Data Visualization – A Growing Business Need

September 9, 2010
117 Views

american average food consumption2 300x2851 photo (business intelligence)

american average food consumption2 300x2851 photo (business intelligence)

As the age of data analytics matures, there’s a new type of career track beginning for data nerds, designers and researchers.  After reading Scott Klososky’s blog post,  it’s clear that a new skill set for information workers will be necessary in the years to come … data visualization.

Why Data Artists Will Be in Demand

Klososky says that Twitter is laden with infographics and data visualization is becoming more prevalent to explain complex tech systems and “digital plumbing.”

 

What type of artist do you hire to create these compelling graphics?  Could a graphic designer actually benefit from a double major in business or even an MBA?  It’s possible, particularly as you read how Klososky consults with companies on how to reduce their technology complexities.

Think about the marketing team at any corporation.  Artists are no longer just creating mailers and HTML emails.  They are creating information products to spell out in more detail the business value of buying their product.  It takes a BI application just to walk through the sales process.

But We Already Have a Graphic Designer or Information Architect

Yes, you have information designers.  Yes, you have information architects.  But adding that special skill set of data comprehension and art requires someone who knows more than how to work with Excel charts, Visio or SmartDraw.  The data artist is going to need to dig into the data to simplify and create compelling data visualizations.

Check out our recent post on Five Top Data Visualizations – Infographics That Persuade.  The minds behind these graphics are more than artistic; they know how to make complex data appear simply and power decisions.

Data Visualization May Create a New Type of Team

Maybe the person creating these graphics is not a single person.  Perhaps it’s a team.  Your BI team may be comprised of a graphic designer, web/video designer, a researcher, a BI application administrator, a project manager and a copywriter.  To narrow this team, you may be able to knock off the copywriter (or hire freelance) and let the project manager scale multiple responsibilities, but the data artist needs the acumen of this team to really shine as data visualization grows in decision-making power.

Data Visualization – A Key to Bridging the Business and IT Gap?

Klososky points to the need for the putting this individual or team to work as a way to bridge the gap between company leadership and IT.  As we all know, this is one of the major challenges in the BI space – getting buy-in and helping the business side of the house understand the benefit of channeling data into decision-making and how IT structures help the business perform –not just drain money from the bottom line.

Building the Skill Sets of Data Visualizers

While Klososky’s post calls for technology experts to develop better graphical presentations for processes and workflows, we need to look at building skill sets of real artists by looking for candidates with a background in both information systems and art.  Alternatively, you can start with your own people and offer them training to extend their expertise and value to the company.  Training certainly costs much less than new recruits do.

Finding the Real Business Value in Data Visualization

At the end of the day, money is king and creating a team or hiring a data artist is going to take some finagling to prove business value, particularly in these lean times.  But, there are hundreds of scenarios where you can find reason and business value for this team.

Think about your marketing analysts and how they can create workflows and simplify the training for BI and CRM applications as you roll out new products.  Tapping into the mind of a data artist could help sales actually comprehend your process – and close more sales by building relationships and offering prospects real value.

Rolling out a new ERP?  Let IT have access to your visual data team to map the implementation and training processes, and reduce calls to the support desk for questions on the new system.  You may also eliminate the need to conduct useless in-person training.  Creating a slick, on-demand course can augment or even replace the glazed-over classroom style training so common to these rollouts.

Finally, for everyday applications, reach out to your BI vendor – data visualization is obviously a need for every organization.  See how they can help.  That’s one of the beautiful points of SaaS – if you want it, someone can build it.  Make use of integrations and challenge your service provider to help you tell your story in pictures.

Amanda Brandon
Spotfire Blogging Team