Data Visualization & Business Intelligence (White Paper)
Large companies often have huge volumes of data holding deep insights into business performance, trends, opportunities, problem areas, and more. With access to this information, companies can improve performance, capitalize on trends, seize opportunities, address problems, and grow intelligently. Unfortunately, mining, assessing, and communicating that data can be extremely challenging. The sheer volume may be enough to discourage even the most determined analyst. In addition, data is often scattered across systems, requiring extensive technical expertise and assistance. Once the data has been mined, the next challenge involves making sense of the stories, patterns, and trends hidden within and then communicating those discoveries to others. Data visualization is the answer. It isn't new, but it has evolved dramatically. Today's data visualization tools and dashboard software are capable of unlocking the most powerful insights buried within data and presenting it visually. What is data visualization? It is a simple concept: use images to represent information. For example, pie charts represent data in a pie-shaped circle, segmenting data into wedges. This allows users to quickly understand the data. There's more to data visualization than charts and graphs. In fact, data visualization dates back thousands of years and has rapidly evolved in recent ones.
The History of Data Visualization
One of the earliest forms of data visualization is a table. For example, ancient Egyptians used tables to track the yearly cycle of stars in the Egyptian sky. Though tables are primarily text-based, their visual layout of rows and columns organize data and make it easier to understand. The 17th century was a busy time for innovations in data visualization. Tables of empirical data and published tables of numbers appeared as did a branch of statistics, Die Tabellen-Statistik, which was devoted to the numerical description of facts. In 1614, John Napier invented logarithms. In 1626, visual representations were used to chart changes in sunspots over time. In 1637, the French philosopher and mathematician Rene Descartes used graphs and a system of coordinates to perform mathematics and established a relationship between a graphed line and an equation. Many other innovations occurred during this time. One noteworthy innovation involved data projection. In 1646, the first projection lantern was invented. While you might use a laptop and an LCD video projector to display modern data today, back then, the "magic lantern" involved painting images on glass and then projecting the image onto a wall. Fast-forward a few centuries to the early 1900s. Graphs and charts had been improved upon and adopted to the point where data graphing became a subject taught in school. The first courses on data graphing were taught at Iowa State University in 1913. In 1977, exploratory data analysis was developed by a Princeton statistics professor. Soon after, the book The Visual Display of Quantitative Information was published in 1983. Around the same time, the
personal computer arrived. Suddenly, everyone had access to vast amounts of information and had graphical tools they could use to communicate it. Some interesting data visualization innovations in recent years include: • Tree maps
Today, enterprise businesses have huge amounts of data containing a wealth of information. However, it's not always easy to collect, monitor, analyze, or act upon that data. For organizations with smaller amounts of data, spreadsheets and reporting tools are useful. With multiple sources and larger volumes of data, business intelligence becomes more challenging and requires a better solution: data visualization software. Equipped with the right tools, it's now possible to quickly understand what the numbers really mean.
Dashboard Software and Data Intelligence Tools: Uses and Features
What is data visualization dashboard software? It's a data intelligence tool that consolidates and arranges data, key performance indicators, and other metrics on a single screen. Think of a dashboard just as you would the dashboard on your car. Like your car's dashboard, dashboard software features instruments and gauges that provide relevant, real-time information. Common Uses Dashboard software is usually customizable, allowing you to pull real-time or historical information from a variety of internal or external data sources based on your unique interests, job role, and needs. For example, school administrators could look at test scores by grade level, socio-economic status, or even individual student. Investment bankers may want their dashboards to contain both real-time and historical data in specific segments. Sales professionals may want to view opportunities by location, type, lead source, or campaign source. Sales managers may want to see a snapshot of open and pending deals as well as leads currently in the pipeline. Dashboard software and data intelligence tools typically contain interactive components. Interactive dashboards are extremely flexible, allowing you to drill down and explore data. For example, if you're a sales manager, you could start with a dashboard that displays an overall view of the sales team's performance. From there, you could drill down and look at the performance of individuals. You could even change the view to explore performance based on geographic regions, customer types, products, and more.
