Why Data Visualisation is Great for your Business

By Olu Omodara – Altis London office

At its essence, data visualisation is the effort to render data in an accessible, visual, consumable format. This understanding is key to ensuring that your data visualisation strategy contributes to and has the correct impact on your business.

Most likely, as an organisation, you are collecting swathes of data on a daily basis. Depending on your industry and type of business this can be product inventory, sales data, customer details, social media activity and much more. All this information holds the key to the current state of your business, the trends in the industry and your future potential. To even begin to unlock these answers, you need to ask the right questions of your data and give your team a way of communicating the answers back to you. This is where having a data visualisation strategy plays an important role.

Figure 1: Example of Sales Data Visuals

Many companies, and probably yours too, already invest in business intelligence and some form of traditional reporting, however visualisations differ greatly from traditional reporting. Traditional reporting usually relies on simply presenting information, often in number intensive tables without any indicators to help digest the information you are seeing. Traditional reporting can be sorely lacking in visual context and the highlighting of patterns, trends and correlations that can be shown as part of a data visualisation.

Traditional reports are usually static, apart from the application of set filters, updated weekly or monthly and are document driven, intended to be used like a paper report, whereas visualisations often allow for more interactivity. Importantly well designed data visualisations should show a view of the data that enlightens rather than confuses.

Figure 2: Visualisation of music streaming services

Data visualisation helps engender a more considered approach to viewing your data. It should adhere to design principles and allow the data to speak for itself, in telling the story of a trend or pattern. Modern day proponents of data visualisation such as Stephen Few have created principles that importantly draw on human perception and cognition. These help ensure visualisations actually help improve understanding for the audience by the use of some simple rules.

There are several reasons why good data visualisation is so important for your business:

Most users’ only interaction with data

For many end users in a company these reports or visualisations can be the only interaction they will have with data. These are users who aren’t necessarily connected with the collection or processing of data, but who might need to use information to make day-to-day decisions. For example, someone working in a marketing department might want to know sales numbers without having to dig into a multitude of spreadsheets or access a database. Being able to quickly digest information in the form of a visual is highly valuable to frontline decision makers that are not deeply mired in the data.

Helps make sense of what is happening in your organisation

The masses of information streaming into an organisation via their systems is only going to increase in the following years. Data has become a very important currency and the methods of obtaining and processing it have become more sophisticated. Whether it is scraping data from twitter feeds or maintaining swathes of geo-spatial coordinates the volume and velocity of data can be overwhelming. A well designed visual provides an all-important layer of abstraction, and allows a company to comprehend what is actually happening. For example, identifying patterns in customer behaviour, or pinpointing inefficiencies.

Communicates complex ideas simply

Data visualisation can be used to tell stories. Years and years of data can be used in a single visual to tell the story of why something is going well or not so well. It can be difficult to find the solution to a problem without first being able to see what the problem is. A good visual helps get the point across and allow many to understand a complex problem in a simple way. An example of this is using heat maps to point out exceptions in large data sets, or using a visual over time to see rates of customer attrition over the years, or, as seen below, a comparison of change in health expenditure and GDP over time.

Figure 3: Change in Health Spending and GDP (USA)

Of course, being able to produce good visualisations does rely on understanding how people consume information, understanding the underlying data and an appreciation for design. And these elements do require investment in the right people, techniques and tools. But once a serious and sustained interest in data visualisation is acquired, and investment is put into the right places, data visualisation can be highly valuable to an organisation.

Altis has developed a Data Visualisation practice that is delivering data visualisation strategies to a variety of clients. In partnering with thought leaders on this topic such as Stephen Few, and not being tied to specific vendors or tools, Altis has ensured it is an industry leader in this field.

Contact us today to find out how we can help you.

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