We welcome your questions. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions. If you don't see an answer to your question here, please get in touch with us directly at the Help Desk.

Creating Maps and Reports
What reports and maps are available?
What is a site-based report?
What is a geographic unit-based report?
What is a trade area analysis?
How is data calculated for a ring analysis?
What is a thematic map?
How do I decide which reports and maps I need?
Who can I contact with other questions about creating reports and maps?
How long does it take to receive reports and maps?
What if it takes longer than two or three minutes to receive reports and maps?
Do I need to refresh the screen when reports and maps are being processed?
Can I work on the same or another project while reports are being generated?
What is a project?
Is my business data private?
How long are my reports and maps stored in My Account?
How do I download reports and maps in My Account?
How do I change my password or other registrant information in My Account?
Can I customize preferences for My Account?
What are My Accounts pages?
What is an "order"?
What happens to my reports and maps if my library does not renew its subscription?
If my library does not continue its subscription how can I continue to access BusinessDecision?
How do I access previous reports in My Account?
How many sites or geographic units can be set up under one project?
Are reports and maps e-mailed to me?
What is ESRI?
Where does the data in BusinessDecision come from?
What is a data manual?
How do I get detailed information about Tapestry?
Is there a data manual for current year demographic estimates and future forecasts?
Is there a data manual for consumer expenditure data?
Is there a data manual for Thematic Maps?
Is there a data manual for Census 2000?
What are Optional Reports and Maps?


What reports and maps are available?
The reports and maps include Demographic and Income Profile, Census 2000 Summary Profile, Retail Expenditures, Standard Site Map, Thematic Map(s), Tapestry Area Profile, Market Profile Report, Housing Profile, and Graphic Profile.

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What is a site-based report?
A site-based report studies information the area around a site, or point on the map. There are four methods available to study the area around a site:
  1. Overlapping rings: information for up to three concentric rings around the site can be constructed at distances in miles that you select. Each concentric ring includes data from any inner ring.
  2. Donut rings: information for up to three concentric circles around the site can be constructed at distances in miles that you select. Each donut ring does NOT include the data of any inner ring.
  3. Drive times: information for up to three areas defined by the time it takes to drive from your site measured in minutes. This is a good tool for measuring distance by time and for judging how long it takes for customers to get your store.
  4. Hand-drawn shapes: information for the area defined by a shape you draw on the map. This is a good tool for defining unique sales territories and service areas.
The overlapping rings method is by far the most popular. For more information on which method is best suited to answer your questions and meet your needs click here.

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What is a geographic unit-based report?
A geographic-unit based report studies information in a defined area. Defined areas are Direct Market Area (DMA), Core Based Statistical Area (CBSA), county, place (city or census designated place), ZIP Code, Congressional District, County sub area, and Census tract.

You can choose up to three areas in one project to obtain side by side comparisons of each area. For example, you can select ZIP Codes 00001, 00002, and 00003. The reports will show a column for each ZIP Code and a single Standard Map with each the ZIP Code displayed.

Alternatively, you can select an unlimited number of geographical units and combine them into one area, and compare up to three of these areas. For example, you can combine data from four ZIP Codes into one set (ZIP Codes 00001, 00002, 00003, and 00004) and compare it to another multi-ZIP Code set (ZIP Codes 00005, 00006, and 00007 combined as a second area). The reports will show a column for each combined ZIP Code area allowing for a side by side analysis. Two Standard Maps will need to be prepared, each showing the ZIP Codes that make up its area.

For more information, click here.

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What is a trade area analysis?
The trade area analysis shows where your customers are in relation to your site. By measuring the distance in miles from your customers to your business location, you can identify the exact geography where most of your customers live. Comparing customers by distance to the number of households in the area and the market penetration rate allows you to pinpoint a radius drive time that includes most of your customers. This information is vital if you are evaluating sites, selling a franchise, negotiating a lease, or conducting a direct mail campaign.

For more information, click here.

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How is data calculated for a ring analysis?
BusinessDecision uses a sophisticated Weighted Block Centroid geographic retrieval methodology to calculate data for rings and other centroids. This method provides the most accurate information for rings and polygons.

The basic principle - A geographic retrieval methodology determines how data is gathered and then summarized or aggregated for each ring. For standard geographic units, such as counties or ZIP Codes, the link between a designated area — called a trade area — and its attribute data is a simple one-to-one relationship; if a trade area contains a selection of ZIP Codes, the data retrieval is a simple process of gathering the data for those ZIP Codes.

The geographic retrieval process for rings is more complicated because a ring may transect a geographic unit such as a county or ZIP Code. How much of a geographic unit must fall inside the ring for it to be included in the data? Can the aggregation include only data for that portion of the geographic unit that falls inside the ring? There are several approaches to solving this dilemma.

