Getting Visualized: Transforming Data from Opaque to Immersive with Power Map for Excel


Microsoft

Guest post by Kirk Chritton, Director of Product Innovation, MCH Strategic Data

At MCH Strategic Data we’ve specialized in capturing, segmenting, and applying education and healthcare marketing data for our clients since 1928. In the early days, our “database” of school principals consisted of metal Addressograph plates sorted into long trays. “Visualizing our data” meant looking at the green cabinet where the plates were stored.

The days of “dog tag data” are long gone, but our modern database of teachers at schools, doctors at hospitals, and the bazillions of data elements that describe them can be just as opaque as that Addressograph cabinet.

Modern data visualization tools are the key to bringing the bits and bytes into view. Hidden patterns transform into revealing animated images that quickly convey meaning and insight.

These tools breathe life into our data just as CGI has revolutionized Hollywood animation. If MCH’s old Addressograph plates were the equivalent of stacks of hand-drawn animation cels used to generate the earliest cartoons, then the impact of visualized data is like James Cameron immersing us in a 3-D IMAX movie.

MCH has been involved in data visualization in various forms for about a decade. We have provided geo-enabled data for homeland security and emergency preparedness mapping applications. We’ve integrated Bing mapping technology into products like MCH Infinite Access, our education-focused business intelligence tool.

But now the power of data visualization is arriving on our desktops for everyday office use.

We were introduced to Power Map by Bing Ads Evangelist John Gagnon, who needed data for an article about how back-to-school dates can be leveraged to create more effective digital marketing campaigns. John illustrated his piece with a compelling Power Map animation and encouraged us to learn more about the Power BI capabilities.

“Power Map brings data to life,” John said, “But you have to start with fantastic data. When I saw MCH’s education data set, it was across so many rich dimensions. I plugged it into Power Map, and was immediately struck with the geographic pattern that schools go back in session. I’m using it to help marketers completely rethink their back-to-school campaigns.”

MCH was just as impressed as John’s audiences, and we have now started to apply Power BI and Power Map ourselves. The tools allow us to combine datasets and share insights with our clients like never before. We now produce videos that, for example, vividly display the geographic distribution of wealth in school systems. Our next step: integrate MCH’s data elements with our clients’ proprietary information to reveal trends and develop strategies that propel their sales and marketing strategies in new directions.

We’re also pleased to have subsets of our data available for Power BI users. You can find datasets on Massachusetts hospitals, Ohio school districts, and Philadelphia emergency preparedness services in the Power BI data catalog, accessed through Power Query for Excel's "Online Search" capability.

By bringing data visualization to the desktop, Power BI and Power Map are opening a window into MCH’s data unlike any we’ve had before. It’s as if we’re an 85-year-old company seeing ourselves in the mirror for the very first time.

Find out more about MCH Strategic Data at MCHdata.com, then explore Power Map and other new data visualizations in Excel and Office 365 at PowerBI.com. You can download the Power Map Preview for Excel to start visualizing and tells stories with your own geospatial data.”