Data visualization is an important tool in data analysis. It basically does exactly what it sounds like – takes data, and turns it into a visual format.
For example, if you want to understand more about your business’s call patterns, you might start by downloading data from your PBX system. Initially, this will come in as a set of numbers that won’t make sense to anyone but a data analyst.
You could pick apart the data and draw insights with some dedicated analysis – but it’s much quicker and easier to visualize the data by turning it into a graph or chart.
Sticking with the call patterns example for a moment, if you want to learn where the majority of your customers are calling in from, it’s quicker to turn your raw data into a heatmap than it is to comb through the area codes. A heatmap lets you see that data at a glance in a way that raw data simply can’t.
So, if you want to get the best out of your business intelligence (and quickly!), data visualization is the way forward.
There are various reasons why data visualization is important for business intelligence:
- Most people are visually oriented. Sure, there are some people out there who love nothing more than a screen full of numbers – but most of us find data easier to understand if it’s presented in a visual format.
The human brain is programmed to be faster and more efficient at processing visual data than it is any other kind of data. By visualizing your data, you immediately make it much easier to analyze and understand.
- It helps you to get your point across. Visualized data is great for presentations, business plans, marketing strategies, and more. It shows stakeholders the relevant data at a glance.
For example, when proposing something like corporate compliance training, a graph showing the long-term risks to a company will have a lot more impact than droning your way through the numbers. It’s immediate, it’s simple, and it makes the point very eloquently.
- It looks pretty! Never underestimate the power of style. When presented with pages full of numbers, even the most dedicated data analyst will heave a heavy sigh. That same data in a visual format, however, is much more interesting.
A graph or infographic breaks up text and makes a document look good without wasting any space. This may seem frivolous – but presentation can be everything in the world of business.
- Bar graphs: these are a good, basic way of comparing amounts. Bar graphs stack datasets next to one another and demonstrate in a clear, visual way which number is highest.
- Pie charts: these are excellent for showing percentages at a glance. If 70% of your office wants chocolate cake and 30% want sponge cake, a pie chart will make the winner very obvious.
- Infographics: these aren’t always direct data visualizations. Infographics present information in an easy-to-understand way, but they don’t always deal directly with the numbers. For example, an infographic may use a visual allegory to put a point across or explain data via the use of a character.
- Line graphs: these are a good way of displaying changes in a dataset (or several datasets) over time.
- Heatmaps: heatmaps, or dot-density maps, are often used to show geographical distribution. Where units (for example, customers) are most densely populated, there will be a crowd of dots or an intensification of “heat.”
How can you turn your BI data into pretty graphs? Well, two tools really stand out in the data visualization world:
- Power B: this is Microsoft’s data visualization tool, and it’s as powerful as you would expect from the tech giant. It can take data from anywhere – your email, your social media, or your white hat link building campaign – and make it visual.
- Tableau: this is notable for its easy-to-use drag and drop interface, which makes it easy to prepare presentations and move data around. It’s also great for analytics. It will tell you everything you need to know about a number set with just a few clicks.
If graphs aren’t your thing, there are some stunning infographic tools out there. You might need to consult a graphic designer for some, but in many cases, the tools will do the hard work for you. Look around, and see what works for you.
If you want to offer a competitive and proactive service, you need to be prepared to crunch the numbers.
However, you also need those numbers to be clear and comprehensible to everyone who sees them.
The way to achieve this is through data visualization.
Data visualization gives you, your employees, your stakeholders, and your customers a greater chance of understanding your business intelligence. And the more they understand, the more they can help you out.
So, what are you waiting for? Time to turn your data into pictures!