Catering Data Visualization for Your Users

This is the continuation of the transcript of DM Radio’s program titled “What You See Is What You ‘Get’ – How Data Visualization Conveys Insight,” recorded in September, 2017.

Eric Kavanagh:  Well, let’s bring in our resident expert of the week on data visualization and dashboards. Wayne Eckerson, of the BI Leadership Forum, welcome back to DM Radio.

Wayne Eckerson:  Thanks Eric, good to be here, as always.

Eric Kavanagh:  Sure.  So that’s a pretty compelling example that Jim just gave. 

I know you just raffed up a new book. Can you tell us what the title is?

Does anything in that book resonate with what Jim just talked about? Such as these very specific examples of being able to use data visualization to find significant segments that you can then cater to or choose not to cater to?

Wayne Eckerson:  Well, yeah, it’s probably this recent book called “The Secrets of Analytical Leaders” that goes into visualization more than my prior book on dashboards, which had only one chapter on it.

There are a couple of interesting examples of how something that was perceived to be easier to use and more visual led to greater adoption of the BI application.

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In this case, one of the companies in Kansas City had built a Web-based report analytical application of its state warehouse. When they converted that to a tablet based interface, all of a sudden usage went through the roof.  It was the same exact application drew over through a different medium.

Now, I don’t know if you consider the iPad a visualization technique but it certainly is in the minds of the users. It’s perceived to be an easier to use environment and obviously it has access to some of the gestures that are perhaps easier to use than maybe a mouse.

The key thing is that its users expect that something delivered on a high pad will be easier to use. Users made more of an effort to use it and found that the information was in fact very useful. It’s a bit out of the lines in what we normally refer to as visualization but certainly relevant.

Jim Ericson:  I think that’s a good point. I like that expectation. Because it’s coming on an iPad, people think it’s some app.  How interesting is it that there is a psychological barrier – that for some, it can be hard to find their way in using these tools.

Wayne Eckerson:  You can see the same phenomenon when you switch from text based representations and visual based representations. Not always but in many cases, a picture is worth a thousand words and that eye candy helps to sell the tool or the app.

So in some cases, when you are trying to sell visualization to executives who have been brought up for years looking at spreadsheets with very detailed sets of numbers, they don’t want to view data visually. In some cases, absorbing information is a very personal thing dictated by habits.

I would think that going forward into the next generation of users; one can expect to see things delivered much more visually then the current generation of executives.

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