How Visualization Can Unlock Big Data’s Full Potential

Our largely digital world generates an incredible amount of big data, some of which is valuable to organizations and much of which is simply noise. Analytics solutions can help companies parse out the data that is valuable to their operations so it can be used to make informed business decisions.

In many cases, however, organizations overlook a crucial final step in their journey toward turning big data into actionable insights—presenting the information to stakeholders in a way that makes it easy to understand and act upon.

Take marketers, for example, as an oft-cited beneficiary of a comprehensive big data strategy. According to a recent global survey of CMOs by IBM, 82 percent feel underprepared to cope with the ongoing data explosion despite the fact that 94 percent either use (or plan to adopt) advanced analytics solutions in the near future. These numbers illustrate a divide between what the IBM study refers to as “aspiration and action.”

data visualization - big data

So how can organizations jump the final hurdle to maximizing big data’s value? In many cases, data visualization can act as the bridge that connects information and action. Quite simply, representing data in a way that is easy to visually digest makes it faster and easier to comprehend, especially if those visualizations can be designed to illustrate real-time changes or future projections and goals. Some of the most impactful benefits of data visualization include:

  • Data visualization helps illuminate trends in real-time. Using the marketing example once again, if a company’s social media manager was attempting to gauge real-time success of a one-day campaign on several different platforms, having to monitor numerous reports—or even between multiple platforms—is a significant hindrance. By contrast, a visual presentation of the traffic these platforms are generating in real-time, and represented with different colors on a single screen, would make the monitoring process simpler and easier to comprehend.
  • Data visualization drives home the important points to decision makers. Feeding stakeholders a steady stream of numbers doesn’t always have the desired impact. Take for instance, a marketer trying to convince the C-suite that his or her company should be spending more money targeting a specific age or location demographic because those areas are showing substantial growth. Simply stating that sales to Millennials on the West Coast have doubled over the past three years will not pack the same punch that a map, illustrating that same growth over a period of time, will have.
  • Data visualization can simplify complex concepts. Just as there are people more inclined to statistical analysis, there are also several that prefer numbers and information to be presented in creative and innovative ways. Regardless of preference, top-level executives and company leaders want to make informed decisions when it comes to business. Data visualization can make complex statistical processes—like regression analysis, for example—easier to grasp for those that prefer graphs and charts over number reporting. After all, according to the Social Science Research Network, two-thirds (or more!) of the population is made up of visual learners.

The hype surrounding big data is not misplaced; it truly does offer seemingly endless possibilities for companies looking to improve in any aspect of their operations. However, harnessing and turning that information into actionable insight can be a stumbling block for many.

Businesses looking to capitalize on the unprecedented volume of data available today is a challenge that can be overcome with the right data visualization tools.