There are many reasons why people search for better business intelligence solutions. We see analysis paralysis problems, information overload problems, operational inefficiencies. People are still managing a lot of data processes with Excel and manual data manipulation, and there is a still big problem of alignment.
So there's a lot of spending going on to try to solve those problems, and I would ask myself, are you experiencing the same type of problems? Your clients or you also spend that amount of, of course, not by yourself, but you also spend a lot of money every year on your BI, and you ask has BI lived up to the promise so far for your organization at least.
So here's a great quote by Steven Few, who is a well-known author and respected thought leader in the United States, specifically in the visualization space, and what he says is the following. He says that the methods and technologies that are supposed to support the analysis and reporting, what we know as BI, this intelligence, they often fail to deliver on the promise of intelligence, and that is because often the data is not well understood.
Three Ways We Typically Consume Data
The fact is that the intelligence does reside with humans, not necessarily the technologies, and as humans, there are basically three ways we typically consume data. If you look at most of the organizations that we know today, there are basically three different categories that they have. It is either reports, ad hoc analysis, or dashboards.
They are other forms of consuming data such as infographics, but I want to focus on the ones that are commonly used in businesses, are repeatedly used to consume information. So you could take data and present it choosing Excel, or PowerPoint, or some kind of a specialized reporting software. You are creating a report.
Reports are very useful because they are very simple. They can span multiple pages, they can show you data that is very high level or very-very detailed, and they allow to randomly scan through columns and rows to find what you are looking for. Now, if you look at reports in comparison to dashboards, reports are very multipurpose, dashboards are usually not.
Reports can span across many pages, and dashboards typically fit on a single screen. Ad hoc analysis, that's a great way to further explore data and answer new questions that have come up that were not previously addressed with your dashboards and reports.
These days, tools like InetSoft's offer these kinds of analysis using visualization. So visual data discovery can be indeed very useful, but it does require some level of analytical skills to truly leverage the power of this way of consuming data. So not everyone in the business can really use it effectively, and then of course, there are dashboards, which are what we want to focus on today.