The simple approach - To produce a report of data for these areas, underlying geographic areas must be collected. The most basic method for aggregating data for trade areas is to use a point-in-polygon approach to gather the Census Block Groups within the trade area and aggregate the data for the Block Groups.

The first map illustrates a store location within a ring with a one-mile radius. The highlighted polygons within the ring represent all the Block Groups within the trade area selected by the point-in-polygon procedure. By using a simple Block Group retrieval methodology, the population of each selected Block Group would be aggregated to create a trade area total.

Why simple Block Group retrieval is inaccurate - The second map zooms in on two specific Block Groups in the map above. The highlighted Block Group (340030473003) on the map illustrates the fundamental weakness of using Block Groups exclusively in a point-in-polygon approach. Because the centroid of the polygon is within the one-mile radius ring, the entire Block Group is included in the aggregation. For example, if a user calculates population for the one-mile radius trade area, the entire population of the highlighted polygon would be included in the total even though approximately half of the Block Group is outside the trade area. This assignment weakness can severely skew the results of a trade area aggregation because many Block Groups contain a large population.

The inverse of this apportionment problem also contributes to the inaccuracy of this geographic retrieval approach. In the same example above, a substantial portion of Block Group 340030614001 is contained within the trade area, but none of the Block Group's attributes will be utilized during the aggregation process. This problem can have a significant effect on the aggregation process and contributes to inaccurate information on demographic reports.

Why Weighted Block Centroid retrieval is better - Because of these weaknesses, a more sophisticated geographic retrieval methodology is employed by BusinessDecision to aggregate data for rings and other polygons. The Weighted Block Centroid retrieval approach uses Census Block data to better apportion Block Groups that are not exclusively contained within a ring.

Census Blocks are the smallest unit of census geography. They are used to create all other levels of census geography. For example, one or many blocks are aggregated to create a Block Group. In the third map, the blue dots represent the geographic centroids for the 13 blocks that make up the highlighted (yellow) Block Group. Unfortunately, only a small subset of data (households, population, housing units, and number of businesses) is available at the Census Block level and, therefore, cannot be used to aggregate most data for a ring.

BusinessDecision employs a sophisticated approach and uses block centroids within a trade area to calculate a weight for the highlighted Block Group. These weights are then used to more accurately gather and aggregate demographic data for rings and other polygons.

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What is a thematic map?
Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand numbers. Thematic mapping allows you to visually represent data variations in an area or region to see patterns and trends that may be hard to recognize in tabular data. Map any of the thousands of BusinessDecision data variables and display sites or geographic areas with the selected data variable thematically shaded by state, county, Census Tract, Block Group, and so forth. You can further customize your map by choosing the number of breaks and a color scheme for your map.

For more information, click here.

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How do I decide which reports and maps I need?
We've simplified the process of deciding which reports and maps you need in this selection guide, which lists reports and maps appropriate to many business situations.

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Who can I contact with other questions about creating reports and maps?
Contact Marc Futterman at support@civictechnologies.com or call toll free (888) 606-7600.

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How long does it take to receive reports and maps?
It usually takes about one to three minutes for the reports and maps to be completed and viewed. Drive-time reports take a little longer. The greater the number of maps and reports the longer it takes.

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What if it takes longer than three minutes to receive reports and maps?
Email Marc Futterman at support@civictechnologies.com or call toll free (888) 606-7600.

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Do I need to refresh the screen when reports and maps are being processed?
Yes, we advise this. Your browser needs to be frequently refreshed to display the completed reports and maps. While BusinessDecision is designed to automatically refresh the screen, due to the numerous browser configurations manual refresh may be needed.

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Can I work on the same or another project while reports are being generated?
Yes. Just click on the "My Projects" tab anytime the reports are being processed and you can continue to work. You can click anytime on the "My Previous Reports" tab anytime to see your reports.

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What is a project?
A project is a discrete activity for which the user wants to obtain reports and/or maps. Examples of projects are: 1) identify possible sites to relocate a business when the owner looses their current lease; 2) prepare general market data for writing a business plan; 3) analyze the Tapestry market segments in a trade area; and 4) analyze industry-specific household consumer expenditures in a trade area.

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Is my business data private?
If the end-user selects a personal and private My Account, their business data is private. If the end-user selects Express Logon then other users may see your project and/or reports/maps unless you delete the project at the end of your session.

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How long are my reports and maps stored in My Account?
Reports and maps in My Account are saved on our servers for six months. You can save your reports to your local computer if you require long term storage.

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How do I download reports and maps in My Account?
Reports and maps can be downloaded in Adobe Acrobat or Microsoft Excel from within BusinessDecision or from the email link sent to the registered account holder. Multiple reports and maps can be downloaded in a zip file format or in a single Acrobat document.

