VIZ-COE, DATA VISUALIZATION

Business Intelligence to Decision Intelligence

November 24, 2021

According to Gartner’s Research,

“Dashboards are a reporting mechanism that aggregates and displays metrics and key indicators so they can be examined at a glance by all possible audiences.”

Visualization: A picture from 1800s that aggregates and displays information related to key indicators beautifully. 

This is a circular from the 1800s and was used in a gold mine! – satisfies the definition, doesn’t it? Aggregates and displays information related to key indicators beautifully. 

Visualization i.e., the process of presenting the information and dashboards that aggregate and show this information come in different shapes, sizes, and for different needs as depicted below. (They could be an independent web dashboard or an embedded report within an application, an infographic, or a mobile dashboard) 

Visualization Sample Dashboards

With the advent of different kinds of data (that is both large and wide), different techniques and tools, implementation of visualization projects is now driven by questions like: 

  • How is this information aggregated?  
  • Where is this information consumed?  
  • Who is this information aimed at?  
  • What is this information being used for? 

We know that reports and dashboards have been in vogue for a while, so what changed?? Interestingly, quite a bit has changed though the fundamentals remain the same. 

  • Decision Intelligence:

    Dumping data and information on a visualization tool is only going to make it a busy dashboard and not a useful one. Hence the need to understand what metrics make sense and prioritize. Focus on what “decisions” the users of the dashboard can make or infer based on the visual. So, move towards Decision Intelligence.

  • Exploratory insights:

    Earlier, reporting and dashboards were typically used for well understood areas of business for the purpose of descriptive analysis. Now, things have changed (and for good). Companies now wants to look at exploratory data. Data that isn’t very clear and obvious, if presented and given the ability to slice and dice, with an option to create self-service style visuals would become a great feature to have for a business. It also makes a more compelling use case for dashboards and visualizations in general. So, focus on deriving unknown / exploratory insights. 

  • New Age Data Visualization:

    In line with the rest of the technology trends, it is now a hygiene factor to have an ability to integrate advanced analytics within a report (without the need for data science practitioners chipping in) or asking the question that needs to be answered through a voice or text. Ask the question (and tweak it) to see the information presented dynamically. Ask differently and get more from the data. 

  • Hyper-Personalization: 

    Different people have different expectations from reports and dashboards. Hence the design and metrics need to talk to the user and their role. Yes, this might sound like we are heading towards hyper-personalization in visualization, but that’s not an exaggeration.

  • Know Thy Tool: 

    Like everything thing else in tech space, visualization has moved to cloud (for scalability and maintainability reasons) and more importantly because newer features are being released in the cloud version first and only then in the on-premises edition (if for some reason a tool has both). Learn, Adapt, and use that new and shiny tool. 

  • Design over Tool:

    More and more people are interested in consuming reports from where they are – be it embedded report within a web application or a mobile version of the dashboard or maybe an infographic within a journal. This ease of consumption is driving the tools needed to render the right kind of visualization. Get your design right and then decide on the tool. 

This space is only going to get even more crowded and exciting. We will probably see a lot more Extended Reality, Augmented Analytics, cloud-based platforms for handling visualization needs. So, what do we do?  

This again is back to basics:   

  • People 
  • Process   
  • Technology 

The People Aspect

BI engineers, Data Analysts, & (to a large extent) ML engineers have to start thinking of themselves as digital evangelists. How many times have we heard “data-driven enterprises” in the recent past? When you essentially break it down, it means people that can help tell a story of what a business is or what a business “can be” using data. So yes, data analysts to storytellers to digital agents and evangelists 

The Process Aspect

This aspect is kind of neglected since visualization somehow is sandwiched between data engineering and machine learning. But, every visualization (reports/dashboards) needs its own lifecycle management, templates for gathering requirements, clearly articulated success criteria, a feasible testing strategy, and a lot more. Time to focus on this aspect and not look at reporting as an afterthought post-product development. 

The Technology Aspect

Not going to deny, this is where it gets clumsy! Whatever tool and tech we decide, it will always have pros and cons. Hence the ideal thing to do here will be to try and get the design right (the pipelines, frequency of refresh, calculations of metrics, deployment of upstream processes). The tool being used for visualization then becomes just that – a tool. That said, keeping an eye on all features and newer tools in this space and building CoEs within the company will become a game-changer. 

Within RoundSqr, we’ve decided to spotlight visualizationIn the days to come, we will talk a bit about these 3 aspects and some interesting perspectives from our side. Watch this space and series for more updates!! 

About Viz-CoE:

With an intention to lead the way in exploring and adopting new technologies, tools, techniques, or practices in the area of visualization, RoundSqr has kick-started a new initiative called “Viz-CoE”, Visualization Center of Excellence. Contributions from our subject matter experts, clients, partners, industry leaders, colleagues and interns through perspectives, training courses, success stories, and opinions bring this initiative to life.