Seeing Performance

When most people see a VisualCue Tile or Mosaic for the first time the very first thing they notice are the colors attached to each of the key performance indicators or cues in the Tile. Our standard stoplight pattern of red, yellow and green is almost universally understood as it relates to poor, dangerous or adequate levels of performance.

But these colors can mean so much more. In fact, they are arguably one of the most innovative, valuable aspects of the entire VisualCue platform.

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Missing Pieces

Missing Pieces
Take a look at the business intelligence, management or operations solutions provided by IBM, Domo or Tableau and you will discover a trend. While each claims to be totally different and unique, they all drill down to basically the same thing: rows and columns. Endless reports. Maybe an area graph. At the very best it’s a dashboard that gives you only high-level information.

It’s a sad fact: if you want to get to the actionable data in any large data set you will find yourself being squeezed into these silos of data. A report for this key performance indicator, a separate report for another. You are left with the unhappy task of attempting to put the puzzle pieces together to answer even the simplest questions surrounding “what can I do to help this employee’s performance?” or “why is my fleet’s mileage up this month?”

This problem is deeply rooted into the very fabric of modern data consumption, and it comes from one main disconnect between how we think and how we are currently looking at data.

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The Real Meaning of Real Time

We aren’t the least bit surprised that the advent of streaming data sources has seen an equal rise in the number of analytics solutions claiming to be just as fast.

But recently we also came to a realization: they aren’t. Data is coming into these programs so fast and from so many different sources that by the time any kind of analysis is completed the moment has passed- in essence, you can only work with yesterday’s data.

We were wondering how you would put the “real” back in “real time,” in other words what would it take to create an analytics engine that anyone could understand as fast as the data itself changed?

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Becoming Data Literate

Here’s a question for you- when did you learn to read and write? Odds are it was one of the first things you remember learning, and that makes sense: learning to read and write is foundational for all other knowledge you acquired.

Literacy. We usually think of it as the ability to read and write, but in reality the term is much broader than that. Beverly Moss, in her work “Literacy Across Communities” writes “There is still much discussion and disagreement on definitions of literacy…” and further notes that, despite the many disagreements, the field has landed on a definition which “links literacy to a complex web or network of social practices.”

Essentially, our definition of literacy is expanding, and to that list we would like to add what we believe is the most important kind of literacy anyone can have in the modern world. Data literacy.

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We believe in data transparency

Everyone needs a purpose- a reason for existing. Think about it; having a deep, committed purpose gives you motivation for everything else you do. Ideally it’s what informs your decisions and gives you direction.

While having a purpose as a person is certainly important, we believe it’s equally necessary for organizations and businesses to have a purpose as well. And the purpose can’t just be “to turn a profit,” that’s a cop-out, and frankly doesn’t inspire anyone. Turning a profit should come as a result of your deeper purpose.

At VisualCue we’ve always had some idea about what our reason for existing is, but yesterday we actually sat down and talked about it. Here’s what we came up with.

We believe in data transparency.

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Telling Data Stories

This week, the VisualCrew had the opportunity to speak to one of the industry’s most ardent supporters of the data storytelling movement, Ted Cuzzillo.

In July of this year he wrote a compelling article about the current state of data storytelling, in which he states “Fine, we agree that data storytelling is a good thing. But we still have scant observation of the actual practice of data storytelling – hard, direct evidence of what has worked, what hasn’t… I don’t even see consensus yet on what a data story is.”

What makes Cuzzillo interesting is that he, unlike most writers, is not content to stop at merely noticing the problem. He asks those of us in the world of data, business intelligence and visualization a few questions to get the ball rolling. His first question we found to be the most important because from it spring the rest: “What is the definition of ‘data story?’ How is data storytelling different from traditional storytelling?”

Well, we’ve got some thoughts on that.

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The Language of Data

A few weeks ago, we wrote about how recent research has clocked the human brain at 13 milliseconds. That’s the amount of time it takes for the eyes to take in an image and the brain to decode it into something meaningful.

A long time ago, we wrote about how higher functions operate in that same time frame- all under a second.

Well, that got us thinking about something pretty important: the whole point of what we do around here at VisualCue. What is our approach to technology and why did we choose to focus on data visualization in the first place?

And it all comes down to this- we are creating a new language for data. And changing your language can change how you look at the world.

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Data Storytelling with Visual Phrases

According to new research by Mohammad Amin Sadeghi et al, the way we interact with the world might be simpler than we think. Their research focuses on intermediate composites between objects and scenes, what they call “visual phrases” such as “person riding a horse” or “dog on a couch” that help a machine recognize situations faster than seeing them as “person” and “horse” or “couch” and “dog” individually and then putting the pieces together.

What we are fascinated by, naturally, are the implications for the world of data storytelling with visualizations that show data in context.

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Powered by Sight

We recently stumbled across an article by Slawek Wolski entitled “Visualize your Data.” In that article he brings out a number of worthwhile, if not slightly sobering, points.

Mainly that of the over 2.8 zettabytes of data (estimated) that the human race has generated so far, only 0.5% of it is being analyzed.

This fact is sobering because it has dire implications: that we are generating more data than we can use and we are missing out on innumerable opportunities for improvement simply because we cannot analyze all of this data fast enough.

Luckily, Wolski has a solution that we couldn’t agree with more: use the power of sight to visualize data in real time.

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Optimization Analytics for Everyone

We heard an interesting statistic the other day. Our friends over at Ventana Research (and here’s a plug for the award they gave us), Robert Kugel specifically, wrote a very interesting piece in August about optimization analytics. He said it was “the application of algorithms to sets of data to guide executives and managers in making the best decisions.”

If the idea of algorithms applied to data sets to optimize performance sounds a little intimidating, that’s because it is. Kugel talks about how this method has been used to find the most efficient route for commercial aircraft and how it informed large retailers when they made pricing decisions.

You may be thinking that with such large implementations and an intimidating name that optimization analytics is beyond your reach. Not so. Kugel explains

“…using optimization technologies and techniques to better manage a variety of day-to-day business issues is becoming easier. I expect optimization, once the preserve of data scientist and operations research specialists will become mainstream in general purpose analytics over the next five years.”

Way ahead of you, Robert. How do we do it at VisualCue? Easy. It’s all about context and thresholds.

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