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17th of August 2017

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The business value of visualisation

More data will be created this year than in the last 5,000 years combined. The implications of this for today’s business are truly mind-boggling. How can companies best use this ever-increasing deluge of data?

Over the past decade, most organisations have made data collection and analysis a priority. However, data in its rawest, unstructured form is essentially meaningless. In order to use the information collected to make better business decisions, an organisation will need data scientists who can analyse inputs, uncover patterns, and reveal the correlations necessary to produce meaningful insights. Then, those data scientists will need to effectively communicate their findings with other decision makers.

Today, virtually every organisation has access to some form of data analytics, meaning that any competitive advantage associated with being able to analyse complex data sets has been diminished. This advantage can instead be regained through the presentation of data findings in a meaningful way, whether this be through images or graphs. This data visualisation allows people to build stories as they look to understand, engage and retain information in different ways.

The business value of visualisation

As the old adage reminds us, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Now, scientific research examining the human brain can help explain why. Data visualisation appeals to the dorsal stream in our occipital lobe, one of the fastest thinking parts of the brain. In other words, data visualisation helps to break down hard to understand sets of data and numbers, creating a story through visualisation and allows us to understand the results and their implications more easily.

New studies back up those results. For example, as summarised in Prysm’s eBook, How to be Data Fluent in the Digital Age, recent surveys have shown that:

For many years, extracting insight from raw data required technical specialists with deep domain expertise in data science and analytics. But data-visualisation tools are levelling the playing field. Given that data and statistics are the primary drivers of business transformation in today’s digital age, this information has to be presented in a way that is easily digestible from engineers to executives. The ability to weave information into coherent, visual stories that individuals, teams and external audiences can act upon with speed and sophistication is a vital tool for collaboration and decision making - and is one of the main drivers of the digital workplace evolution. 

Strong visual data stories promote understanding among wider groups of people. For instance, visualisation can clarify data and underscore important relationships between results in a digestible manner. This means that during discussions about the data, it won’t just be the data scientists who have the strongest voice at the table. When everyone can understand information it stimulates discussion, foster collaboration and gets ideas flowing.

Visualisation can clarify data and create a relationship between the results of the data from these different factors that wasn’t there before. The ultimate goal is to not only make data comprehensible, but also compelling so that it helps to achieve tangible business results.

Technology enables visualisation

Clearly, there are many advantages to displaying data in visual form, and with the arrival of improved visualisation technologies, organisations can take data further than ever before. Visual collaboration platforms not only display results through data visualisation, but also gives teams the ability to participate in the analysis from anywhere across the globe. Modern touch screen data canvases provide a sophisticated level of interaction enabling individuals to see and explore data on a range of screens – from floor-to-ceiling displays to mobile devices – creating endless possibilities for data-driven storytelling.

The business value behind data visualisation goes far beyond a better understanding of the results of data analysis; it opens a world of possibilities for informed creative discussions and collaboration at every level – from C-suite decision makers to sales and marketing teams. Data analytics team can collect data, uncover insights, and share results in ways that every person in an organisation will understand and be able to access. Different departments may interpret findings based on their expertise and create unique opinions, leading to innovation which would have not been possible otherwise.

Data visualisation not only works to increase engagement, but most importantly allows information to be presented in an easily accessible and understandable manner. In turn, these visual can then be used by all stakeholders within an organisation to enhance and speed decision-making. To be successful, companies must deploy digital workplaces that complement data visualisations by providing a platform for all individuals and teams to share content and drive decisions in real-time.

Paige O’Neill, CMO, PrysmImage source: Shutterstock/ESB Professional

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