Simple, intuitive map software/service for a business
April 16, 2013 5:39 PM   Subscribe

My (small) company provides services in people's homes. We'd like to use electronic maps to plan technician routes and better understand where our clients are geographically. What (Mac-compatible) software or web service might help with this?

My company serves about two thousand homes in the Toronto area, most of which need to be visited daily by a technician. Right now, we have the region divided up into about forty zones for purposes of work assignments, but the zone borders are pretty much traditional neighbourhoods and we don't have a visualization to confirm that they're sensible.

The idea is to make sure that no one technician is given an unreasonably high workload, nor asked to go too far afield.

Our CRM is a pretty rudimentary web app - definitely not capable of this kind of thing. It can't even give us a dump of the current customer data, so we'll be pulling out addresses and the like manually.

What I'm envisioning is something that will let me plot ~2000 homes on a map, by address, and group them into zones (where I can set the borders). Ideally, I'd be able to get a report on how many clients are within each zone. It would also be nice if I could print maps of zones or arbitrarily defined areas.

Four staff would be operating this system, so it should be fairly intuitive. GRASS GIS would be an example of "whoa, too much".

Desktop software or a web service are both okay. We are willing to pay. Mac compatibility is essential.

The best thing I've managed to find so far is ArcGIS Online, but I'm so very unfamiliar with all this, so I imagine there are more appropriate options. Your thoughts are greatly appreciated.
posted by Clandestine Outlawry to Computers & Internet (2 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This won't be directly helpful but it might be directionally... I did this same project for a previous employer using Microsoft MapPoint under Windows. We were a magazine publisher with 20-30 delivery routes to the stores that sold our book. I was able to divide the region by postal code - but census tract also was available.

Sadly, I've never found a good MapPoint equivalent for Mac.
posted by neilbert at 6:59 PM on April 16, 2013

Best answer: From my understanding of Canadian Postal codes, they indicate a pretty specific geography. the first three are a region (not a census region, but a related area), and the last three are the designated milk run. I work principally in the US, but I've done a few Canadian geographic exercises.

Next off, geocoding unique addresses is generally done by a paid service in the US; however, I've leveraged a free batch geocoder for a known clean dataset before.

Once again though, if you are planning milk runs - there's a premium involved, and a simple xy won't ensure it is correct. That's a paid service, and generally a premium one.

GIS software is dominated by the PC. GRASS is platform Agnostic, and ArcGIS, the solution it sounds like you've looked at, looks like it requires a bootcamp installation - that means it is running just like any PC native. That means Microsoft MapPoint becomes a pretty reasonably priced alternative.

I use (PC) MapInfo, AnySite and GRASS, MI and AS are pretty pricey for implementation, and a true milk run implementation from PBBI (the company that makes MI and AS) would really want Spectrum. Also, MI and AS are pretty $$$ implementations - especially for 4 people annually.
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:04 PM on April 16, 2013

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