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By James Schintz, Senior Consultant

There is something about a good map.  And following up from my previous blog, I’ll explore in greater detail how QlikView, Spotfire, & Tableau approach geospatial analysis.  Integrating GIS data with BI tools is a natural progression because of BI’s ability to analyze massive amounts of data, an ability most GIS software packages are lacking.  While innovators experiment to find new ways to create even more locational data, most enterprises are strangled by the limitations of their existing GIS infrastructure, if any.  As in a BI deployment, integrating geospatial data will liberate information by spreading access to knowledge that was previously limited to a handful of analysts.

QlikView provides no built-in mapping capabilities, but benefits from its flexible nature.  The greatest benefit QlikView brings natively is the ability to geocode address-specific locations via the load script.  Mapping can be achieved using out-of-the-box objects through a cumbersome process of overlapping objects.  However, if you are looking for enterprise quality geospatial analysis you will probably need a 3rd-party extension:  Idevio and GeoQlik being the most sophisticated.  GeoQlik offers the most comprehensive package, with features entering the realm of complete GIS processing packages.  Idevio is a friendlier end-user experience, and has one serious advantage, auto-zoom.  With either of these extensions, QlikView offers the most replete package of GIS services of the three BI vendors.

Spotfire provides the simplest solution to achieve mapping.  It is the only tool which can utilize shapefiles out of the box, and in my opinion it is the easiest to implement of any of the three BI tools covered.  The largest drawback is that no geocoding can be achieved via Spotfire, expecting this information to come from another source.  Additionally, mashups can be created for the webplayer, allowing use of web-based mapping services.  Spotfire also offers an extension that can connect directly to ArcGIS.

Tableau’s offering is geared towards everyday users, and less so towards a centralized management of geospatial analysis.  The built-in background map options provide the greatest wow factor of the BI tools.  However, without the ability to custom-define the coloring intervals, the utility of these maps is questionable.  The method for geocoding does not handle address-specific locations, but instead focuses on aggregate levels (zip, city or state).  It’s a great way to simplify the process, but will leave power-users wanting more.  Users are able to define 2 layers with these out of the box maps, albeit at much greater effort than Spotfire.

If you are in the process of deciding which of these products to use, QlikView will provide the greatest flexibility, but only with additional investment of money and maintenance.  Spotfire presents the greatest opportunity to quickly benefit from the pre-existing shapefiles your company manages, but is limited to 2 layers.  Tableau provides great contextual demographic and location information to everyday users, but you are stuck with those initial offerings.


About the Author

James Schintz is a Senior Consultant at Bardess Group Ltd.  With experience in both the data analysis and management realms, he has worked in the financial, marketing and public sectors. Drawing from rigorous statistical techniques, machine learning, and geospatial analysis, he incorporates advanced analytics to promote better decision making processes.