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How do I change my password or other registrant information in My Account?
From within BusinessDecision click on "Logout" at the top right side of the screen.

A new screen will appear with "subscriber login" appearing on the left side of the screen. Scroll down to see "username," "password," and "edit my account". Fill in your username and password and click on the small box called "edit my account". Then click the "Login" button.

The form that originally appeared when you registered for your account will be displayed. You can change relevant information including your password, mailing address, e-mail address, and other fields. You cannot change the username that was used to create the account.

At the bottom of the page click on the buttons "update my account" or "cancel." Upon updating the account you will receive an e-mail message confirming that action. If you select "cancel" you will be logged out without any changes saved.

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Can I customize preferences for My Account?
Yes, you can set preferences for the following features: default reports and maps; report format; study area format; report delivery by email; report subtitle; thematic map color palette; period for displaying previous reports. To change preferences, click the tab “My Preferences” at the top of the BusinessDecision user interface.

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What are My Account pages?
My Account pages include four elements: 1) My Projects for storing projects; 2) My Previous Reports for storing previous reports by project; 3) My Preferences for customizing user preferences on a range of application features; and 4) My Subscription Status to see the reports provided in the library's subscription and the remaining time on the library's subscription.

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What is an order?
An order is a group of reports organized in a project. You can have several reports in one order. You can have several orders for one project. You can access reports by choosing the order you desire under the "My Projects" tab within BusinessDecision. Follow the on-screen instructions.

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What happens to my reports and maps if my library does not renew its subscription?
The reports and maps are deleted. You can save your reports and maps to your local computer prior to the end of your library's subscription.

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If my library does not continue its subscription how can I continue to access BusinessDecision?
Please get in touch with Marc Futterman at support@civictechnologies.com or call toll free (888) 606-7600.

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How do I access previous reports in My Account?
Click on the "My Previous Reports" tab in BusinessDecision. First, select the project you want to view and then select the reports stored in that project.

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How many sites or geographic units can be set up under one project?
You can set up to 100 sites or geographic units under one project.

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Are reports and maps e-mailed to me?
Reports and maps are sent to the e-mail address of the registrant when you set up My Account. Reports and maps are NOT sent under an Express Logon; instead, you must save your reports during your session.

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What is ESRI?
BusinessDecision uses ESRI services for instant access to data, reports, and maps. ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc.) is based in Redlands, California. With annual worldwide sales of more than $600 million and 4,000 employees, ESRI has been the world leader in the GIS software industry for more than 30 years. ESRI offers innovative solutions to create, visualize, analyze, and present location-based information such as demographic data, better and more clearly. ESRI provides powerful GIS solutions to more than 300,000 clients in more than 189 countries.

ESRI is a leading developer and provider of demographic, consumer segmentation, business and marketplace data, delivering data, reports, and maps to assist executives in businesses of any size in virtually every industry. The combined expertise of the team's economists, statisticians, demographers, and analysts totals nearly a century of development experience. The team has crafted data methodologies such as the demographic update, segmentation, the diversity index, and the Retail MarketPlace database that are now industry benchmarks.

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Where does the data in BusinessDecision come from?
BusinessDecision data is sourced from ESRI.

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What is a data manual?
A data manual is a detailed resource book for the data sets that comprise BusinessDecision. To date the Tapestry Data Manual has been prepared. Additional data manuals are in preparation for consumer expenditure data, demographic data, Census 2000 data, and thematic maps. Data manuals include a description of the database, sample reports, fact sheet, and methodology statement.

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How do I get detailed information about Tapestry?
You can get detailed information in the Tapestry Data Manual.

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Is there a data manual for current year demographic estimates and future forecasts?
It is being prepared.

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Is there a data manual for consumer expenditure data?
It is being prepared.

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Is there a data manual for Thematic Maps?
It is being prepared.

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Is there a data manual for Census 2000?
It is being prepared.

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What are Optional Reports and Maps?
A library's BusinessDecision subscription provides essential information that small and medium sized business need to grow. BusinessDecision also gives each library a choice of making available to their patrons optional data (Optional Reports and Maps) beyond those included in their subscription. Optional Reports and Maps can be purchased by the patron using a secure credit card transaction while using BusinessDecision.

If you need help ordering Optional Reports and Maps or if your library does not provide access to these reports and you may be interested in them please contact Marc Futterman at support@civictechnologies.com or call toll free (888) 606-7600.

Click on the following links to obtain more information about Optional Reports and Maps:
Choose Optional Reports and Maps by your objective See a list of Optional Reports and Maps Choose Optional Reports and Maps by Industry

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To discuss solutions to meet your needs, call Marc Futterman toll free at 888.606.7600 or email:
support@civictechnologies.com