Data Visualization. The Omnipotent & the Omnipresent
And how it gave impetus to a data driven business model in my organization.
Before discussing about data visualization as how the demands of modern world define it or how it led my organization into harvesting data and drive business, let us touch upon how well it is ingrained in our daily lives, in everything we perceive and process.
The power of Imagery
We humans always react almost impulsively to anything that is communicated visually. The different shapes, symbols and colours have always grabbed our eye balls like no other.
Even discoveries of cave arts by the Neanderthals, our cousins from the distant primitive past, have only suggested that imagery is a very visceral expression and apparently the discovery of this skill could date back to the time that was as old as the discovery of fire itself. And as they kept evolving into medieval times with more artistry and purpose, they became testimony to the fact that images are powerful, insightful and they transcend linguistic barriers. Thus making imagery, the most important communication tool our human intelligence has ever discovered.
And from those times, visual communication only keeps evolving for the better.
Visualizations we consume everyday
The presence of visual representations is so profound in our everyday lives. From the simpler things like calendars to clocks to speedometers on our vehicles to traffic signals to signs on the roads to the maps to the flags to the flashy commercial hoardings to the brand logos to the more graphical player stats on a sports telecast we are glued to, the list goes on and on.
The essence of these visualizations has always been about simple and effective communication either to the masses or to each one of us personally. And since my childhood, I have always been fascinated with the purpose and prospect of it.
Visualization in Business Intelligence
Let us get to the business end of it. If I have to define the role of data visualization in present day business environment, it could be identifying coherent business strategies from large quantum of data accumulated everyday and communicating them in simpler forms that are visually compelling.
To put it into perspective, the data in millions of cells of worksheets we work with everyday, would look like a total mess and have no potent significance unless we extract insightful information from them and communicate to different stakeholders effectively.
The insights can be on anything ranging from web traffic to customer engagement to leads generated to net sales, revenue each quarter by products, by region and so on depending on the type of industry and the services provided.
And finally the process ends with translating these insights to pictorial forms with charts, graphs and maps that can quickly connect with the audience.
Visualization Tool: Ta-da it’s Tableau!
There are many data visualization tools available in the market today. Of which the most popular and widely used tool is Tableau. With a simple drag and drop user interface and plenty of powerful options at our disposal, Tableau does stand out among others and remains a go-to tool across businesses.
Briefly, Tableau breaks down the whole gamut of data into Dimensions and Measures. Dimensions are the fields that contain qualitative categorical information. Whereas Measures are the fields that are quantitative and contain numeric information that Tableau would aggregate by default. We can also create separate calculated fields within Measures.
Tableau can either plot the aggregated values on a graph or simply plot every individual data to suit the requirement. And it also gives us good control on granularity of the visualisation.
Tableau offers interactive dashboard and data story options that can make a presentation more engaging.
Tableau in our organization
It didn’t take long before we got Tableau on board. To touch upon the initial days, I had to persuade my management into building a data driven system from bottom up to mitigate all the challenges and have a sustainable growth across business units. It is important to harness data for a manufacturing company that has pan Indian customer base with people from multiple regional offices working on sales calls and marketing campaigns.
It all started with a video conference with my regional manager, sales director and finance director. After few presentations and a demo from my side, I began to lead a team to gather datasets, worked on eliminating anomalies and built a comprehensive historical data. We also created many actionable performance indicators that led to achieving key business objectives.
Besides other Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), we track each stage of a sales pipeline effectively more than ever doubling the conversion rate. We track cross-selling and upselling indicators that led to strengthening customer engagement and building customer advocacy programs. Thus helping us expand to new territories. We also present a very elaborate leaderboard.
With Tableau our stakeholders are able to get all the business insights in a flash through dashboards and data stories which help them make critical business decisions.
On the whole, data visualization has reinforced transparency and accountability in the system besides keeping it data driven.
“Visualization gives you answers to questions you didn’t know you had.” - Ben Schneiderman.