We learn to draw before we learn to write

12 May 2020

Data is available in different shapes and forms, comes from diverse sources and the velocity at which it is produced surpasses our imagination. A plethora of techniques and tools to extract knowledge from data continue to shift old paradigms and create new ways of looking at things, allowing organisations to make better and more informed decisions. With the incredible amount of available information, companies around the world have the opportunity to use data as a commodity for competitive advantage. The reality is, most don’t.

According to the 2019 ‘Big Data and AI Executive Survey’1, 92% of the surveyed companies are increasing the pace of their Big Data and Artificial Intelligence investment, however, 72% of these report that they have yet to forge a data culture, 69% have not created a data-driven organisation and 53% state that they are not yet treating data as a business asset. The evidence clearly shows that the problem does not lie within the data, but with how the data is being used.

Critical patterns and connections that data provides are being missed, data is not telling the complete story and is not making people focus on what is really important. This is because data is meaningless without a visual context. Think about this, we learn to draw before we learn to write. We are equipped with a sophisticated visual processing tool inside our brains. Also, we are constantly exposed to data covered with some sort of graphic or information design that stimulates our intellect and our emotions, increasing our demand for a visual element to understand facts and figures.

Dashboards – a key tool to unlock data value

Often, the most efficient way to describe, analyse, summarise and comprehend large sets of data is by looking at a picture that includes this information. Data visualisation describes any effort focused on helping people understand the importance of data, creating a context where patterns, trends, correlations and other measures can be easily exposed and recognised. A data visualisation project e.g. a complex composition of individual visualisations that have a thematic relationship among them, also known as Dashboards – starts with a hypothesis or questions that assists with filtering the data that is relevant to the content.

Data visualisation has become a must have in organisations given its power to tell stories, measure, compare, explore and discover new evidence with the only objective of transforming data into information and knowledge. It is the perfect tool to make sense of the data consistently generated in a digital environment. The objectives of data visualisation is to analyse and interpret, but also share information.

Analysis and communication are ruled by distinct logics, one is science the other is art. Data visualisation is then, an interdisciplinary phenomenon designed for comprehension. Understanding the power of data visualisation is a great tool for any business. Data visualisation helps any organisation to:

  • predict future results;

  • provide clear and succinct evidence to support any decision or recommendation;

  • identify differences, trends, patterns, risks and opportunity areas;

  • share a clear description and key insights resulting from a sophisticated data analytics process;

  • understand the variables that influence the outcomes;

  • display large amounts of complex data in a way that is easy to understand;

  • provide a clear canvas to compare datasets; and

  • draw initial conclusions in a short timeframe.

Data visualisation has become a vital tool to handle the large volume of data and the speed it accumulates at. Creating a visual tool to picture the information saves time and money because large amounts of data can be seen in a clear, fast and easy manner, supporting a top decision making process. It also represents a friendly solution that can be understood and shared across different levels in an organisation. Most importantly, visual data requires no technical skills to be understood and promotes a group analysis and interpretation of critical information – generating savings and increasing value to any organisation.