Given the sheer volume of available digital data being captured, evaluated, and refined, it’s no surprise that some of it gets lost in the shuffle. But one of the major obstacles to effective data analytics lies not in the data itself, but in how it is shared. Even the best data requires that it be understood and acted upon by an informed decision maker, and in order for that to happen, it needs to be presented in a way that is accessible.
In essence, your data should be quick and easy to visualize.
Visual analytics tools are designed to take complex data, and display it visually so that it can be easily comprehended at a glance. Diagrams such as charts, graphs, and tables all use visualization for this purpose, but for much higher volumes of complex data, more-advanced visualization techniques are needed. After all, data should do more than just act as a review of how successful an organization is; it should be a road map that decision makers can use to reach success. To this end, high-performing teams are 4.6 times more likely to say they’ve moved beyond using data to keep score, and onto using data to drive business decisions.
Visual analytics uses analytical reasoning to produce real-time, interactive visual interfaces. These interfaces often take the form of dashboards that leaders can use to get a complete ‘snapshot’ of their business at a moment’s notice, while also allowing users to delve deeper into specific data sets when necessary, so that every decision they make is an informed one. And informing business leaders is just one benefit of visual analytics.
Generally speaking, human beings have an easier time finding patterns in visual graphics, than in extended tables and databases. Visualization takes advantage of this fact, by helping users discover new concepts through a smarter form of communication. Additionally, visualization offers details that might not be found in summaries. A visualization is able to easily showcase details on trends, changes, and other factors that might have an impact on future business activities. In short, visualization helps to tell a story, by providing all of the necessary information in a way that makes sense to those who need to understand it.
As such, one cannot overstress the importance of finding the right visual analytics tool.
The good news is that there are a number of visual analytics tools available to help businesses better understand their data. The bad news is that it can be difficult to know which tool is best for a particular organization. Luckily, there are certain traits shared by the best visual analytics tools in the industry. By recognizing these traits, prospective users can better evaluate the potential effectiveness of any visual analytics tool that an organization may be considering.
One of the key benefits of advanced visual analytics tools is interactivity. That having been said, if the tool itself suffers from usability problems, then interactivity itself might end up feeling like more trouble than it’s worth. Visual analytics interfaces should be intuitive to control, and require little in the way of training. Along the same lines of usability, the tool should allow for easy access to data via advanced search features, and be customizable in order to be able to scale with the business, and better integrate with existing processes and systems.
Customization is only a small part of integration. True integration means that no matter what programs might be in use, and no matter which databases or online servers are being accessed, the visual analytics tool is able to perform compatibility, and to allow enough control over the data to provide decision makers with an accurate, complete view of the information.
Likewise, an effective visual analytics tool shouldn’t be confined to a single computer, platform, or even office. Rather, it should be accessible on any device, and at any location, provided that it is being accessed by an authorized user. The best visual analytics tools are cloud-based, meaning that as long as a user has internet access, they’ll be able to use the tool’s full functionality, regardless of whether they are doing so through a desktop computer, mobile device, or anything else.
Visual analytics tools are designed to help businesses save on costs and increase overall profits, but they aren’t free. Most of these tools require a SaaS subscription, with an associated monthly charge. However, some tools, particularly those that are customizable, allow users to pay only for the features they want, effectively saving money that would otherwise be wasted on unnecessary components. Typically speaking, the monthly cost to use visual analytics tools can range from approximately $200–$400. Of course, one should also take the potential ROI into account, as many tools easily pay for themselves within the first few months (or less) of use.
It can be difficult to get an accurate idea of how effective a particular tool may be, without first experiencing it for oneself. Tools that offer free trial-subscriptions can help provide the information needed in order to make a truly-informed decision. Failing that, online reviews of various tools may be valuable.
Analytics is a powerful new tool for improving businesses, and the world knows it. In fact, it has been estimated that the advanced- and predictive-analytics software market will be worth approximately $3.4 billion by 2018.
Those who neglect their data, or who are unable to get the most value out of it, will likely be unable to keep with the competition. On the other hand, those that choose the right visual analytics software will find that an organization driven by informed analytics really is a sight to behold.