While business intelligence tries to make sense of all the data that’s collected each and every day by organizations of all types, communicating the data in a way that people can easily grasp often becomes an issue. How do we get data to the people who need it in a way that makes the most sense to them? How do we find outliers within the data that need to be managed? And how do we communicate key performance indicators (KPIs) that are common across the organization in a way that can be understood by all?
The answer is with data visualization. And for most businesses, such visualization is typically in the form of dashboards that are delivered to the desktops and mobile devices of business users.
The Importance of Visualizing Data
Visual dashboards take information out of rows and columns and puts it into eye-catching charts and graphs that people can easily understand. These dashboards help all types of business users visualize complex data sets using dynamic representations that make huge volumes of data comprehensible — even exciting — to them. They also provide management with timely, graphically illustrated snapshots of their organizations to help them make better data-driven decisions for managing both business growth and performance.
Some Cool Stats About Data Visualization
Data visualization evolved because data displayed graphically allows for an easier comprehension of the information, validating the old adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” As a matter of fact, our brains have the ability to process visuals much faster than text. It’s been reported that 70 percent of all our sensory receptors are in our eyes, and that we can usually discern a visual scene in less than one-tenth of a second. That’s a lot quicker than how long it typically takes us to read and comprehend text-only information.
Here are some other cool stats on the power of visuals:
- Our eyes can process 36,000 visual messages per hour.
- 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual.
- Visuals are processed 60,000X faster in the brain than text.
How Data Visualization Can Pay Off in Business
In business, proper data visualization provides a different approach to show potential connections, relationships, etc. which are not as obvious in data that’s non-visual. It works with the human visual system and can help a viewer see correlations, patterns, and outliers in his or her data that fall outside the norm and can have a profound impact on a business.
To illustrate this, we worked with one of our clients to create data visualizations highlighting product shipment data and noticed immediately that their number of expedited shipments consistently rose from a few early in the week to several on Fridays. By drilling through the data using visual, interactive links, the client was easily able to see that most of the inventory required for their largest client was typically depleted by Thursday of each week and that they were taking products straight from production, packing and shipping them overnight at week’s end to avoid penalties. Having the ability to spot these outliers more easily in the visualization (or dashboard) and to immediately interact with the data to figure out what was happening played a major role in helping this client now save tens of thousands of dollars weekly.
Is it possible to communicate these types of results in a multi-page spreadsheet? Of course it is; but have you ever tried to identify patterns while looking through hundreds if not thousands of lines in a spreadsheet? It’s not easy! By mapping out data visually, it’s not only a lot easier to digest and interpret, it’s also a lot easier to find and recognize important patterns, trends, and relationships in a glance which would have otherwise been nearly impossible to see.
Now, that’s bringing business intelligence to life!
This post was written by Pat Hennel