Visualizing data using mediums like graphs, charts, and diagrams allows businesses to make better sense of the massive amounts of information they receive. Rather than disseminating sheets of data in number form, visual depictions allow you to more quickly and intuitively convey ideas and concepts to your team.
Stephen Brobst, CTO of Teradata, tells us:
“Seventy percent of the sense receptors are in the eyeball. Nothing is as powerful as visualizing data. The average human can only understand patterns in 10 numbers at a time. Traditional visualizations are hundreds of numbers at a time; more advanced can get to thousands of numbers at a time. Effective visualization reveals trends, patterns and relationships.”
Visualizing data helps generate insights and allows us to share our findings with others. To do this effectively and get the most value from your data, you have to properly design the visuals you want to use. This means you must analyze any given dataset to determine which points are best to include in your chosen visuals.
Oracle CEO Mark Hurd observes, “We now have lots of data, by the way, not all of this data is valuable … But you now have the opportunity and cost effective way to look at a lot of it and get through it.” The key to effective data visualization, then, is structuring your data and presenting it in an intuitive format.
To get the most from your data, you’ll want to organize it in databases so that certain sections can be pulled for analysis and visual depiction. Once extracted with a language like SQL, data can be run through specific data visualization methods to generate the visuals you need.
Here are five ways visualizing data can help your business navigate the ever-growing information landscape.
1. Uncovering Hidden Insights
Visualizing data makes it possible to discern patterns previously obscured by otherwise unintuitive data formats. Converting data from rows, columns, and numbers to graphs, charts, or network maps expresses the same information in a format that better connects with our brains. Effective data visualization thus helps individuals derive more complete insights from a dataset, make better sense of the underlying data and its relevance to business goals, and disseminate this information at a grand scale.
2. Effectively Communicating Data Insights
Data visualization allows you to more quickly and easily convey important data to your audience and draw their attention to the most relevant pieces of information. In turn, this means data insights can be rapidly communicated to key decision-makers so they don’t waste time trying to decode obscure numbers. Importantly, data visualization can spark conversations that lead to a recognition of organizational inefficiencies or the discovery of solutions. With plain data and numbers, that’s nearly impossible to achieve.
3. Sharing Accessible Evidence
Data visualization saves time and makes data more accessible by helping all employees within your organization understand what’s going on without having to crunch the numbers themselves or sift through spreadsheets of data. Once a given chart, graph, or map has been created, it can inform several people, allowing your business to more efficiently (and subjectively) answer data-related questions and solve problems.
4. Exchanging Information Outside Your Organization
Data visualization certainly benefits people within your organization, but it also makes it easier for outsiders to get a better sense of your business activities. Sending information to investors, partners, clients, or prospects in a visual format increases attention and comprehension. With color choices, layouts, and plot types, you can also strategically customize data visualizations so they better resonate with certain audiences. In the end, well-executed data visualizations make information more memorable, which influences audiences beyond your organization.
5. Creating New, Interactive Methods of Data Display
Visualizing data makes it portable to other mediums. Virtual and augmented reality allow people to view data in ways that weren’t previously possible. Graphs and charts no longer have to be 2D; 3D models can recreate real-world attributes. And with augmented reality, we can use digital mediums to motion-track data onto physical hardware or other areas in the workplace, creating visualizations localized or contextualized to the surroundings. Although applications for VR and AR are evolving and some information will always find its best expression in two dimensions, these technologies present promising and valuable opportunities for 3D and highly interactive data visualization.
Getting It Done
Would you rather read a spreadsheet with thousands of rows full of numbers or review a colorful visualization that emphasizes the most important information? Data visualization allows you to compact your data and prepare it for effective presentation both within and beyond your organization.
Looking to analyze your business’s data? You’ll want to take advantage of relational databases and powerful data-oriented languages like SQL, R, and Python to make sense of your findings and derive insights. For a smooth start, check out our Data Visualization 101 interactive course!
This article was contributed by Brian Thomas.