In the time I've been involved in business intelligence, and more recently in GIS and spatial analytics, I've both read and written a lot about "business dimensions". You know, those aspects of the business that underpin analytics and OLAP-driven data exploration. They let business managers answer those niggly little questions, like "where are we most profitable?" or "which projects or divisions have blown the budget with the most reckless abandon?". From there, they can start to investigate "why" by "slicing and dicing" data across business dimensions, like department, product line, cost center, and so on.
But not all business dimensions are created equal. What are the two most critical, most central and fundamental business dimensions?
They are Location and Time.
Think about it. We live in something called a "Space-Time" continuum. Everything in business happens at a specific place and time. These dimensions are fundamental to everything else, and oddly in most cases are somewhat taken for granted.
You can re-org your departments, you can juggle your product lines, you can cleverly allocate marketing budget. But aside from deciding when and where you're going to make things happen, you cannot actually change the location or time dimension. Events still happen today, this week, last week, last year, in whatever cities, states, and countries you choose as target markets.
I mentioned earlier that these dimensions are too often overlooked. I meant by that they're mostly treated just like other more "subjective" dimensions, and I say it because many BI vendors have not paid the attention to these two dimensions that they should or could.
This is especially true of the region or location dimension. There are tools out there that do some pretty neat and useful things with respect to time -- like automatically generating relative time periods (week-over week, year-over-year, and so on) for analysis, or "playing" an animated business measure trend over time. But only fairly recently have spatial concepts like 'location intelligence" started to bubble up into the day-to-day vocabulary of business analysts and BI vendors.
That's a huge part of the reason why, when our customers see their data plotted by region (and/or point) on a map, with intuitive built-in exploration capabilities, they often just can't believe what they're seeing. Typical reactions:
"Why don't we have this now?"
"When can we get this?"
Bringing total clarity to one of two fundamental business dimensions instantly unlocks a lot of the inhibitors to real, fruitful data exploration and analysis. And when you augment the visual clarity of maps with the time dimension that exists in every data warehouse, it's pretty much a slam-dunk. You see what's happening, where, and can instantly filter the view to visualize it for any other business dimension. Or even bring in predictive analytics to see what might happen regionally if you adjust programs, products, resources, and so on.
The Location and Time dimensions. Get your business managers to analyze and understand those, and the rest will follow.