By the end of 2015, the global annual rate of data production is expected to reach 5.6 zettabytes, double the rate of growth in 2012, according to IDC. However, data doesn’t provide executives and other decision makers with valuable insights on its own. The data must be gathered, organised, made interpretable, and then analysed and acted on to provide any meaningful value. Data visualisation tools and techniques offer executives and other knowledge workers new approaches to dramatically improve their ability to grasp information embedded in their data
A data culture is emerging across multiple sectors. We are seeing the rapid introduction of new data performance and analysis tools; creating increasing awareness about the power of data in understanding trends, performance and decision-making. However, there are still a number of barriers preventing accessible use and dissemination of data, and real cultural change. These barriers include; an inability to access the details supporting analyses or presentations, difficulty engaging non-technical staff, and the resource intensive nature of current approaches to data-management and presentation. Overcoming these issues requires effective and embedded use of data visualisation tools throughout an organisation.

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So what’s the evidence for using visuals?

There is a wealth of evidence suggesting that visualising information and data makes it easier to understand, more engaging and easier to recall. Fifty percent of our brain is involved in visual processing, making it the primary way in which we interpret the world around us. We both process and understand visual information more easily than text strings, and are more easily persuaded by it. This make visualisation a powerful tool for supporting decision-making and change initiatives.

Given that we are now presented with five times more information today than we were 30 years ago, maximising our ability to rapidly assimilate and process data through smart and engaging visuals is essential.

How visualisation tools work

Data visualisation tools provide a platform for displaying data insights and trends in an accessible and engaging way. High quality visualisation tools take complex data, perform targeted statistical analyses and provide a range of options for how to display the outputs. These varied functions can go some way to addressing the challenges currently preventing organisations from fully utilising their data resources.

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How can data visualisation help you?

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Case Study

In 2010 Unilever set itself the target of doubling its revenues in a decade or less, without doubling its costs. Information management was set to play an important role in achieving this goal. To help its employees make better decisions, the company sought to embed data into its business processes and make effective use of data visualisation and analytics. The core idea was that, with data visualisation, employees could become more analytically minded without needing expert statistical skills.

Unilever launched its project across 45 operating units. Results now indicate that 85% of business users see improved access to reporting and information.

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Since the introduction of data visualisation techniques, global managers at Unilever are now able to drill down into the level of detail they need to for effective decision-making. This has provided a platform for connecting local, consumer-based trends to global, ‘momentum-defining’ trends for the business.

Data visualisation has helped Unilever employees to understand and work with vast amounts of information that would previously have been unmanageable. This has allowed them to integrate data insight into their daily job, and to make better, more informed decisions.

Examples like these are continuing to appear and grow throughout many sectors. GE, the infrastructure and healthcare giant, are strong proponents of data visualisation. They integrate it throughout their operational streams, from marketing and communications to annual reporting; seeing a ‘tremendous’ response from a variety of stakeholders.

We are currently living and working in a world where detailed and accurate data is at our fingertips, waiting to be collected and analysed. Tapping into the trends and insights within this data is at the forefront of modern decision-making; finding fast and accessible ways of doing this is crucial to maximising the efficacy and impact of your organisation moving forward
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