Making Sense Of Big Data Through Visualisation
By: Melissa Jantjies, senior associate systems engineer at SAS
In essence, data visualisation is a marriage between science and art. It’s the process of taking science, statistics and analytics, and placing them in a visualisation that can be easily consumed by anyone. Data visualisation is not just about pictures; it’s a very important and impactful way to assimilate information that allows a company, or even a government, to be more effectively reactive or proactive. Correctly done, it enables us to understand massive amounts of data and make informed decisions faster.
Overwhelming data volumes
There’s an overwhelming level of data and insights available today. In 2018, Newgenapps predicted that by 2020 1.7Mb of data would be generated per second for every person on the planet, and it’s likely that this has already been exceeded.
Facing the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented, business is changing rapidly, and companies have rapidly had to adapt the way they work and do business. It’s safe to say that using data-driven insights to formulate actionable strategies has never been more important, but finding quick, intuitive, simple ways to convey critical insights and concepts has assumed an equally important role.
Digesting mass amounts of data is difficult, and the risk is that in using only the most current data because the volume is very high – for example, using only the last month’s retail data – valuable insights are lost, or become skewed or outdated.
Techniques including graphs, charts, tree maps, geo-mapping, map overlays, timelines and even word clouds can all be used to represent data outputs visually. All of these, for example, have been successfully used to plot and show the progression of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The benefit of data visualisation is that it’s a much more digestible way to access information. It’s been proven by neuroscientists that people remember what they see at a far higher rate than what they hear or read. Presenting insights in charts or graphs to visualise significant amounts of complex data is more effective than relying on dense spreadsheets or lengthy reports.
Self-service is here to stay
In order to fully utilise data visualisation, the data sets used must be clean. Data preparation is a must, or there is a risk that the visualisation will be faulty. Having the appropriate analytics tool is also vital.
We are moving into a space where analytics are becoming more platform-driven. Not everyone can be a data specialist who develops business intelligence reports, but it’s increasingly important that companies can serve up relevant data in a digestible format according to their own time frames. This can help identify gaps in their business as well as opportunities to fill those gaps – never more relevant than now, as many businesses pivot to focus on their online presence, with the associated challenges of logistics and delivery strategies.
Data visualisation is a trend that’s set only to increase in significance. Using data and analytics to tell a visual story allows companies to comprehend important trends very quickly and make the best possible decisions at the time.
Resources: data visualisation
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