There is a saying that 'a picture tells a thousand words' and that is certainly the case when referring to the mapping of business data. The combination of tabular data and maps enables trends to be more easily detected and analysed. Maps can be a powerful means of communicating results to colleagues.
More and more businesses are storing masses of data in corporate databases. As this data has increased dramatically so has the need to speed up the process of analysis. The use of spreadsheets and related graphs have improved the ability to make sense of data. Since the advent of the personal computer the spreadsheet has become an integral part of analysis of business data. Combining the use of desktop software such as spreadsheets with mapping technology has dramatically changed data analysis and presentation.
We can easily demonstrate the power of mapping to visualize business data with a simple example. Below is part of a spreadsheet of income distribution within the London boroughs.
If you have to learn how to use a GIS desktop solution such as QGIS, MapInfo or ArcMap you may be expected to attend a training course. Courses can be introductory ie they last for a couple of days or intermediate or advanced. The advanced courses can last for up to two weeks, depending on your individual companies' requirements, and may involve acquiring programming skills.
At the introductory level you will learn all about the basic functionality available within your chosen GIS package. All the popular desktop systems have many features in common so learning how to use one will stand you in good stead if you also need to use alternative solutions. The most popular desktop GIS include ArcMap, MapInfo and QGIS. Both ArcMap and MapInfo are what is known as proprietary systems. ArcMap and MapInfo are both well documented and supported by their respective suppliers and are purchased both directly and through agents. QGIS is open source software and as such is available for download without any cost implications. However, whilst the software is free you are still expected to abide by the terms and conditions of open source licencing.
Many organisations are now using a combination of open source and proprietary software to meet their specific requirements. Both local and national governments are now expecting departments to evaluate both proprietary and open source software to ensure that the most cost effective solution is provided.
Whatever GIS solution is decided upon, in order to achieve the most benefit, it is essential to set aside sufficient budget to train staff properly so that they can make optimum use of the chosen system.
Joe Short BSc has been involved with various mapping solutions since 1993. If you are considering implementing a GIS or have ArcGIS, MapInfo or Quantum GIS training requirements I would be happy to be of assistance to your organisation.