Hey Clarity- I'm a business intelligence consultant, on a mission to help executives leverage their data to really work for them, and I'm at a crossroads.
I've been working with a client, and I've given them their data in a way that's easy to ask questions, I've enriched it, by doing the grunt work for them ( segmentation, calculations, ratings, etc). They are really loving it! They have Tableau now, and every report they make looks like Excel. I was talking to them about trying out visualization, and they laughed and said that it's fluff. Thinking about it made me wonder.... Do decision makers really use visualized data to make decisions, or is it really just another buzz word?
Thanks so much for any insight.
It depends on what you mean by "Visualized Data."
Do decision makers use graphs, charts, dashboards, etc? Yes of course.
Are there some visualizations that wouldn't be of any value to a decision maker whatsoever? Also yes of course. You can't show me a word cloud if I work as a portfolio manager for a bank and expect me to make any decisions from it. That being said, the social media team might be able to. It all depends on the audience, and whether or not you're making patterns they care about easier to detect.
If you are talking about graphs/charts/dashboards, what I would do if I was in your shoes is I would try to make one dashboard with (say) 3-4 graphs inside of it, and then I'd show them that dashboard and say something like, "You know, I've been thinking about that conversation we had. And I definitely appreciate the point you made about fluff visualizations. But I also really think there's at least a few charts that would be really valuable to you. I whipped a few together (on my time, not yours!). Do you have a few minutes that you could spare to come have a look at them with me?"
So...a single client is sharing their preference with you, and you're wondering of that's a global phenomenon?
You're going to have to define "visualization" in this context for me to give you a specific answer.
In general, however, individual customers have individual preferences. You might get a lot of value from looking at a behavioral profiling tool like DISC or Myers-Briggs. A C in the DISC profile is going to love tables...an I is probably going to immediately be bored with them.
One good thing you did is find out the preferences of how this client wants to be communicated with. Keep doing this, up front, at the beginning of every project. Ideally during the sales process--this will show you how to sell to them! Since most salespeople are running the same old dusty presentation, which was made to sell to only ONE of those types, they're cutting out 3/4 of their market! If they'd find out the preferences of this prospect they're talking to now, they could easily personalize the info to sell to that prospect...and stand out past any competitors.
And the information is there, free for the asking.
Great question. I think its important to remember that the goal of visualization is to provide useful information from relevant data. It does not replace data. I work with made corporate boards. Some love the columns and rows and see charts as a nice-to-have extra. Some depend on visual charts to help them understand key items and make quick decisions. The most important thing if that your visuals tell a quick and easy to understand story that can be easily cross referenced to data if needed.
To many people try to use visualization to show their artful expertise, rather than support data decisions and understanding.
It should also be noted that as you move deeper into organizations, where the use and love of spreadsheets is not as common, visualization provides a way to make complex concepts accessible to those who need the information, but may not understand the data.
It is completely dependant on the recipient. While one customer might dismiss visuals and charts, others get too overwhelmed with raw data in an excel type format.
Best practice is to make the possibility of both available and let the user decide.
Ideally users can choose between self serve (dashboard style) and receiving reports by email (or both) and in the format (data or visual) they prefer.
Even with multiple users this can be easily tracked and managed with the right delivery tools.