Low-risk IT experiment No. 4: Geocoding
Every IT department has a database filled with tables, and every table could easily carry two extra columns. Latitude and longitude data are becoming increasingly easier to gather these days, thanks to smartphones and browsers that report users' locations. Why not use this information to enrich your company's data store by adding two columns to your most important tables?
Adding geographic data can be surprisingly useful for illuminating trends. Are more of your customers on the East Coast or the West Coast? Are there clusters? A quick glance at any of the maps that can be constructed as a result of this simple data gathering can often reveal more insight than a room full of statisticians.
Consider these maps just the beginning, as location information can help you recognize how clients, requests, contracts, and other revenue opportunities are clustered -- data that can then be mined for relevance. Did a marketing campaign in one region pay off? Is one sales team succeeding? Is one advertising deal worth renewing? Many of these answers can be found by analyzing geographic information, which prior to geocoding was considerably more labor-intensive.
And remember: Not every data point requires asking the customer to approve revealing their location through their browser. Google, Yahoo, and others offer geocoding solutions that convert street addresses into coordinates. Useful maps can be generated with just a ZIP code and a table that lists the geographic center of each ZIP code.
Check out low-risk IT experiment No. 5: NoSQL