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What is Data Visualization Software?
Data visualization software describes any computerized tool designed to interpret complicated data sets, identify trends, and give users a way to track performance at a glance. Modern dashboards use data visualization to improve the user experience of traditional business intelligence.
Most people have difficulty understanding raw data in spreadsheets and analytic insight from business intelligence (BI) programs in numerical form. Visual representations in the form of charts, graphs, and data maps help people comprehend dense information and encourage a wider range of insight.
A data visualization tool and a full-blown BI system differ on the quality of the visualizations you can produce and the data processing power included with the system. Some BI solutions—though excellent at crunching the numbers according to your data analysts’ specifications—fall short of allowing you to present your results to others in a meaningful and visually appealing way. Sometimes a number chart or bar graph just doesn’t cut it. The best data visualization software tools specialize in producing interactive visuals that complement a business intelligence report.
This guide covers the factors you should consider when attempting to select and implement the best data visualization tools for your business.
We can help you speed up your research process by giving you a short list of the right data visualization software for your needs. Click on the image below to enter your requirements and get your recommendations.
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Features and Buying Considerations
If you purchase a data visualization tool that also functions as your primary BI solution, then it’s important to ensure that your data visualization system connects smoothly with your data sources.
Your data may be stored in a database or in a third-party software. Not all visualization solutions have pre-built integrations that will connect you with your data, so carefully research any extra work you’ll need to do to connect your data. Custom-built data systems may require extra research to ensure they integrate correctly with your chosen solution.
Dynamic visualizations that give users direct control over data in reports provide the most valuable analytic potential. These manipulations can improve analytics and data forecasting for all stakeholders who can simulate environmental changes in order to develop contingency plans. Some examples of dynamic visualizations are:
- In a timeline, a slider lets you move through time to observe how data changes over time.
- In a geographic map, users can zoom in from the world map to a city map. Users can then compare the distribution of data points between two cities.
This is what elevates visualizations from mere reports. Visualizations allow non-technical users to generate actionable insights by manipulating data.
Every data visualization system prides itself on the number and variety of visualization types they offer: charts, graphs, fuel gauges, maps, scatter plots, and combination charts, among others.
When looking for advanced visualizations, check your solution for treemaps, streamgraphs, bubble charts, infographics, geographic maps, and three-dimensional scatter plots. Ensure that your chosen solution includes pre-built templates to speed up the process of creating reports and lighten the load on your data analysts.
But with so many options, it’s easy to get caught up in using every visualization you can find. It’s good to research your options beforehand and identify which visualization types are likely to work best with your data.
Whether your visualization solution will be part of a broader BI system or not, you’ll want the ability to include your visualization in a dashboard. Having the right visualizations and reports collected in one easily accessible location helps minimize the time from analysis to action.
A company can use dashboards to surface vital information within an app or on a TV screen in the office. These tools keep individuals across teams informed while also motivating people to reach goals. Consider using dashboards for these use cases:
- Showing frequency of customer requests and open vs. closed tickets
- Sales leaderboard showing opportunities, revenue, and closed-won deals
- Team progress toward product development goals
- Traffic to key website pages and most recent leads for follow-up
Data visualization products with mobile access shows you your visualizations on any internet connected device. Whether out of the office, at a meeting, or simply around the workplace, mobile access to visualizations facilitates real-time, data-driven decisions.
Look for data visualization software that features a mobile app or a mobile optimized web portal for internet-enabled devices. Beyond personal convenience, mobile access makes data easier to retrieve for everyone, ensuring more decision makers are properly informed.
A self-service tool can be used by any business user, no matter their level of technical skill. Most data visualization tools now include self-service reports and dashboards where non-technical users can manipulate charts, graphs, and other visualization types to gain insights.
But a data visualization software that includes self-service reporting may require varying degrees of technical skill to connect data sources, cleanse data for use, and build initial visualizations. A tool that promises self-service capabilities for non-technical users should include direct connections to data sources, easy integration of data into visualizations, pre-built reports and templates, and a drag-and-drop interface where users can quickly build reports from scratch.
Training and Support
If you can’t meet your needs with a self-service solution, you’ll want to ensure the provider you choose supplies sufficient training resources and support, so your analysts can work as efficiently as possible.
Data visualization providers often provide training in the form of video tutorials, live online introductory sessions, and/or onsite training. The right type of training for your company depends on the capabilities of your IT department and your other users. You may need to have a large, in-person training session for your business users, or you may need only some online reference materials for your skilled IT personnel.
Cloud vs. On-Premise
Most of today’s data visualization tools provide cloud solutions with an option for on-premise versions. Whether you decide to run your visualizations in the cloud will depend on the location of your data, your existing BI infrastructure, and your company’s data security policy.
If both your data and BI solution are in the cloud, look for a cloud-based visualization solution that can integrate with the cloud applications you already use. If your data sources and BI solution live in an on-premise database, then you may choose to host your visualization software on-premise as well.
While many companies who keep their data on-premise cite the insecurity of cloud offerings, most SaaS data visualization tools take information security seriously. You’ll find these solutions offer varying options from standard security protocols like encryption to private cloud servers. Ultimately, your team will need to weigh security, price, and usability when making your decision.
When you need data visualization software
There are a number of scenarios in which you may considering adding a data visualization tool to your BI arsenal.
- If you already use a BI solution and you’re looking to add better data visualization features or greater processing power, you may want to pursue a fully capable business intelligence solution. Most data visualization tools won’t stack up to the full-service capabilities offered in a BI solution, especially if you have data scientists on your team.
- In a second scenario, you already have a BI solution, but it lacks sufficient visualization capabilities. In this case you’ll want data visualization software that can integrate with your existing BI program and enhance your project.
- The last scenario is that you have no BI software, and you feel that a full-blown BI solution is overkill. Some of the best data visualization tools come with enough data mining and analysis functionality to create the visualizations you want directly from the data, allowing you to manipulate it for insight much like a broader BI program.
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