Monday, September 19, 2011

Data Visualization and Analytics

"Do you know or do you think you know" is an oft repeated adage around the offices of Maroon Analytics, as we peer through clients' data sets and search for insight to enhance their businesses. While cleaning, filtering, and analyzing data will reveal which products, services, or even customers are the most profitable, and lead to a profit maximizing strategy, communicating those insights to clients is an entirely different matter.

Communicating data with impact is one of the greatest challenge in demonstrating the value of analytics. Presenting a client with a simple table or chart may lack the necessary call-to-action that the client needs to turn his or her business around, and just writing out a business strategy based on analytics may not inspire or convince the client to pursue the necessary.

Visualizing analytical insights through impressionable images is the key link between analytics and communication. However, not all data visualization techniques will really drive home the insights and motivate clients to implement new strategies. In fact, some data visualization techniques often found in business are downright dull, and provide the same cure for insomnia as do overly wordy power point presentations. Take a good look at the Periodic Table of Visualization Methods for a sample of mostly mediocre (though there are a few rare gems) visualization methods.

While computer technology has brought us Death by Power Point, it may also be able to liberate data visualization from the confines of mediocrity. Perhaps the most inspiring master of the new renaissance of data visualization is Hans Rosling, who has skillfully combined multiple data sets with time to produce time-based animations that show the changing scope of humanity, and reveal unseen facts, patterns, and insights. Furthering the cause of enhancing communication through better data visualization is the "data journalist" David Mccandless, whose graphs and charts transform dull meaningless data into works of art and insight.

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