Data Visualization 101

Data has become a popular buzzword over the past decade and for good reason. Never in the history of society has information been more accessible.  Society is constantly creating and uploading new data, and data visualization can be a valuable tool for sorting through that data in order to highlight relevant and meaningful information.  Data visualization plays an important role in providing visual representations of the ever-growing bits and bytes of information for us to better understand the world around us. After all, “Seeing is believing” and finding ways to present relevant information in clear and understandable ways is where data visualization comes into play.

With the world growing ever more connected, storing and analyzing large amounts of data gives us the ability to better understand the world around us. Processing, conceptualizing, and understanding large groups of information was not an easy task compared to today. Storing data and information used to be costly and storage options like floppy disks could only hold small amounts of information. Over the years, memory storage has become much cheaper and more efficient compared to the costly storage options of yesteryear. Today, analytics allows us to glean various types of data created by individuals and organizations alike. Visualizing the information allows us to see patterns and trends for academic, financial, and social purposes. With modern-day computing technology, society has come a long way presenting and visualizing data compared to the days of the abacus or even older computers that took up the space of an entire room.

Simply put, data visualization is the representation of information in the form of a chart, graph, picture, and so on. Processing and showing information in a way that can be understood visually is not a new idea. More than likely, you have seen examples of data visualization and did not even know it. This idea of processing and showing information that a majority can understand is so valuable we do it all the time in school without realizing it. The line graphs kids make in elementary school regarding temperature change over a week is an example of data visualization. In the same sense, a pie chart from a well-known research university representing demographics affected by second-hand smoking is also an example of data visualization. Either way, data visualization allows for complex or simple information and data to be represented visually. The continuing advancement of technology has facilitated both academic and corporate efforts in understanding large sets of information related to health, education, and economics. Data models can be created in real-time to see how the actions of today will affect the generations of tomorrow. 

You may also already be familiar with data visualization software.  Microsoft Excel is an example of software with data visualization capabilities. Within Excel, users can create bar graphs, pie charts, line graphs, and otherwise. Tableau and Google Data Studio are notable examples of data visualization software used to understand and show data through various means. Tableau is currently a Salesforce.com company and Google Data Studio developed out of Google Analytics. Being able to utilize data visualization software has led to the growth of opportunities within industries ranging from consumer goods to professional services. The software for data visualization allows organizations and individuals to take in data from various sources and see the impact being made through their efforts from in-depth reporting of the associated analytics. By seeing the related analytics and information, stakeholders benefit from data visualization to create tailored strategies and plan to reach goals and build on KPIs necessary for future growth. Proper data visualization presents an opportunity for stakeholders to look at metrics to see what needs work and what is working within departments and the organization as a whole.

Businesses of all sizes can benefit from exercising data visualization. Individual transactions, purchase orders, profit margin, and client retention are a few of the KPIs that can contribute to the analytics of any organization. Taking in all these analytics and visually presenting the information helps executive leaders, department heads, and individuals gain a better understanding of how their work and effort is helping to grow and develop the necessary KPIs a company needs to be successful. Executives and leaders can take the analytics gained from a social media marketing campaign and build a list to contact who might be most likely to purchase a new product or service. Creating data visualizations of relevant and even irrelevant information gives a stakeholder a glimpse of what actions are being taken and need to be taken to further the success of an organization.

Data visualization is practical for stakeholders who want to see patterns and trends related to profitability, growth, and overall company performance. Future quarterly goals become more tangible with analytics and visualization. With the ability to store and process data becoming more and more profitable and efficient, a stakeholder can be confident in knowing an organization is doing what it can to analyze and visualize data with transparency for the employees, investors, and leaders. For a company wanting to grow in the modern age, stakeholders will only find value in analytics and data visualization. Visual representations allow organizations to present important information to their stakeholders and in turn, allows them to really see where they can best allocate their time and resources for growth.

As more events, interactions, and developments take place, data visualization and analytics will only continue to advance with the information gleaned from ongoing occurrences. With continuous use of devices and platforms, companies and organizations of various sizes can target individuals with advertising or outreach that could help create a new client. An aspiring influencer at the local high school can take a deep dive into the data visualization provided by various social media platforms and look into the analytics to see where best to put forth the energy to gain followers or find potential collaborators. A recent college grad can use data visualization on an online job board to see what types of recruiters are giving their resumes the time of day and which ones are not. Data visualization helps individuals and organizations find and improve on their methodology to increase efficiencies and advance their sales, marketing, human resources, and other departments within the company. With data visualization, we can predict the future and see potential outcomes. No psychic required.

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