is vital that users are able to see these ‘custom regions’ directly on their own maps to enable the user to truly understand their business data. From an administrator’s perspective it is important that these custom regions are easy to create and maintain in the future as the boundaries are subject to change based on the business needs.
Advanced geospatial analysis gives the user powerful analytic tools to analyze the dataset in the geographic domain. Finding customers located near a store and their average travel distance to that store, identifying insurance risks based on the location of a tornado track, processing delivery route optimizations. All these analysis tasks require an architecture that can deliver both high-quality and high-speed spatial functionality. Some of the tools that are essential for such analysis include sophisticated selection types such as radius, polygon, polyline with buffering and inversion capability. Also, selection features such as spatial aggregation and on-the-fly statistics can provide valuable information such as distance, times, and directions.
One standard type of geographical analysis can compare the business layer data with another geographic layer visually on a map. This allows the user to quickly identify spatial trends and correlations between the datasets.
For example, a pizza delivery restaurant may use their existing business data to show a map of their customer locations. By adding a demographic layer of average age, they can quickly use correlations between their successful customer areas and untapped areas that meet their ideal age profile. Another layer of delivery drive time polygons, such as a region up to 20-minute drive time from the restaurant, can ensure that these areas can be successfully reached or if new locations would benefit the business.
User interfaces and workflows optimized for real-world use cases provide users the ability to intuitively use large-scale datasets and analytical tools without the need for training or geospatial skills. This is core to the effective web-based and mobile-based mapping solutions, and without this, few users will benefit from the powerful underlying technology. The workflows should mirror standard business practices to make it as easy as possible for users to understand. In a dashboard environment like SAP Lumira, the interactivity of the map should be an integrated component of the overall dashboard to provide a seamless decision-making experience.
Deep integrations into SAP Lumira Discovery and Designer dashboards allow a production-quality overall delivery package. No matter how informative or advanced the map is by itself, users need additional dashboard elements to provide a complete decision-making system. In concert with other dashboard components, maps provide an optimal tool for empowering users to make informed business decisions.
An easy-to-deploy architecture is the final core element necessary for successful geographic mapping in SAP Lumira. The architecture must be flexible to follow current delivery architectures such as on-premise and cloud-based systems. It must be easy to administer and scale from a single user pilot to a full enterprise deployment. Of course, a scalable architecture also requires a secure architecture, so look for solutions that can be easily deployed completely in-house without the need for sending data to off-site servers. This is an important consideration in ensuring the security of your valuable business data.
Taking things further
If these ideas have sparked your interest in how to take your dashboard-based geospatial analysis further, consider going beyond the simple mapping offered in the out-of-the-box products. The need for scalability, functionality, data security, and true analysis will lead you to more advanced geospatial offerings found on the SAP App Center. There you will find several options to consider such as Visual Crossing and other SAP certified mapping extensions. These extensions represent a real change in the dashboard value proposition over what was available just a few years ago. As you see from the features described above, when you include sophisticated geospatial analysis in your dashboards, your users will have powerful new tools to make better, more informed decisions. They will see patterns and trends not accessible through regular dashboard tools and be able to explore into valuable new dimensions to make your efforts more effective and profitable.