Once, in a galaxy far, far away (about ten or fifteen years ago), people who used Mac computers were depicted as colorful creative types, graphic designers and hipsters, while PC users were drab cubicle drones who looked at spreadsheets all day.
Apple famously based an ad campaign built on these stereotypes that was highly successful in part because spreadsheets really are kind of boring.
But not anymore.
In fact, thanks to visualization software, spreadsheets are some of the coolest looking things you’ll see on a screen. (Except maybe that series of movies about a galaxy far, far away.)
Related Article: Keeping Your Feet on the Ground With Data in the Cloud
As the Creative Blog points out:
One of the best ways to get your message across is to use a visualization to quickly draw attention to the key messages, and presenting data visually it’s also possible to uncover surprising patterns and observations that wouldn’t be apparent from looking at stats alone.
You don’t need to be a web designer or graphic artist to make great visualizations happen. As Hamish McKenzie observes in Pando:
We’re seeing more efforts to to take the complexity out of data calculations, structuring, analytics and visualizations…Soon, we’ll all be…empowered with data-processing capabilities to elevate us out the world of educated guessery and [into] the heavenly realm of informed decision and probability based predictions.
Visualizing Data for Effective Decision Making
As Rebeckah Blewett, a product manager for Dundas Data Visualization writes:
As your organization grows, so does the amount of collected information. If this data is delivered to you in spreadsheets or tabular reports, it become more and more challenging to find the patterns, trends and correlations necessary to perform your job well. Effective data visualization…allows business decision makers to quickly examine large amounts of data, expose trends and issues efficiently, exchange ideas with key players, and influence the decisions that will ultimately lead to success.
Here’s a look at some easy-to-use and good-looking data visualization (aka infographics) platforms.
Silk is a free data publishing program that lets you create a website to manage, organize and visualize data sets. No experience in databases, web development or programming required. You don’t even need to be an expert in Excel spreadsheets, though one way you can create a Silk display is by uploading a CVS (comma value separated) spreadsheet. You can also manually enter the data. There are a variety of drag and drop tools to select how you want to display the data: as a colorful line graph chart, a map or an interactive table. Add tags to make your data sortable and organize image or video galleries using a thumbnail browsing grid. Embed the visualization on your own website or blog, or publish as a Silk page. You can also allow others to collaborate and contribute to your data, or revisualize it entirely. Or keep it private and protected. And, the company claims, you can do all this in as little as 80 seconds.
Here are some examples of Silk created pages:
- Smartphone comparison
- Strongwind Academy
- Russian airstrikes in Syria
- Vancouver, British Columbia cultural spaces
Silk does provide custom creation services for more extensive and complicated data displays. For certain businesses dealing with complicated data sets that are rapidly evolving, there is a range of commercial packages to consider.
Related Article: The Skinny on Big Data: Everything You Need to Know From Our CTO
Dundas Data Visualization boasts a client list that includes Coca-Cola, British Petroleum and Microsoft. Customizable dashboards monitor business metrics in real time and can be accesses from any device. There are a variety of standard report templates as well as ad hoc reports created using drag-and-drop tools. An open platform allows it be easily integrated into existing CRM (customer relationship management) or other corporate systems.
Style Scope is an interactive dashboard software application offered by InetSoft, a maker of various business intelligence products. It employs a Lego block approach that provides users with point-and-click capabilities to access and assemble data in easily viewed graphic depictions.
Create and distribute interactive web reports and dashboards using DBxtra's intuitive drag-and-drop tools accessible via web portal. Allows even inexperienced users to quickly and easily design ad-hoc data grids, pivot grids and charts and connect to as many data sources as needed.
Sisense claims to be the only business intelligence tool that lets you view and analyze large and disparate data sets, without any prior data analytics experience. No other additional tools required. You can build complex data models, display the data visually and allow users to drill down to any level of granularity, with instant answers to any ad-hoc questions.
As the name implies, BigPicture easily translates Excel spreadsheet data into a chart or visual that provides, well, the big picture. Any Excel spreadsheet can be linked to the software to provide automatic updates whenever new data is entered.
Domo claims to be the “world’s first business management program” with the ability to provide user-friendly customizable data visualizations tailored to specific roles ranging from the CEO to IT to sales and marketing, as well as industry-specialized solutions that encompass education, financial services, manufacturing and retail, among others.