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.

Datasets Provide Context

Humans think in patterns. It’s a scientific fact. Being good at recognizing patterns helped you gain an advantage over your competitors when we were fighting saber-toothed tigers and it’s still an advantage today. Looking at the bigger picture and picking out the salient points is a valuable skill.

The problem with modern approaches to data visualization is that they are not conducive to recognizing patterns in the data. When data surrounding key performance indicators are kept in separate reports you can’t see patterns easily because the big picture is scattered in a dozen different pieces over different systems. It’s like trying to solve a puzzle with pieces in different boxes.

That’s why we recommend a fundamental shift in the way you approach data. Stop thinking in terms of ‘this report’ or ‘that graph’ and start thinking in terms of datasets. Datasets are collections of different reports surrounding an entity in your business: be it a person, process or physical asset.

Once you have all the of the reports that are providing metrics around whichever person, process or asset you want to analyze you’re ready to start the real work.

Seeing The Big Picture

Once you have a dataset you’re halfway done. Odds are if you have those reports in front of you, you are still looking at rows and columns of data. Trying to quickly find which metrics are in most need of your attention would take hours to figure out, and even then you might not see a meaningful correlation.

This is where data visualization is so crucial. Humans are visual creatures, we’ve established that. The whole purpose behind a data visualization, then, should be to help your natural abilities for pattern recognition take over so you can see the actionable information quickly.

At VisualCue we translate each report or key performance indicator into a cue that then gets placed on a Tile. A Tile then is a complete visual representation of an entire dataset surrounding a single business entity. Now, when you look at an employee, you can see all of their reports at a glance and, thanks to dynamic thresholds, know exactly which ones are in need of your attention.

Even more impressive, however, is the ability to put Tiles in different perspectives and gain even more insight. Calendars show the historical trends that your real-time feed might not capture, while maps give you insight into the impact of geographic locations.

It’s time to break out of the spreadsheet and ditch the dashboard. There is a better way to spot patterns in your data, and it starts with changing how you look at it.

Until next time,

The VisualCrew