Common Features Due to the nature of data visualization, dashboard software tends to be highly visual with numerous charts, graphs, and gauges. Some of the most important features include: • Connectivity – Users must be able to pull data from sources as varied as multidimensional databases, relational databases, XML, CRM software, Excel files, and OLAP cubes. • Scalability – Whether you're a single user or part of an enterprise team, your data visualization software should be able to handle vast amounts of data and allow you to add users as needed. • Interactive tools – Being able to customize dashboards and explore data allows you to see both the big picture and the underlying details. • Visual objects – Gauges, thermometers, charts, graphs, maps, and other visual objects provide ata-glance insights. • Multiple views – There's more to data visualization than simply presenting data one way. Dashboard software typically provides numerous ways to view data including monitoring and analysis views as well as options for changing chart types. • Export and sharing tools – Export tools and Web-based sharing allow you to share insights with partners, employees, managers, vendors, and others who need a deeper understanding of your data. • Security controls – Security controls restrict access to sensitive data by setting permissions for users, groups, and roles. • Rich visualization and analysis features – Multidimensional charting, data exploration tools, custom geographic binding, and multi-source data visualization provide you with more ways to visualize and analyze data.
Examples of Data Visualization
How are organizations using data visualization tools to understand trends and enhance performance? Many have moved beyond basic charts and graphs in favor of dashboard software and data visualization tools. In fact, data visualization is everywhere including on television and websites. Data Visualization in Television and on the Internet For example, have you ever watched election coverage on the news? Election projections and results are now routinely presented visually complete with color-coded maps and congressional floor plans signifying how voters in each state voted and which seats went democrat or republican. In addition to special events like elections, weather reporters and financial analysts often use data visualization tools to present weather forecasts and economic data graphically. If you operate a website or blog, you're likely familiar with Google Analytics and Google Webmaster tools. These tools provide quick snapshots of how many visitors arrived, how they found your website, how long they stayed, and more. You can see data visualization in action at ForeclosureRadar.com. This site uses data visualization to display maps of bank-owned homes and pending auctions based on ZIP codes as well as projected trends. Another example is FeedingAmerica.org which uses data visualization in its "Map the Meal Gap" project. Its interactive map allows users to learn about food insecurity in a highly visual way.
Data Visualization in the Business World While television and the Internet are ideal platforms for sharing and analyzing data visually, businesses use similar web based reporting tools for internal and external use. For example: • • • • Real estate agencies often use data visualization to track sales prices over time, inventory levels, foreclosures, and the number of home sales in a given area. Insurance companies use data visualization to examine claims, costs, accident types, illnesses, and more. Manufacturers use data visualization to track defects, re-work, workers compensation claims, productivity, supply chain performance, and more. Companies of all types use data visualization to present real-time sales, purchases, and receivables data to staff members. Dashboards are often used to analyze data from different angles without requiring IT support. Newspapers and television, cable, and radio stations use data visualization to gain a deeper understanding of subscribers, media consumption, and trends.
Is Data Visualization Right for Your Organization?
Data visualization lends itself to virtually every industry including: healthcare, pharmaceutical, telecommunications, technology, entertainment, publishing, financial, manufacturing, education, hospitality, nonprofit, and government. While the technology powering modern data visualization tools is complex and the results impressive, using dashboard software is easier than you may think. One of the best and easiest solutions available is from InetSoft. InetSoft follows a self-service philosophy that empowers business users to build their own visualizations and dashboards without the need for IT intervention. Once the InetSoft solution has been set up, users can quickly access, monitor, analyze, and interact with live enterprise data or data warehouses. Building a custom dashboard with InetSoft is as simple as dragging and dropping Data Blocks from multiple data sources. Several levels of permissions can be assigned to groups, individuals, roles, and decision makers, ensuring that employees have access to the information that they need without compromising sensitive information. After creating data visualizations with InetSoft, users can share them throughout the organization, allowing for improved communications and a deeper understanding of internal and external performance. Data visualization has come a long way since the ancient Egyptians created tables to track the yearly cycle of stars. With vast amounts of enterprise data requiring analysis, simple tables and graphs are no longer effective. Data visualization tools and dashboard software allow you to quickly and easily monitor, analyze, and act on historical and real-time data. Learn more by contacting: InetSoft Technology Corp 53 Knightsbridge Rd. Piscataway, NJ 08854 Phone: +1.888.216.2353 (US)
Phone: +1.732.424.0400 (International) Fax: +1.732.980.5949 email: [email protected]
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