Just as blogs and wikis are no longer relegated to the Wild West of the Web, mapping mashups shouldn’t be either. There are plenty of great use cases for using mapping to enhance dashboards.
For instance, in a sales dashboard, you might be able to see revenue by customer segment and sales territory. A simple click into a mapping mashup could show where those customers are physically and mark them each with different style pins based upon certain characteristics. This highly visual representation may provide insight into the fact that a certain salesperson is focusing too much on a particular segment, for example. True, reporting might provide similar insights, but the visual cues may provide different ones. You might realize that many of your customers in a certain segment are clustered in a given part of town, allowing for a targeted marketing blitz. You might wonder who that pin way over in the middle of nowhere is, and by clicking on the link to their Web site find out much more about them.
Both Google Maps and Microsoft’s Virtual Earth provide fairly straightforward APIs to enable rapid build-out of this sort of application and their mapping engines are extremely fast. One hurdle to get past is geocoding your entities so that you can plot them appropriately on the map. Luckily, there are a lot of companies offering services from free single geocodings to extremely large bulk geocodings. (See http://www.batchgeocode.com/ for a very nice example.)
Mashups are here to stay, and they can provide serious business value.