A severe outbreak of cholera was ravaging the Soho neighborhood of London during the summer of 1854. While city leaders and health officials struggled to determine the source of the outbreak, a physician named John Snow had a groundbreaking idea: he used a map of the neighborhood to plot cases of cholera. Ultimately, his method not only revealed the source of the outbreak, but also provided new information about the nature of the disease itself.
Data mapping photograph
Dr. Snow’s work is often considered to be the founding event in modern epidemiology. For me, it’s also a great illustration of the power of a simple map and its ability to illuminate patterns in data. Much like the citizens of London, business analysts throughout the world struggle to understand and diagnose pain points in their businesses. Why are we having trouble keeping SKU# 123 in stock in Morgantown, West Virginia? How can we minimize the cost of getting parts to installers in Wyoming? How can we avoid costly product returns? Sound familiar?