Opinions vary around the usefulness of data visualization in making informed and strategic business decisions. If the data visualization adds value and insights it can be very useful to businesses. But if not it is just colorful ‘’noise.‘’
I have had some “wow” moments with this where the visualization dashboard has given deep insights and strategic connections and created new and effective strategies.
But let us take a step back and look at the rationale behind data visualization.
There can be no question the amount of data being created each year continues to grow at a geometric rate, with trillions of gigabytes being generated. Yet, for all the data that’s being created by people, machines, Internet-enabled devices, and other sources, data doesn’t provide executives and other decision makers with valuable insights on its own. The data must be gathered, made interpretable, and then analyzed and acted on to provide any meaningful strategic value.
Data visualization tools and techniques offer executives and other knowledge workers new approaches to dramatically improve their ability to grasp information hiding in their data. There is much evidence that the human brain can process and react faster to images compared to text content. This means data presented in a visual form can be a valuable strategic business tool as people respond to it positively and absorb key information and performance indicators in new and constructive ways.
Data visualization was sometimes seen as a, ”new age gimmick” in the past, probably because of shallow and flashy visuals used at the time, but insightful visualization, including a combination of graphs and Gantt charts (giving a visual representation of planning and tracking) for example, can be a very useful business tool across the organization.
One of the greatest strengths of data visualization is how it brings actionable insights to the surface. Unlike one-dimensional tables and charts that can only be viewed statically, data visualization tools enable users to interact with the data and reveal the patterns within. For example a well-designed Sales data visual comparing sales trend over the last 6 months will very quickly highlight if sales are on the rise or decline.
No matter which form is used, the visuals must focus on the primary areas of the situation at hand and is dependent on the data used. Heat maps are good for areas/region related data and graphs can provide historical data, but there are a variety of mediums.
The trick or art to data visualization is using the right medium to get the best result out of the data. The data visual/dashboard cannot be too busy as it distracts from the task at hand. So the visual must be simple and must focus on the key areas or objectives of the task at hand so as not to lose its value.
Used properly, to reveal key insights into the business, data visualization adds a wealth of strategic knowledge to plot a prosperous course ahead.