Two-third of business leaders polled for "The Data Directive", an Economist Intelligence Unit survey commissioned by Wipro believe that the range and types of data have expanded in the past couple of years, while about three-quarters expect this data stockpiling to expand even more in the coming two years. At the same time only 12% said that they were highly effective in using data to make strategic decisions. There is a very evident disconnect between companies collecting data and putting it in action. As companies try to bridge this gap, data visualization is a trend that is following closely on the heels of big data.
Data visualization is the process through which data-based insights can be presented in an easily understandable manner. With exponential growth in data, visualization helps end users "see" data in order to help them better understand and present it in a business context. According to "The Data Directive", 57% of the respondents feel that improvements in how they interpret data, such as visualizations, would enable them to capitalize on potential opportunities faster.
Consider applications of data visualization in retail or healthcare where real time data-based decision making can have a significant impact. The generation of data trends can help map activity hot-spots, while identifying critical areas that need to be addressed. Patterns can be discovered in customer or patient requirements and behavior, which can then be directly addressed to save time and improve customer satisfaction.
Unfortunately, visualization is often confused with visual appeal. Visual appeal (adding superficial colors, 3D effects, etc.) can be a disabler as it draws attention away from the data. Visualization, on the other hand, helps to derive maximum value from a sea of streaming data by displaying trends and patterns that may be difficult to recognize in standard formats. Visualization is more sophisticated and can include features such as gauges, maps, time series charts, heat maps and detailed pie, bar and fever charts. Successful visualization empowers the user to perform the right task by quickly arriving at a critical insight through a superior User Interface (UI). Visualization, instantly accessible across different mediums, can significantly improve the effectiveness of a mobile workforce.
However, visualization has not yet been utilized to its maximum potential. According to the publication `Information Visualization in Data Mining and Knowledge Discovery’, data visualization is lagging behind in disciplines such as data capture, data storage and knowledge discovery. It also states that there is a significant gap between our ability to extract answers and to convert this information into meaningful visualization. In organizations, there is a governance issue as business centers are still expecting a quick solution to visualization and IT tends to demand a formal process in order to ascertain a suitable solution.
These challenges aside, the growing need for data visualization shows no signs of slowing down. Also, organizations must invest in the required resources and skills, not just to keep up with the times, but also to harness the tangible benefits of visualization. Is your organization using data visualization? Do write in your thoughts.