Scaling Map Wizardry

To 100 million Microsoft Office 2013 Users
By Natasha Léger | Published April 18, 2013

Example of Seattle crime data. Graphic courtesy of Microsoft.

 

LBx Journal launched 4 years ago under the assumption that every business process is location-based, but not every business or businessperson knew it then, and they may still not know it today. We predicted at the time that geospatial technologies would break out of their niche market of just a few million users to 40 million enterprise business users.

Google Earth, Bing, and Yahoo! maps along with LBS applications have all made a significant dent in the enterprise market, but all from primarily the consumer perspective. While there are a number of location analytics platforms on the market, they generally require business analysts or information workers to access a separate application and disrupt their normal workflow, which generally involves spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations.

Information warriors

Marketing, operations, and business managers have been asking their IT departments for several years now for ways to see data on a map. IT and GIS (or IT and geo applications) have not mixed well as departments or as integrated priorities. This difficulty left many managers and departments to seek other solutions or to engage in skunk works projects with a variety of available technologies, including free and open source applications. These work-arounds to productivity have had both their successes and challenges. 

Microsoft has come to the rescue to those who have been waiting for an easy and seamless way to map business data. With over 100 million enterprise users of Office 2013, Microsoft’s GeoFlow will forever change the Excel spreadsheet experience. For those who have not yet explored the location dimension of business or data, you are in for a mind-changing, and mind-expanding experience. Welcome to the world of location intelligence!

GeoFlow

GeoFlow is a wizard on the Microsoft Office Excel 2013 toolbar that allows you to visualize and explore your spreadsheet data in ways that reveal new insights, tell stories, and even animate historical information. You can create 3D columns, bubbles and heat maps to create a tour of data, or what Ari Schorr, Product Marketing Manager on the Office Technical Product Marketing team likes to call “cinematic packages of insights.”

 

Example of unemployment data. Graphic courtesy of Microsoft.

 

With GeoFlow, you can:

  1. Map Data.  Plot more than one million rows of data from an Excel workbook, including the Excel Data Model or PowerPivot, or a linked SQL database, in 3D on Bing Maps. The data overlay on the maps can be columns, heat maps, or bubble visualizations.
  2. Discover Insights.  Viewing data through a geographic or location lens reveals new insights. You can correlate datasets easily between worksheets, and detect patterns never before seen in the same data represented as rows and columns.
  3. Share Stories.  Data tells stories. Data visualized on a map, and animated over a time series, captures the essence of the story, problem or issue, and guides the audience through the data, almost cinematically. Data can be shared with others, and engage the audience like never before.

According to Schorr, “GeoFlow is a simple BI tool that interfaces with other Microsoft Office tools, which were designed for the information warrior.” See Excel Blog on Dallas Utilities example of using GeoFlow for details on how it works.

GeoFlow is available through Office 2013, for premium enterprise license customers and Office 365 subscriptions. Unfortunately, it is not available for the small business or home office user, nor for Mac users. Schorr added, “there are still some software and hardware requirements to keep in mind when running GeoFlow, should you want to map large amounts of data. Memory, graphics card, and type of machine definitely factor in when trying to get that immersive and seamless experience expected from GeoFlow.” IT administrators will need to make sure all the requirements are in place to ensure users have the best experience.

Example of animation of historical natural disaster data. Graphic courtesy of Microsoft.

Esri launched Esri Maps for Office last year. Esri Maps for Office is focused on integration with ArcGIS, and the plug-in is only available to ArcGIS users. It offers much more geospatial functionality and is tied to a sophisticated GIS system. GeoFlow, on the other hand, was designed with limited geospatial functionality for any information user whose primary business analysis tool is Excel spreadsheets.

With 100+ million enterprise users exposed to the location dimension of business data, businesses will be able to leverage their data and act on new insights like never before.

Attention Business Schools and MBA programs! I hope you are keeping up!

Learn more and download the GeoFlow Public Preview here.