Data Visualization and BI Tips
By Mohamed Mazari, August 2018
It’s clear that in today’s era of digital transformation, the volume of organizational and customer data is enormous and ever-expanding. Whether you’re looking at tracking infrastructure investments over the course of decades, or customer retention over a period of weeks or months, you can quickly hit a big data ‘wall’. Figuring out which data to report on, in which format, and to whom, can be a real challenge.
It’s essential to support your organization’s decision makers with flexible tools in order to help them take the best decisions. This is where great data visualization comes in, and understanding how to leverage it can be a tremendous asset for your organization.
Keep it Simple
As is the case with any dataset, it is essential to quickly identify the most essential criteria and highlight the relevant trends. The information reported must be easily interpreted and the dashboard should remain simple, without trying to communicate too much in one view. The most important information should be immediately visible while giving the user an opportunity to filter data or drill-down based on key criteria. The user is not only a passive spectator – he or she must have the ability to query the data visualization platform to go further in the analysis. Therefore, the user interface should be highly ergonomic, with an easy-to-use navigation and a rapid information feedback loop.
The quality of data visualization is often not judged based on the quality of the aesthetics alone, but also how well the data is ‘staged’. Allowing the user to tell a story and describe trends is a key goal when delivering business intelligence. Well-known, off-the-shelf BI tools offer all the standard graph templates to create basic reports. Really great data visualization will be achieved mainly on how well you stage the information, and which animations and key indicators you choose to implement. As they say, the devil is in the details.
Focus on the Organizational Problem
We should also not lose sight of the fact that data visualization supports real organizational problem solving. For simulation platforms such as DIREXYON’s, the model is developed to evaluate asset investment alternatives and compare different scenarios given varying parameters. The model defines the type of data to be interpreted, the simulation engines outputs the data set, and the reporting brings it all together in a visual format. Those reports help asset managers and finance managers to take the best investment decisions for their organizations over the course of the next five, then or even twenty years.
Data visualization is the final and most important stage of data analysis – the apotheosis of asset simulation if you will. Great data visualization is how we turn ordinary, mundane data into something truly valuable while leaving the complex modeling stuff under the hood. When it comes to interpreting results, advanced data visualization is best employed when basic tables have reached their limits. When you approach a new dataset, you never know in advance where you might end up and sometimes a simple set of graphics can suffice.
Leverage Visual Maps Where Applicable
Dashboards provide a unique and highly-valuable mechanism for decision-makers to be truly in-touch with what is happening in their organizations. For more complex infrastructure analysis, it can be helpful to locate the assets on a map and view their evolution over time. Decision makers can then view trends according to a specific geographical area and then link those trends to real-world occurrences.
The development of dashboards can often be a long and difficult task, especially when the data is unstructured and decision makers may be unsure of the required KPIs. Despite these challenges, there is clear value in providing your organization with great data visualization.
DIREXYON has recently decided to integrate data visualization technology directly into its decision modeling platform with the goal of providing greater end-user experience and allowing decision makers to benefit from all the advantages that data visualization brings in the context of infrastructure investment planning. We believe that a powerful simulation engine and great data visualization go hand-in-hand, and together, provide an essential platform for effective decision-making.