Data Visualization: What it is and why it matters?
For Data Visualization it means a combination of techniques to visualize the data and explore them interactively. Data Visualization is an increasingly central activity in the field of Analytics. We often talk about Data Design, that is, a structured approach to creating visual and interactive reports that allow those who observe them to easily interpret them and quickly grasp the most significant information.
Of course, the generation of Business Intelligence and Data Analytics systems offer an interface already prepared for Data Visualization, but human processing is still a fundamental step. Understanding how to master the possibilities of visual processing offered by these software, in fact, allows us to make decision-making processes faster within the company.
What is Data Visualization for?
Data Visualization is the answer to the Big Data paradox: thanks to increasingly complex information systems we have an enormous amount of data at our disposal. But often, precisely because of this excess quantity, we cannot identify the significant ones and make them “talking ", that is to transform them into insights useful to our business.
Analyzing the data collected by your ERP or your CRM observing the visual representation allows you to:
· understand them faster and more thoroughly
· make better predictions
· share your analyzes more easily
· guide the decision-making process
· discover new points of view
Why it matters:
Visualize for Understanding:
Images have a capacity for synthesis greater than those of words: they allow information to be conveyed more quickly even to non-experts, but at the same time they are open to different interpretations. A graph representing sales trends can communicate immediately if the trend is positive or negative, pushing the viewer to search for the reason for this trend, interpreting it also concerning its background of skills. In this sense, Data Visualization allows an "intelligent reading" of business processes.
Display to predict
By immediately offering an intelligible representation of business processes, Data Visualization, in particular when presented in an interactive form, allows us to investigate the underlying causes of a given trend by relating different data sets. This allows you to identify opportunities and problems and, consequently, to formulate forecasts for the future with greater precision and knowledge of the facts.
View to share
Creating visual and interactive reports allows entrepreneurs and managers of different departments to have access to all business information in one place. And interact with data already composed in an understandable form, without having to resort to IT or rely on interpretations already performed by consultants and analytics experts. Thanks to its simplicity, comprehensibility, and accessibility, Data Visualization allows you to share the information gathered with the entire company team, allowing everyone to provide their interpretative input regarding their knowledge.
Display to decide
Dealing with information systems for business management, we often find ourselves talking about the need to adopt a data-driven decision-making process, i.e. guided by concrete data collected by software and interpreted through human ingenuity. By contributing to a better interpretation of information, Data Visualization also influences the way decisions are made within a company.
Visualize discovering new points of view
Data Visualization activates perceptive mechanisms that stimulate lateral thinking, often providing new analysis inputs that reveal new points of view concerning the progress and development of one's business. In this sense, the graphic representation of the data makes a fundamental contribution to the so-called "data-driven innovation", that is, it gives companies the ability to use Big Data for innovative processes, services, products and open up new possibilities for development.
The advantages of Data Visualization in the company
The company data collected with Business Intelligence tools or through CRM software are characterized by a high volume, high variety, and ever-increasing variability and complexity. As we have seen so far, however, thanks to visualization, the brain can process, absorb and interpret large amounts of information more successfully.
Therefore, processing the data in graphic form allows you to achieve a series of advantages:
· Save time when analyzing and interpreting data
· Encourage collaboration between departments
· Allow each manager or team member to understand statistical reports
· Optimize the decision-making process from a data-driven perspective
Set up a report to view data effectively
Although the Data Visualization tools included in the Business Intelligence software offer advanced functionalities able to provide excellent processing without excessive human intervention, setting up and following a method of analysis appropriate to your business is fundamental to obtain the information you have need.
A good visual report is built on three fundamental points:
· The specific objectives of the analysis in progress
· The characteristics of the audience to which it will be presented
· The communication objectives according to which the report is drawn up
The distinction between point one and point three is subtle but fundamental. The objective of the analysis can be, for example, to discover the underlying causes of a production slowdown. The communication objective, on the other hand, depends on how you want the public to whom you present the report to make your decisions regarding this problem. Data Visualization always reflects the intentions of those who create graphic representations: it is good not to forget it to avoid incurring evaluation errors.
Big data is a reality and we need to understand its meaning
We are advancing in the era of big data and visualization is an increasingly necessary tool to give meaning to the many billions of data lines that are generated every day. Data visualization helps to explain the contents, organizing the data more understandable and highlighting trends and outliers. An effective visualization allows exposing the contents eliminating from the data the superfluous and bringing in the foreground the useful information.
However, it is not easy and immediate how to simply embellish a graphic to make it more pleasant or show the information section of an infographic. Effective visualization of data requires a subtle balance between form and functionality. A very simple chart may be too boring to attract attention or to expose the salient points effectively; on the other hand, the most surprising of the views may fail to convey the right message or be too distracting. The data and the visual part must interact optimally: combining an excellent analysis with a perfect narration is an art.
The different types of visualization
When you think of data visualization you usually tends to imagine simple bar or pie charts. They can indeed be included in the data display and constitute a widespread reference for many graphs, but the right visualization must be associated with the right set of information. The simple graphs represent only the tip of the iceberg. There are many visualization methods available to present data effectively and interestingly.
Some generic types of tools to view data:
Some more specific examples of methods for displaying data:
- Area chart
- Bar chart
- Box diagram and mustache
- Bubble diagram
- Horizontal bar chart
- Pie chart
- Map of the distribution of points
- Gantt chart
- Heat-map chart
- Highlight table
- Network diagram
- Polar area
- Radial shaft
- Scatter chart (2D or 3D)
- Stream graph
- Text tables
- Tree diagram
- Graphic wedge stack
- Cloud of words
- And any combination of them in a dashboard.
Every field of science, engineering, technology and mathematics benefits from a better understanding of the data and the same is true for the public sector, finance, marketing, history, consumer goods, services, school, sport and so on.
Even if we always talk poetically about data visualization (after all, you are browsing the Tableau website) there are practical and real applications of undeniable importance. And being so prolific, visualization is also one of the most useful professional skills to be acquired. The better you expose the topics visually, through a dashboard or a series of slides, the better you will be able to exploit the information.
Author: Vicki Lezama