Disrupting BI Part 1: The Evolution of Business Intelligence with Data Visualization
Data visualization has radically changed the way data analytics and business intelligence (BI) are accomplished. Data visualization presents data in more consumable and actionable formats than ever before, such as interactive and correlated pictures and charts. Decision-makers — anyone from managers and analysts to individuals who interact with customers and suppliers — become difference-makers when empowered not only with the information needed to make that critical decision, but also the ability to see the whole picture. Better decisions are made when the impact of those decisions is understood. Decision-makers require more than just a single report or chart, and they also need to understand the information in the broader context of the whole business. For example, a recent client in the financial services space used a report to find the assets at highest risk. Data visualization could improve the impact of an asset risk report by showing which customers and geographic areas are affected by certain risky assets. Data visualization techniques enable you to discover outliers better than a single black-and-white report filled with text and numbers.
Traditional Tools vs. Data Visualization Tools
Traditional BI tools present significant barriers to accomplishing true data visualization. Traditional BI systems (report writers and ad hoc queries) strive to accomplish some visualization concepts with the assembly of single reports and charts into a shared dashboard but cannot achieve the same results. Data visualization tools (Tableau, Qlik Sense, Oracle Data Analyzer, SAP Lumira, etc.) load large data sets, such as those encompassing an entire business process, into memory. Traditional BI tools submit a targeted query to the database at runtime to satisfy the demands of a specific report or chart. The visuals presented in a data visualization tool will therefore seamlessly flow together, whereas doing the same with traditional BI will take an extensive development effort to “stich” together the different result sets with less appealing visuals and slower performance. Data visualization offers improved methods to interact with the information presented. The user can engage with every picture or chart in addition to using filters and prompts. Traditional BI is more limited with its interactivity, and pictures and charts do not offer the same level of interaction.
Benefits of Data Visualization Defined
Data visualization tools transform business intelligence capabilities not only because of their visualization features, but also because they deliver value and ROI quicker, offer better performance, and facilitate collaboration.
Faster Value and Improved ROI: Data visualization tools typically require one simple query (instead of many for traditional BI) to pull a large data set into memory that becomes reusable for several pictures and charts. Interactive features are simple to build in if not offered by default, and multiple charts and graphs can be built from this one result set. Traditional BI solutions require a separate query per report, and then extensive programming is required to merge results together. Since data visualization tools require fewer queries and less programming, applications can be built quicker. Both programmers and business analysts will deliver more robust analytic applications in less time. Investing less effort to deliver deeper insights will result in better returns and significant ROI improvement.
Better Performance: Data visualization tools consolidate data into memory, which keeps it closer to the user when analyzing and interacting with the graphics. Traditional BI almost always requires that a database query return the results across the network first, which is and always will be slower. Decision-makers conduct better analysis when their tools can keep up with their own speed of thought.
Facilitated Collaboration: The collection of several correlated pictures in a data visualization solution begins to tell a story with the data that should be shared with subject matter experts and key decision- makers. Data visualization solutions are more interactive, so information can be analyzed more thoroughly. Visuals are assembled quickly and easily, and so can be done on the fly, such as when meeting with a larger group to answer new questions as they are asked.
Organizations that choose to implement data visualization as part of their BI solution will reach new levels of enlightenment by enabling decision-makers to formulate responses within the context of their business. BI solutions with data visualization do not only deliver pointed actionable information but, more importantly, place actionable information into the larger context, which improves decision-making. Data visualization delivers business intelligence more quickly and effectively than could be achieved before and should be part of any future BI solution.
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