Let’s face it, we don’t all have the luxury of having a well-formatted single table on which to build our beautiful visualizations. Despite what some of our friends in the market say, the notion of being able to access the ‘single version of the truth’ is just that – a notion. Let’s look at the top three reasons why you need to think about the real world when you choose a visualization solution.
- In the real world, data comes from many sources, not just one. Not many companies have a single, all powerful Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW) from which the fountain of all knowledge is sourced. In fact, even for those companies that have invested millions of dollars in an EDW, users almost always have to augment their data with data from sources that simply never made it into the EDW. That includes data from suppliers, partners, non-centralized departmental systems, social media feeds etc. What’s needed is the ability to augment your visualization with whatever data you need, when you need to do it. Howard Dresner’s recent Wisdom of the Crowds BI Market Study agrees that things have changed since 2014:“End-user data blending, data mining and advanced algorithms, data discovery, social media, and text analysis grew in importance in 2015.”
- In the real world, data comes in many shapes and sizes. When is a state a state? What is a customer? Abbreviation or no abbreviation? I’m sure you’ve encountered the problem of inconsistent definitions of the same data. As a human, you can easily recognize ‘USA’ to mean ‘America’ or know that ‘Mike’s Bikes’ is the same as ‘Mike’s Bike Shop’. However, a machine does not. Simply layering over a pretty visualization tool on top of such inconsistent data will reveal…well, inconsistent data. But this is the real world! What’s needed is the ability to not only ingest that data but to clean it up – easily and without IT involvement – so you can move on with your analysis.
- In the real world, you need a view across all your data, not just what’s convenient for your software tool. All too often, people are forced into an analysis straightjacket because their software tool only ‘allows’ them to look at data a certain way. SQL-based queries are notorious for this. Yes, you’ll get a nice pretty picture – but of what? What’s actually needed is a visual that spans across your data, making automatic associations between the data to provide you with the whole story that lives within your data, not a partial, restricted one.
My friend and senior product marketing manager Mike Tarallo shows these concepts in action in this video:
What are some of the factors you considered when choosing a data visualization solution? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.