Whether you’re a data analyst, a product manager, or a member of the C-suite, when it comes to making sense of your company’s data, Excel-based bar charts aren’t terribly compelling.
If you rely on Excel reports to evaluate current customer trends, operating conditions, or business performance, they simply don’t provide much insight into why something happened (e.g., customer satisfaction dropped five points in the Pacific Northwest last month).
One-Dimensional Reports Are So Last Year
While boring Excel spreadsheets do little to stoke the imagination, there are other shortcomings to using stale BI reports. Namely, they’re a drain on productivity.
Let’s say a team of airline executives is trying to identify more effective ways to improve fleet utilization. An Excel report might inform the executives of the airline’s current utilization rates. It might even demonstrate how the utilization rates have changed month to month.
However, it’s unlikely to provide them with any meaningful insights as to why utilization rates have changed or the opportunities to improve upon the deployment of aircraft between different cities and hubs.
This is one of the reasons why more companies are turning to the use of cloud-based analytics, which offer rich data visualization capabilities. Humans are visual creatures – research has shown that people think more efficiently when data is presented visually.
For instance, a study conducted by Mindlab International at The Sussex Innovation Center evaluated how office workers manage and analyze data using traditional software and the resulting effectiveness. The research reveals that when data is displayed more visually – such as through the use of visual maps and other illustrative techniques – employees are 17% more productive.
Empowering Everyone With Visualization Tools
One of the strengths of cloud-based visualization tools is that they enable users to conjure fresh ways of looking at real-time data that can trigger new approaches to problem solving.
For example, one of the benefits of data visualization techniques is how it promotes pattern matching. A retail store manager can use data visualization methods to not only identify that a growing percentage of customers are defecting to other stores, but the reasons why they’re jumping ship.
In today’s fast-paced business environment, knowledge workers don’t have the time to wait for IT to generate BI reports that might be outdated by the time they hit their desks. Self-service data visualization tools can benefit both decision makers and analysts by enabling them to visualize information, and spot emerging business and operational trends faster.
For instance, real-time data visualization capabilities can aid a marketing analyst for a beverage company who is under pressure from his boss to identify the company’s window of opportunity for launching a new product.
Visual analytics can enable marketing analysts to see how much time the company has to enjoy time-to-market advantages before competitors are likely to enter the market.
Meanwhile, a cloud-based offering facilitates collaboration between work teams, enabling multiple stakeholders to view, interact with, and drill down on the same data together, and collaborate on insights and actions that can be taken.