Advanced Visualization Demands Lots of Planning: Report

A picture does more than speak a thousand words: for businesses, the right one can mean the difference between millions of dollars earned or lost.

Yet many firms haven’t embraced the potential benefits of data visualization, according to a July 17 blog posting by Forrester analyst Boris Evelson. That’s unfortunate, because without data visualization, it’s more difficult for workers to recognize patterns in information that can translate into real insight (and profits).

“Simply seeing numbers on a grid often does not convey the whole story—and in the worst case, it can even lead to the wrong conclusion,” he writes. “This is best demonstrated by Anscombe’s quartet where four seemingly similar groups of x/y coordinates reveal very different patterns when represented in a graph.”

Indeed, data visualization techniques can pack broad swaths of information into a relatively limited space (i.e., a single screen). Fortunately, new rounds of advanced data visualization products have given workers access to all manner of neat tools, such as graphs that automatically adjust to fresh data. According to Forrester, advanced data visualization tools feature that aforementioned dynamic data content, along with visual querying, multiple-dimension visualization, animations, some degree of personalization, and business actionable alerts.

That’s a considerable step above relatively static graphs and charts. When it comes to choosing an actual advanced-data-visualization platform, Evelson recommends that organizations define their requirements for certain functionality:

  1. Types of graphs, charts, “and other visualizations.”
  2. Tufte’s microcharts.
  3. Cockpit gauges.
  4. Visual query.
  5. Visual exploration
  6. Geospatial representations.
  7. Modes of interaction.
  8. Storyboarding fit for client and boardroom-level presentations.
  9. Data latency.
  10. Data granularity based on requirements.

After that, the organization needs to figure out how the advanced data visualization platform of choice meshes with the existing technical architecture. Evelson’s blog posting details the eight categories of technical architecture capabilities that organizations need to explore, including how the in-memory data model is managed and whether an intermediate storage platform exists.

“As you venture down the ADV [advanced data visualization] road, Forrester recommends paying at least equal (if not more) attention to ADV best practices as you do to technology,” Evelson wrote. Whatever a company chooses in terms of visualization platforms, though, it’s clear that a lot of very detailed thinking needs to go into the process.


Image: Ralf Kleeman/