Visual Business Intelligence Provides ‘Big Picture’ View . . . Literally
Steve Molsberry, Stonebridge BI Practice Director
Monday, January 24, 2011
“Data, data, data. I cannot make bricks without clay.” This quote of Sherlock Holmes from the most recent movie adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic detective saga came to mind upon reading an article on data visualization.
The article, “Top 15 Data Visualization Tips,” appears on InformationWeek’s Web site. And for those interested in better, more-effective business intelligence solutions, this informative (and happily brief) article is highly recommended. It got me rethinking how information consumers benefit – in terms of efficiency, productivity, clarity, and simplicity – when quantitative data is presented in a graphical form.
The power of visual business intelligence cannot be overstated. The objective of business intelligence/data warehousing is to take data you already collect and transform it into useful, actionable information – so that you can analyze trends, draw conclusions, and spot opportunities. Data visualization helps achieve that objective by embracing the “picture is worth a thousand words” adage.
And by pictures, we’re talking about more than pie charts, bar graphs, and sparklines. More and more, geospatial data from Google Earth and Bing! Maps is providing an essential visual context for data analytics. While location/place has long been a key dimension in decision support systems, new business intelligence tools such as Esri ArcGIS Server and IDV Solutions Visual Fusion are enabling information consumers to get more insight from data. Literally. These solutions give you the capability to unite data from multiple sources – operational data, unstructured data, and third-party data – within a spatial context.
We have developed SharePoint/IDV-powered “spatial dashboards” (both proof of concept and production applications) for organizations in diverse industries, from upstream Oil & Gas to Gaming & Entertainment to Public Utilities. A case study of an Oil & Gas spatial mashup is here. Indeed, the utility of the spatial element in data analytics appears to be industry-inclusive.
All that said, the real reason for employing visualization techniques is to clarify the data for the information consumer. In visual business intelligence, the one true object is to use the right visualization at the right time.
Business intelligence is indeed all about data, data, data. And data is more readily understandable when it is visually presented – to return to Holmes’s metaphorical bricks – so that business decisions are formed by a solid data-driven foundation.
NOTE: The InformationWeek article refers to a visual BI expert named Stephen Few. If you are intrigued by this topic, I highly recommend a visit to his Web site, www.perceptualedge.com.