A guest contribution from Dean Yao – Director of Marketing, Jinfonet.
It’s becoming harder and harder for businesses to keep up with and understand the sheer magnitude of data available to them on a day-to-day basis. Especially with how quickly it’s created and consumed. Currently, millions of gigabytes of data are created every minute across the world.
Through 2020, spending for the self-service visual discovery and data preparation market will grow 2.5 times faster than traditional IT-controlled tools for similar functionality (International Data Corporation). And businesses of all sizes are beginning to use data visualization tools to foster data-driven company cultures and democratize data and analytics across their organizations, so they have a fighting chance of at least scratching the surface of understanding their data.
Here’s more about what data visualization is, why you should use it, and how you can use it to drive your business forward.
What Exactly Is Data Visualization?
Data visualization occurs when someone attempts to place and arrange data in a visual framework so that it’s easier for others to understand the data’s significance and context. Data visualization software helps distinguish patterns, trends, and correlations of data that might go undetected or be unrecognizable in text-based forms. Today’s data visualization software also allows users to interact with their visualized data in real-time and display it in more visually sophisticated ways. It essentially makes parsing data quick and more accurate so that it’s easier to manipulate, understand, and employ.
Why Should You Use Data Visualization?
The concept of using graphics and images to understand data and information has been around for centuries because the human brain responds to and process visual data better than any other type of data. In fact, the human brain can process images in just 13 milliseconds, which is much faster than the time it takes for it to process written text (MIT News). It’s simply easier and faster for people to grasp the meaning of visualized data than it is for them to comprehend lines of data and text in a spreadsheet.
How Data Visualization Can Improve Your Business
Assimilates Important Business Data Sources and Information Across Your Industry
The market size for Big Data is anticipated to reach nearly $50 billion in 2018, and is now viewed as the world’s most valuable resource (The Economist). And businesses need to treat data like the valuable resource it is if they want to succeed, which means they need to get as much of it as possible for as little as possible. They need to parse through all the data they can and understand what it means for their business in relation to similar and related businesses in their industry. And they need to do so as quickly as possible to remain competitive. Data visualization software allows them to do just that.
With data visualization tools, your business can get better control over Big Data that’s essential to your organization via integrated data sources and datasets – and make it easier and faster to understand. For instance, a marketing division for a retail chain company would be able to instantly uncover maps that help visualize where their direct competitors are alongside their customers’ demographic information. Such a map will quickly show them where the best potential locations are for them to solicit. It could even reveal to the business where new store locations should be built.
Allows Your Business Leaders to Absorb More Information More Easily
Most data visualization software solutions allow you to connect and integrate various data sources and datasets that are both external and internal to your organization. This makes it much easier for business leaders and executives to absorb a lot of varied data that’s dispersed across their organizations and beyond, which makes it easier for them to make important and well-informed decisions.
Instead of reviewing static charts and information from a multitude of different departments and sectors of a business side-by-side, executives and business leaders can see a “bird’s eye view” of their entire business in one or two data visualizations. This permits them to understand the overall health of their business in relation to internal and external factors more accurately in a matter of minutes at any given time.
Promotes Better Understanding of Your Business’ Operations and Activities
In addition to gaining a “bird’s eye view,” individuals across your organization will be able to better understand how certain internal operations and activities affect each other. Data visualization makes it much easier for businesses to optimize their operations and communications. For example, with data visualization that combines sales numbers and customer surveys, the training department will be able to determine techniques and practices they should teach sales team members to increase revenue while keeping customers happy. Your business will also be able to see things like the effect of new activities and procedures on a product assembly line on sales numbers and employee productivity rates.
Makes Data Easier for Everyone to Understand
Data visualization tools take data outside the scope of the IT department and beyond the purview of data scientists and analysts. Its capabilities and visual nature make it possible for everyone across your business to use and consult data – everyone from sales executives to operations managers.
Enables Faster Decision-Making and Action Across Your Business
Because the human brain can process visual data much faster than written data and spreadsheets, data visualization enables faster decision making. In addition, data visualization tools make it possible for everyone across your organization to access and understand data, so they don’t have to rely on the IT department and wait for the information they need. This means that more individuals become empowered to make faster data-driven decisions, making your business much more efficient.
According to a study conducted by Aberdeen, 48 percent of business intelligence users who use visual data discovery tools are able to find the information they need without the help of IT staff all or most of the time.
Permits All Employees Direct Interaction with Business Data
Because data visualization tools offer customizable dashboards and capabilities, they can be designed for anyone and everyone across your business to use. Data can be customized for marketing teams, operations teams, executive teams, etc. Furthermore, data visualization tools offer drag-and-drop features and toggles that allow employees to directly interact with data in real time. They can toggle between chart types and data sources with one click. And they won’t always have to wait for reports to be prepared and interpreted for them to understand how the business data they’re looking at relates to their job role and function within the business.
Facilitates Colleagues to Communicate in Productive Ways
When individuals across your business can better understand your data via visualization, they’ll be better equipped to communicate with one another in productive ways. Most data visualization tools make it easy to share visualizations across departments, too, so colleagues can easily share relevant information with one another while using it for their own business purposes.
Prompts Your Business to Embrace Emerging Trends
Business leaders will be able to spot market trends sooner with data visualization tools. They’ll be able to gather data from internal and external sources to do things like monitor spending patterns and customer behavior as well as overall market shifts (regardless of how gradual they might be). They’ll be able to predict what will be most profitable. For example, clothing retailers will be able to tell if a certain item should be sold in a particular region at a particular time based on data regarding customer spending and behaviors in that specific market.
Offers Your Business Enhanced Sales Analysis and Approaches
Every business wants access to data to better understand how they can become more profitable. And data visualization tools enable businesses to really drill down into their sales data to see how it’s connected to other data, which helps them better understand exactly what they need to do to become more profitable. It’s no longer as simple as trying to meet a static sales quota or goal, as information is always changing. To remain competitive, you’ll need to use data visualization to know which products and services are profitable and which ones aren’t, especially in comparison with your direct competitors. You’ll also need to know which processes and operations are profitable and which ones aren’t. And so on. When drilling down into all your business data, you’ll also learn more about which sales tactics work best with your customers and how you should train your sales teams and operations teams to perform better.
Increases Your Level of Understanding About Your Customers and Employees
Data visualization brings data to life and offers true insight into how people behave. Instead of feeling like you’re looking at static numbers and statistics on a screen, you’ll see what people are doing and how they’re doing it in real time. Understanding what motivates your employees and increases their productivity levels allows you to optimize your internal operations. And you’ll be able to understand what your customers care about and how you can better serve them, which provides you with more opportunities to sell them better products at better times.
As you explore data visualization tools and techniques to remain competitive, don’t forget all the ways that it can drive your business forward.
Dean Yao – Director of Marketing, Jinfonet
Dean brings over 10 years of experience in software marketing and product management. Previously, Dean was a senior product manager at cloud computing startup Nimbula (acquired by Oracle), where he focused on technical best practices, competitive marketing, and product strategy. Dean was also in technical marketing at VMware, specializing in virtualization clustering and resource management products. He started his career in hardware virtualization research at Intel Research Labs. Dean earned his Ph.D. and M.S. in Computer Science from the University of Southern California, and a B.S. in EECS from UC Berkeley.