Like the weather, data is everywhere. Both are topics everyone talks about most of the time. One gives shape and context to the day, the other can do the same for business. It can, but it doesn’t always.
This is hardly surprising.
We all have opinions on the weather. Many of us have a firm grasp of how to read the hidden messages within it —” Red sky at night, sailor’s delight,” or “It’s just a tropical storm,” that sort of uncanny ability to have a stab at our own forecasting.
Most businesses have opinions on data; not least that it’s big (Volume) it comes from diverse sources of multitudes of transactions, interactions, and actions (Variety) and, like the weather, it comes in fast (Velocity).
To those three ‘V’s of Big Data are often added two more: Veracity (how trustworthy and reliable your data is) and Value (what you can actually use it for to improve business performance, understand customers better, and drive innovation).
Only meteorologists really understand the weather. They know precisely how to read it and how to predict—with ever-increasing accuracy.
As for data, within a business environment, it shouldn’t take an expert to read it and use it as the basis for predicting business outcomes, customer needs, performance against KPIs, and any one of myriad other parameters that your business identifies as being valuable to its operations.
The problem here is that it’s data, and even the word alone is enough to put some people off getting too involved with it. There’s a way around this problem.
Data can be fun
The trick is to transform data into something other than data. Something more accessible, user-friendly, and easily intelligible. Data Visualization does this by enabling people to see trends and patterns within the data without the necessity of having full-on data analysis skills.
Research from Accenture finds that 74 percent of employees report “feeling unhappy when working with data.” Only 25 percent of surveyed employees, “believe they’re fully prepared to use data effectively, and just 21 percent report being confident in their data literacy skills.”
It can be assumed that the remaining three of every four people would view data as a comfort zone if one of two possible approaches were to be adopted within the organization:
- One approach would be to get them all literate. This involves training and mentoring, downtime for your in-house subject matter experts (or paying for external training), and the associated investment in terms both of cost and time. The approach rests on the belief that the root cause of the problem is people skills, rather than the complexity of the data and the fear factor it gives rise to in the less-than-confident.
- The other approach is to strip the complexity out of data; make it more approachable, make it more intelligible to the uninitiated and even (here comes the pay-off) make it more enjoyable.
Indeed, the basic premise of Data Democratization is that “giving more of the right people easier access to more of the right data will bring more benefits to the organization”. Some, perhaps many, of those “right people” fall into that 74 percent to whom data really is not a source of happiness.
If you can’t blame the data, and you can’t blame the people, something is missing. A link–to be precise–between the two; between complexity and intelligibility. Between underutilizing both the information asset and the power within your people. The value of the data and the realization of that value.
As data becomes more accessible for people to work with, they feel empowered. They certainly no longer feel hampered by what they may perceive as their own intellectual shortcoming. Empowerment leads to motivation, which leads to better performance across the team. Every business needs happy, empowered, people. And all they need to reach that ideal state are the right tools to do the job.
Move Faster, From Analysis to Action
It could be said that Data Visualization gives credence to that old adage “A picture’s with a thousand words.” Charts and graphs, color-coded and even illustrated, get messages across more clearly than column after column of stats.
Behind any Data Visualization technique, those stats and numbers can toil in the engine room but, up on the bridge, where your people need to be acting on information fast, what’s needed is a clear, uncluttered view. Information has to be interpreted quickly to enable the organization to react quickly, to steer in the right direction.
Data Visualization was once no more sophisticated than charts and graphs but it has moved way beyond these simplistic styles of data presentation to allow a vast range of visual data representations that are simply great to look at. These can include infographics, dashboards—which surface audience clusters and insights—heat maps, animated representations, graphics that clearly show (they ‘show’, they don’t ‘tell’) meaningful correlations between different entities and the trends and changes within them.
From that easier and more instantaneous view of what the data insights are telling your team comes the ability to make decisions–or, at least, recommendations, faster. In any sphere of business or public services, speed is important. It is how and why a business can stay ahead of the competition, products can be developed more efficiently, citizens can be served with increasingly improved outcomes, and customer needs can be anticipated and fulfilled.
You Can See Clearly Now
Taking customers as an example. NowVertical Group’s NOW Affinio platform—see it here—enables you to visualize audience affinities, interests, and passions with our easy-to-interpret, shareable UI that enables team collaboration, creative/content ideation, and media planning strategies. You can gain report insights in 1-2 hours, a fraction of the time and cost of traditional research methods.
Since it’s broadly accepted that a picture is worth 1,000 words, the question is how you measure that worth. Is it in the time and costs saved in endeavoring to turn the data-wary individuals on your team into skilled data analysts? Is it in the ability you’d gain to invest more time in making decisions rather than in wading through the groundwork?
Or is it, more fundamentally, that the essential driving force of Data Democratization is about giving power to your people and removing any barriers to their having that power to bring more power to your business, more often, more quickly, and more confidently? Wherever you perceive the value to be, Data Visualization can help you see it more clearly now.