What is data visualization and how can it benefit businesses?

data visualization

Data is the driving force for businesses all around the world. As we all become more reliant on digital technology, more and more data is generated. Since data translates to information and business intelligence, the use cases for this resource in business never stop growing. 

Now, with over 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created daily, the number of insights a business can produce from data-driven policies is monumental. However, turning information into actionable strategies is another ball game. That’s where data visualization comes in.

Data visualization is a means to assemble and communicate the facts in a user-friendly manner. By learning its role, its benefits, and its business applications, you can enhance your business for the better. 

What is data visualization?

Let’s start by defining data visualization. Simply put, this is the process of displaying information graphically. Charts, infographics, scatter plots, heat maps, treemaps, and more are all forms of data visualization, helping business analysts to interpret the meaning behind the facts. These mediums for highlighting the progression of change as well as market behaviors can make all the difference in marketing and business process optimization.

That’s because data is only as good as it is understood. For instance, if you store millions of data points regarding your customers but don’t have the means to visualize that data, then your stored information isn’t useful. All it does is eat into your budget through energy consumption and security costs.

Visualization of information is key to business success. That’s why professionals across industries are doubling down on both technology and personnel that can maximize data visualization strategies for clarity and actionability. From customizable dashboards to professional analytics and graphic creation, data visualization benefits businesses in a range of important ways. 

How data visualization benefits businesses

These benefits stem from the transparency and clarity of effective data communication. Again, no matter how effective your data collection strategy is, you’ll fail to make business improvements without effective visualization. That’s because we humans are highly visual animals. 

In fact, the majority of the cortex, or surface, of the brain (over 50 percent) is dedicated to processing visual information. This demonstrates how much we rely on visual stimuli to understand the world around us. The same is true with data.

By utilizing the natural power of visual mediums to generate informative insights from data, businesses have the potential to transform their operations for the better. This is due to the nature of our relationship as humans with visual information. By making the most of this relationship, communicating and implementing actionable business strategies becomes a simpler and easier process. 

These are just of few of the benefits that make this so:

Improving knowledge absorption

Because our brains are wired in favor of visual processes, we tend to better retain information presented to us visually. In one recent study, this was evidenced in the cognitive absorption experienced by cancer patients when shown whiteboard animations versus brochures. The animations increased the ability of these patients to absorb knowledge because they supplemented education with viewable details. 

The same idea, applied to business intelligence, is what data visualization is all about. We process and absorb visual data faster, so presenting business information to employees and customers in this fashion fosters greater knowledge retention and success. In turn, productivity and customer retention can experience a boost, as well. 

Enhancing communication and engagement

Additionally, visualization transforms a workplace’s ability to communicate, understand, and engage with data. For example, a study using different mediums of communication found that 67 percent of workers performed better when communicating using visuals rather than text alone. Extrapolated, these productivity boosts can translate to $1,200 saved per year per employee 

When I think of the power of data visualization in business communication, this amusing clip from NBC’s The Office always comes to mind. All it takes is one character drawing a triangle on a sheet of paper to make an important point about investment decisions to his co-workers. The right graphics, illustrating composite data, can have the same effect, helping businesses to make effective choices. 

Revealing business insights

Another essential benefit of data visualization is its role in helping us shift our perspective. It takes approaching any situation from various angles to form a more complete picture. However, data can take all kinds of forms, from qualitative to quantitative, and the result can be messy to look at. With visuals, connections more clearly jump off the screen or page, alerting professionals to actionable business strategies. 

This example, while related to healthcare treatments, illustrates what’s possible through the right data visualization tools and processes. By accumulating both qualitative and quantitative data into comprehensive dashboards, care providers can visualize all kinds of details regarding clinical trials and recommended treatments based on individual patient data. APIs and AI algorithms supplement the process, making complex connections that would be next to impossible for a human to spot. Similar connections are possible in virtually any industry.

From here, visuals can even be automated to a degree with the right software. Open-source databases and AI analytics make this possible, empowering ease and convenience out of even the most unwieldy datasets. However, maximizing the potential of your data visualizations still requires a few important communication practices.

Enhancing your business opportunities through visual data

Enhancing business opportunities through data visualization should be the end goal of all your data analysis efforts. Getting there, however, requires a commitment to measurable objectives and quality communication. To experience the full benefits of visual data, consider these tips:

  1. Establish clear, data-driven business goals. Communicating data-driven visuals will only be helpful if they align with business objectives. Establishing clear goals through an analysis of internal strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (including competitor data) helps you contextualize visuals in a larger narrative. 
  1. Tell a compelling story. Data-driven insights rely on narrative. No matter what graphics you create, the story they tell is what helps you frame and develop improvement strategies and communicate them across your team. Visuals plus narrative is a recipe for ongoing business improvements.
  1. Secure your data. The safety and integrity of your data also impact the potential of your visuals. Establish greater control with scalable data governance policies, secure environments, and protected API ingress/egress procedures.

Now that you understand the role and power of data visualization in business, these tips can help you enhance your opportunities. Visuals translate to better communication, retention, and overall knowledge. Use these benefits to build a better business strategy.

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