With so much information to decipher and interpret, it would be next to impossible to generate a report without some form of visual guide. A purely written report would be thousands of pages long. By the time you are done reading it, all of the data will no longer be relevant to current market trends and customer needs. That is why it is critical to utilize some form of data visualization as part of your reporting and guidance system.
We process visuals 60,000 times faster than text, often deciphering multiple image elements simultaneously. This speeds up our decision-making and unifies communication within an organization.
What is data visualization?
Data is the lifeblood of every company. Data visualization is the representation of data in the form of charts, graphs, or images that helps you understand the data better. It drives business decisions, provides insights into operations, and highlights areas that need improvement. Data is extremely valuable, but data by itself is rarely useful or meaningful in its raw form. It needs to be packaged into a format that makes it easy to consume and understand.
How does it help?
The goal is to communicate insights more quickly based on visual representations of massive amounts of data. This streamlines decision-making and allows for a more agile business structure. This can be used to improve internal operations, grow customer relationships, or uncover external trends that will affect your business in the future. Other benefits include the following:
Easily comprehend an enormous amount of data
The current Dow Jones is an excellent example of a data visualization system. You can read all of the data about trends and performance for a specific stock or simply look at its valuation over time. There is a convenient graph that clearly shows growth or dips in value, as well as stock splits or other vital indicators. One glance is all it takes to get a quick impression before diving deeper. That is the power of visual data.
Gain meaningful business insights
Data visualization systems allow you to quickly analyze large amounts of data, identify patterns and trends in that data, see how it changes over time, and see how it changes across different variables. This will allow your team and management to compare different datasets to identify similarities and differences between them.
Visualization systems can improve the understanding of business operations by enabling users to view data from many perspectives. When a report is generated, it may be possible to see relationships between different aspects of the business that were previously hidden or unclear. This makes it easier to identify areas where improvement is needed and how these improvements might be made.
For example, you have a sales team working in one country but selling products globally through online stores and retail outlets. A visualization system could enable you to see which geographic locations your sales are coming from and which countries are contributing most significantly toward making up those sales totals. This informs you where more effort should be directed when looking at marketing strategies or product development plans.
Data visualization systems, by nature, are designed to communicate core ideas and plans. This is because they provide an easy way for users to visualize complex data sets. The charts and graphs that data visualization systems offer can be used in presentations or meetings to help explain concepts clearly. They also help make planning more effective by allowing teams to see how their strategies fit into the big picture of the organization as a whole.
How to select the right data visualization system?
Data visualization systems come in numerous sizes, scopes, and specifications. They are usually an investment that you want to ensure operates at the highest efficiency when integrating into your pre-existing environments and data lifecycle. Careful consideration of a few key factors will help smooth out this process so you can gain the most value and insights from a new system. Consider the following questions:
What are your team’s skill sets?
Think about the strengths and weaknesses of your team right now. Do they have the skills in place to leverage a data visualization system already, or will you need to hire an outside consultant? What are the gaps in your team’s collective knowledge that will need to be addressed?
Most data visualization systems come with a convenient user interface that alleviates much of the integration stress. However, that does not eliminate the learning curve your team may have to undertake to properly make use of this new tool.
What tools are available for users who do not have access to the raw data?
Who will be able to see what the system produces?
Who will benefit the most from using the system?
If you’re designing a data visualization system for internal use only, then this will be much easier than if you want to create something that can be accessed by many people outside of your organization. To figure out exactly who will be using your application, look at job descriptions and talk with different departments that would benefit from having access to it, such as sales.
What integrations will be needed?
You always want to seek out a data visualization system that integrates smoothly with your current data lifecycle. The goal is to seamlessly integrate this system into your business operations. That may require some technical knowledge. Be sure to consult with your IT team and include them in the decision-making process so you can overcome these issues early and experience a quicker onboarding process.
Will the system be flexible?
A flexible and customizable data visualization system is one that can be configured in a variety of ways, depending on what the user needs. It should have an intuitive interface, be easy to use, and allow users to create customized reports.
For example, the system may include drag-and-drop functionality or a wizard that assists you in building your report. The ability to customize your reports means you can easily change things like the layout (which columns are included), presentation format (the type of chart you choose to use), labeling schemes, filtering options, and more.
How much do you wish to spend?
Finally, consider the budget of your operations project. Data visualization systems come in all sizes, and you do not need to “break the bank” to achieve competitive success.
The bottom line
If you want to increase the speed and quality of your business insights, data visualization systems are a great option. These systems can quickly transform numbers into visuals that make it easy for businesses to see trends and issues they need to address. You can choose from a range of technologies depending on your needs—allowing you to explore different options until you find a solution that works best for your organization.
The growth of the internet, big data, and social media has radically changed how we do business. We share information like never before, with unprecedented data at our fingertips. Yet no matter how easy it is to access information today, that information is only helpful if we can understand it.
These tools make it possible for us to find patterns and trends in ways that would otherwise be impossible or impractical—which means they can have a massive impact on every aspect of business.
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