Data visualization is the presentation of data in a pictorial or graphical format. It enables decision makers to see analytics presented visually, so they can grasp difficult concepts or identify new patterns. With interactive visualization, you can take the concept a step further by using technology to drill down into charts and graphs for more detail, interactively changing what data you see and how it’s processed.
History of Data Visualization
The concept of using pictures to understand data has been around for centuries, from maps and graphs in the 17th century to the invention of the pie chart in the early 1800s. Several decades later, one of the most cited examples of statistical graphics occurred when Charles Minard mapped Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. The map depicted the size of the army as well as the path of Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow – and tied that information to temperature and time scales for a more in-depth understanding of the event.
It’s technology, however, that truly lit the fire under data visualization. Computers made it possible to process large amounts of data at lightning-fast speeds. Today, data visualization has become a rapidly evolving blend of science and art that is certain to change the corporate landscape over the next few years.
Data visualization: A wise investment in your big data future
With big data there’s potential for great opportunity, but many retail banks are challenged when it comes to finding value in their big data investment. For example, how can they use big data to improve customer relationships? How – and to what extent – should they invest in big data?
In this Q&A with Simon Samuel, Head of Customer Value Modeling for a large bank in the UK, we examine these and other big data issues that confront retail bankers.
Why is data visualization important?
Because of the way the human brain processes information, using charts or graphs to visualize large amounts of complex data is easier than poring over spreadsheets or reports. Data visualization is a quick, easy way to convey concepts in a universal manner – and you can experiment with different scenarios by making slight adjustments.
Data visualization can also:
- Identify areas that need attention or improvement.
- Clarify which factors influence customer behavior.
- Help you understand which products to place where.
- Predict sales volumes.
How Is It Being Used?
Regardless of industry or size, all types of businesses are using data visualization to help make sense of their data. Here’s how.
Comprehend information quickly
By using graphical representations of business information, businesses are able to see large amounts of data in clear, cohesive ways – and draw conclusions from that information. And since it’s significantly faster to analyze information in graphical format (as opposed to analyzing information in spreadsheets), businesses can address problems or answer questions in a more timely manner.
Identify relationships and patterns
Even extensive amounts of complicated data start to make sense when presented graphically; businesses can recognize parameters that are highly correlated. Some of the correlations will be obvious, but others won’t. Identifying those relationships helps organizations focus on areas most likely to influence their most important goals.
Pinpoint emerging trends
Using data visualization to discover trends – both in the business and in the market – can give businesses an edge over the competition, and ultimately affect the bottom line. It’s easy to spot outliers that affect product quality or customer churn, and address issues before they become bigger problems.
Communicate the story to others
Once a business has uncovered new insights from visual analytics, the next step is to communicate those insights to others. Using charts, graphs or other visually impactful representations of data is important in this step because it’s engaging and gets the message across quickly.