Working with data, certainly for colleagues that aren’t used to it, can initially seem a hurdle. But one way to handle it is to bring data to ‘eye level’ by visualising it. A 2013 report by Aberdeen Group found that “at organisations that use visual discovery tools, 48 percent of business intelligence users are able to find the information they need without the help of IT staff.”
Without visual discovery, the rate drops to a mere 23 percent. Also, managers using visual data discovery were 28 percent more likely than peers without visualised data to find timely information.
Importantly when it comes to big data, the report found that visualisation also encourages interaction with the data. Managers using visualised data are more than twice as likely as their peers to interact extensively with it (33 percent vs. 15 percent). They’re also much more likely to ask questions on a whim, questions that are often inspired by insights that arose just a moment before.
Exploring data visually lets the data’s story unfold vividly in a way the brain can grasp in a flash. In effect, a light bulb goes off in a way that a spreadsheet can’t inspire. Visual analysis allows you to do two things at any moment. Firstly, change the data you’re looking at — because different questions often require different data. Secondly, change the way you look at it — because each view may answer different questions.
With these simple steps, you enter what’s called the ‘cycle of visual analysis’: you get data, view the data, ask and answer questions – and repeat. Each time, your inquiry deepens along with your insights. You may drill down, drill up, or drill across. You may bring in new data. You may create view after view as your visualisation speeds and extends your thinking.
When you’re ready, you share. Colleagues ask and answer their own questions — accelerating the whole team’s in-sight, action, and business results. No more waiting for reports, and no more static images that someone thinks would have been perfect if only for a slight tweak.
It seems like a simple change, but one with profound benefits and changes to the way the organisations conducts business. So if you’re still on your data journey (see blogs one and two), let your data paint a picture that engages your audience through interactive visualisations; and remember, in the first instance data visualisation is less about answers, it’s about finding the right questions and that is what drives engagement.