Your Guide to Software Selection

Data Visualization Tools: What to Look For

In today’s hyper-competitive business world, only decisions that are backed by data can be trusted to bring the desired results. But in order to gain valuable insights from their data, companies must first understand it, and that’s very difficult if you aren’t able to visualize the data in a way that makes it easy to understand.

That’s why leading decision makers put an emphasis on making data visualization a part of their decision-making process. Charts, infographics, videos and even augmented reality presentations can all be incredibly effective at engaging viewers and making data easier to understand.

Why is Data Visualization so Important?

The answer lies in the way that we process information. Our brains are wired in a way that requires a certain visual structure in order to truly immerse itself in what’s being shown. In other words, it’s much easier to understand something when looking at a graphic than it would be when sorting through a never-ending spreadsheet, even though it contains the exact same information.

Data visualization helps transform data such as trends and insights in a visual manner, which can completely change the impact that the same information has.

The Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction does a great job of explaining the reasoning behind this. Data Visualization works so well because our brains are much quicker in processing perceptive information (sight) than cognitive information (thinking).

When we see information in a format that’s immediately clear to us, such as a pie chart, our brain doesn’t have to waste energy trying to understand how the data is structured. Instead, it can focus solely on the actual numbers that are presented.

That’s why visual representation of the info can not only speed up our absorption of the materials presented, but also allows for less conscious effort in the process, which means that more energy is saved up for actual analysis of the data.

When data visualization tools are combined with an understanding of the principles of human visual perception, companies can experiment with different ways to present the information in order to make it easier for the viewers to detect structure and patterns in the data when it’s displayed.

Making data easy to understand is critical. While quickly analyzing data doesn’t come naturally for many people, data visualization tools can help present it in a way that enables almost anyone to quickly absorb it, helping them make more informed decisions as a result.

All of the above is why data visualization tools are used by a growing number of companies. According to a 2014 survey of finance professionals by BPM, 40% of respondents were in the process of making the change from old Excel spreadsheets and graphs to more modern data visualization solutions.

Usually, these solutions are a part of business intelligence software solutions, which come with extensive data visualization features that allow you to view the data in several different ways, so no matter what needs to be displayed, there are always options to present it conveniently.

An added benefit of BI software data visualizations is that they can help improve interactions with people outside of the company, such as partner companies, vendors, investors or prospective clients. Presenting vital information in an easy-to-digest manner makes your presentations more compelling.

Important Features of Data Visualization Tools

The main purpose of data visualization tools is to make the presented information easy to understand, even for people who aren’t used to analyzing data or are less tech-savvy in general.

Luckily, there are different types of BI software solutions that can turn raw data into easy-to-digest visuals. But in order to make the most out of the software tools that are available, you must first understand the key features behind them.

So here are some of the most important features of data visualization tools that can help your business the most:

Customizable Dashboards

In order to make the most out of the graphical data, the dashboard of the software must be easy to customize to fit the needs of the situation or the individual that’s using it.

While the decision makers of the company might need a dashboard that provides a bigger picture of the entire business in order to make quick and accurate decisions, the sales department might need a more specialized dashboard that displays the key metrics that are relevant to them.

In most leading Business Intelligence software solutions, dashboard customization is a very intuitive and simple process that doesn’t take up a lot of time. It’s very easy to arrange the data in a way that’s convenient, removing or adding metrics according to your real-time needs, providing the most relevant information instantly. This minimizes the time that it takes to react to any internal or external issues that need a quick resolution.

Interactive Reporting

Reports are another essential part of business intelligence that’s made very easy using the data visualization tools that are available as part of BI software.

The reports can be customized and arranged in countless different ways, such as highlighting essential parts, sorting the information in seconds or filtering it to display only the most relevant components.

Without having to waste much time, decision makers of the company can pull together data from several different sources and compile them into reports that are easy to digest quickly, with the help of visual aids such as charts or graphs.

But the best part about interactive reports is the ability to instantly add and remove data and the way that it’s displayed, sorting through it until you find the answers that you’re looking for.

Location Intelligence

Location intelligence makes it easy to visualize and map out data that requires geographical formats. There are extensive possibilities of displaying spatial elements that allow companies to gain a deeper understanding of performance in a regional context.

Some of the most useful possibilities of location intelligence include the option to layer sets of data spatially and chronologically, which enable businesses to draw insights about location-based metrics that would be more difficult to obtain otherwise.

One of most notable benefits of location intelligence insights is the possibility to determine the most optimal locations for operating a business based on previous data, as well as defining the general business ecosystem in certain areas, based on influences such as cost of living, crime, economic climate, culture, education levels and many others.

