How to Improve Data Visualization at Your Company?

September 23, 2010
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Even just a few years ago, many people in the corporate world would probably have said that the biggest challenge around analytics and data visualization was the lack of good data.  What I have found through working with clients is that the issue of clean or available data is becoming less and less of an issue.  Now, with an abundance of data readily available at our fingertips, the question is, what do we do w

Even just a few years ago, many people in the corporate world would probably have said that the biggest challenge around analytics and data visualization was the lack of good data.  What I have found through working with clients is that the issue of clean or available data is becoming less and less of an issue.  Now, with an abundance of data readily available at our fingertips, the question is, what do we do with it?  How can companies put their analytics to work utilizing all of this data?

In my experience, the two ways most companies could improve data visualization and business analytics are:

1.    Investing in data visualization specific software (weighted 30%)
2.    Investing in people (weighted 70%)

Obviously these recommendations would be different if we were talking about a data mining company or any company that relies on advanced statistical analyses.  But for the average company and various departments within a company, these two components are typically lacking or nonexistent.

Data Visualization Software

The most prevalent software that I find the vast majority of businesses use for data visualization is Excel.  So first you need to purchase a good product that is specific to data visualization.  These products are now affordable and even free depending on your needs. Being able to demo an analysis and results in real time, where the visuals are properly constructed, can really impress executives. It can also set a company up for success by facilitating fact-based decision making. This recommendation is weighted less because having the right tools is really the prerequisite to doing great things in the data visualization space.

Analytic Capability

Having skilled people that understand data and how to analyze it is by far the most challenging aspect to business analytics and data visualization.  Companies can have the best tools, terabytes of data and cutting edge software, but without an analytics expert, it’s all for nothing.  Getting someone who is good in math or statistics isn’t always the right answer and many times doesn’t make sense because of their relatively higher salary requirements.  The key is to have someone who understands the business and knows what to ask of the data.

Once your company has the right software and people in place, the final two-part question to ask the visualization, data, model or analysis is:  So what and compared to what? Knowing the answer to both of these questions will win big points with executives and management and put you in the driver’s seat to success.

This is a guest blog post by Tony Rose, president of Support Analytics, a data analysis and visualization consultancy.  When he is not working, @Tony can be found writing about data analysis on the Support Analytics Blog, enjoying a fine wine or hitting the golf course.

Tony Rose photo (business analytics)