An idea to bring our business alive with maps


trainline mapI like travel and maps. We’ve got lots of information about the train times people want to know, and which journeys they take, I’m sure putting this together onto a map would bring our day to day business alive, and hopefully make some interesting discoveries about our customers. There’s already a team in the company who look at the journeys customers book, but we don’t do much with the journeys people look up times for.

At work we change our product with a new release, there’s a lot of build up to these events and effort put in, but when it’s good the success is hard to measure, other than that there’s no major problems. So the challenge is to bring the system alive, by creating a way to show what our customers are doing in a way that people can understand at a glance so that it grabs their attention. Perhaps as we launch our new ad campaign the patterns will shift, for example as we run an advert during X-Factor the journey search patterns shift.

In the company we’ve already put together a mock-up of how this could work, a map of the UK with lines flashing up to show a booking being made.

Here’s the mock up animated map, created by John Butt:trainline map

The next step is to experiment more, and work out how we make this information appear in real-time.

We have got reporting now in real-time with a dashboard created to show how much money / revenue we’ve made that day so far, and compare it against the same day the previous week. This was a wow moment, and people from the management information team are now interested in the tool behind this – as the way it reports in real-time is a step up from the traditional way financial information is reported on, were teams receive reports on sales from the day before.

The tool we’ve used for this is New Relic Insights, that Paul Kiddie’s blogged about. Real-time reporting is supporting us as we move from updating our site every six weeks to updating parts of it every day, continuous delivery.

Going back to the mapping I am going to experiment with information about the journeys customers are looking up and the bookings they’ve made, and plot them on a map. The tool I plan us is Kibana, part of the ELK stack that Ash Powell blogged about, that has a map module. By combining the co-ordinates of the stations into the journey search and booking data, the journey can be plotted. ELK can be set up to report the information in real-time, and filtered easily to find interesting patterns in the journey searches.

I hope this will bring the system alive, if nothing else it’ll be good way for me to get hands on with using ELK, I’m hoping to make some interesting discoveries and have some fun along the way.

I’ll let you know what I find.

Kit Reynolds @kitreno