It’s easy to see just how beneficial location intelligence can be for making more educated decisions that can have a huge impact on the company’s future.

Data Mining

Data mining has completely changed the way that businesses analyze information. If you’re not familiar, data mining is the process of discovering patterns and trends in large amounts of data with the help of technology.

Before data mining, the sheer amount of data that larger companies owned made it impossible to be analyzed manually, which meant that it was basically unusable. But today, with the help of data mining, companies can analyze large amounts of pre-existing data, extracting information quickly and efficiently.

This allows you to make intelligent predictions about future trends that enable companies to understand the data behind their performance. But as you can imagine, just analyzing the data with Business Intelligence tools isn’t enough.

It’s just as important to be able to effectively summarize the data in an easy-to-understand format and identify the most important patterns that need to be understood in order to make the right adjustments.

This is where data visualizations can be helpful. They can distill all the findings of data mining into convenient chart and graph-based reports, which can then be quickly analyzed, enabling decision makers to make any necessary changes.

Real-Time Access and Mobility

Today, data visualization tools must not only provide convenient ways to present relevant data, but also be able to display that data on any device.

A big part of the decision-making process now happens on the go. Therefore, in order to be effective, BI software solutions must come with data visualization options that can easily be displayed and understood on any device.

Checking your data on a laptop, tablet or even a phone should be just as easy as pressing a few buttons, ensuring that the decision makers of the company have all the necessary information, no matter where they are at that moment. Luckily, most of the leading solutions that are available today offer mobile-friendly data visualization tools that can be quickly accessed at any time.

Top 3 Data Visualization Tools

Below are some of the best Business Intelligence software solutions that come with extensive data visualization tools:

Tableau Desktop

Tableau Desktop is one of the leaders in the self-service BI industry. It provides a solution that’s very hard to compete with due to its wide range of features, intuitive design and a long track record of success with thousands of happy users.

But perhaps its most impressive aspect is the large collection of data visualizations. Tableau is considered by many to be the staple when it comes to data visualization tools, and it continues to be an innovator that’s always looking for better ways to present data.

What makes Tableau data visualization tools so great is the fact that they’re very simple to use, but at the same time, they produce beautiful interactive visualizations that are miles ahead of most other Business Intelligence software providers.

Tableau offers intuitive and easy-to-implement visualization options even when working with Big Data operations, including artificial intelligence and machine learning applications.

The company continues to perform extensive testing to determine which approaches work best in order to quickly create visualizations that are easy to understand. It also offers built-in guides that offer suggestions on how to make the most out of each visualization and when it works best.

The software vendor even has a free version called Tableau Public, which offers many of the  data visualization features available in Tableau Desktop. The main drawback is that the software only allows you to save the data on a public cloud, which means that it’s accessible to anyone.

Zoho Reports

Zoho Reports is a great tool for businesses that are just starting out with advanced analytics, and want a more budget-friendly option that still provides all of the most important benefits that come with bigger reporting and BI tools.

Zoho provides all of the necessary tools for analyzing business data, creating reports & customizing dashboards, which makes the process of making informed decisions much easier. You can create reports almost instantly, customizing them to fit your real-time data needs while effortlessly sharing the reports with anyone that needs to see them.

There is a wide range of charts, graphs, widgets and tabular view components that allow you to present the data in the most convenient way every time. Zoho Reports continuously adds to this list to make sure that you never run out of new ways to present your information.

With intuitive drag-and-drop dashboards, you can combine multiple reports and track all of your KPIs in one convenient place. So while Zoho Reports may not be as advanced as Tableau or some of the other leading solutions, it’s still a great option, especially if you’re just getting started with Business Intelligence.

Sisense

If you’ve been working with Business Intelligence for a while and want a complete solution that has all the advanced features you need, you can’t go wrong with Sisense. The Sisense solution can compete with any other BI solution on the market, boasting a user-friendly interface, in-memory database tools and extensive Big Data display options.

But the real value of Sisense comes with its data visualizations. The company provides an unparalleled level of depth in terms of the insights that are available. Instead of focusing on the number of designs like some of the other popular self-service BI apps, Sisense instead emphasizes the ability for users to drill deep into their data and display multiple layers of insights. And they can do that by simply scrolling or clicking on different sections of a visualization.

When creating reports with Sisense, you can also resize or reposition visualizations on dashboards so that they’re easy to read on any device.

The interactive report dashboard also allows you to quickly gather all of the important information about business performance and display it in the most convenient way, with the help of an extensive range of visualizations.

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