There's a lot of discussion happening in the BI world right now over data visualization. On the one hand, you have analysts pushing the idea that data visualization = visual data discovery = self-service BI = advanced BI. I've seen Gartner and Aberdeen both touting the idea that data visualization and data discovery are the same and that they're the key to unlocking analytics for more users in your enterprise.
On the other hand, you have organizations who think data visualization = dashboards. They want to present their data graphically, have some interactive capabilities like drill-down and drill across, and use advanced features like animated graphs and motion charts.
At arcplan, we offer our customers all types of data visualization, from sophisticated desktop and mobile dashboards to visual ad-hoc reporting. Today let's examine some of the dynamic, interactive visualizations you can employ in your BI dashboards to enhance data visibility and tell stories that are more expressive than static charts.
Motion Charts for Trend Analysis
A motion chart is a dynamic chart that shows the flow of data across a dimension – for example, time. It's a great way to look at large amounts of data at once to discover patterns.
For example, a sales manager may want to conduct a trend analysis for the company's product line over the course of a year to analyze profits and losses for a set of product categories. A motion chart provides a more dynamic option than a table of numbers. By simply sliding the time bar along the x-axis, the sales manager obtains a visual of the fluctuations in the product categories over time. It's the difference between reading a book and watching a movie on the same topic: though the information is the same, a visual aid allows some users to better absorb it.
Zoom Line Chart for Dynamic Drill-Down
Don't be fooled by this ordinary looking line chart; it's actually a zoom line chart, a multi-series line chart that allows users to analyze data at both a macroscopic and microscopic level. It's best used to plot large quantities of data – even tens of thousands of data points. When the user drags the cursor across a subset of the lines, the chart reformats itself, zooming in to enable that subset to occupy the entire chart so more data points are visible. The users can continue zooming in until the most microscopic level is reached. Hitting "reset" will return the chart to the high-level view.
It is dynamic because it combines multiple views of data into one chart and provides the flexibility to switch between high- and low-level views on the same canvas. With many other charts that offer drill-down capabilities, the user is directed to another area entirely to see further information. For example, the drill-down for a bar chart may be a table. But when the data set permits, a zoom line chart allows users to dynamically switch between a high-level overview and a more detailed view to quickly analyze information.
Note: This chart is a type of Fusion chart, which can easily be deployed in arcplan applications.
Maps for Regional Analytics
Leaders of national and global organizations need visibility into the various divisions of their company to monitor performance, guide strategic planning and to support decision-making processes. Interactive map charts can address the need for high-level performance overviews by region. They provide users the ability to see metrics pertaining to various regions by simply clicking on areas of the map. This type of dynamic visualization is possible with business intelligence solutions like arcplan, which integrates with the Google Maps API and allows users to easily view geographically relevant data. We'll actually be holding a webinar on geospatial analytics in September, and we'll post the invite on this blog so you can register if you're interested in learning more about this topic.
Flowcharts for What-If Analysis
The ability to perform what-if or scenario analysis is a must for decision-makers who need to understand how projected performance is affected by changing assumptions. Excel provides what-if analysis calculations, but when a large number of inputs are involved and the analysis needs to be shared among many users, it gets complicated.
Why not use a flowchart visualization for what-if analysis? Filters and number inputs allow users to change parameters and request custom calculations. Users can then see various scenarios play out across the chart.
Dynamic, interactive visualizations not only look cool, but they're a key part of helping business leaders make faster and more accurate decisions, providing easy ways for users to navigate and make sense of large data sets in a short amount of time. Visualizing your data in well-organized graphs and charts is the path to not only stunning, but also highly usable (and highly used!) dashboards.