Data Visualizations

The rise of self-service data analytics has empowered users throughout organizations to work with data directly. This represents a big improvement over the legacy model of having to wait for data specialists to create reports on their behalves. This took much longer and often resulted in static reports, meaning recipients would have to go through processes all over again if they had follow-up questions.

Another advantage of advanced self-service analytics is the ability for users to automatically produce their own data visualizations in seconds. What’s more, these models are interactive. Instead of having to depend on static reports containing data visualizations updated the last time data was available, data analytics users can now create their own interactive charts and graphs on the spot.

Here are four characteristics that differentiate interactive data visualizations in terms of the value they can offer users in comprehension and decision-making.

User Friendly for All

Interactive data visualizations should be accessible and comprehensible to all, even users without extensive experience in data analysis. As one expert writes for Forbes, “Even novices must be able to examine data and find patterns, distributions, correlations, and/or anomalies. They must have the capability to build and use tools that enable faster decisions based on real-time information.”

The most effective interactive data visualizations provide users with a clear picture of what the data is saying, so they can incorporate it into the decision-making process. User friendliness is a key characteristic here, as it will determine how well employees glean insights from data and how willing they are to adopt these analytics tools into their workflow.

Tell a Story About Performance

Interactive data visualizations aren’t just static graphs on a page; they’re tools meant to help tell a larger story about some aspect of business performance. As research firm Gartner notes, users of self-service analytics platforms “now have access to a range of capabilities to help them create compelling data stories.”

Interactive data visualizations help tell these stories through a variety of different formats, “ranging from chart types to geographic mapping, and more varied and sophisticated charts such as heat maps and candlestick charts.”

This ability to match data visualizations with the story they’re telling about business performance based on the underlying data helps users gain the context they need to make data-driven decisions that will in turn affect performance.

Allow Users to Filter & Drill Down

Interactive data visualizations are far from a “what you see is what you get” proposition. What you see is a starting point, but users also have the opportunity to delve into the data and examine it from different angles.

Providing users with rich filter controls is one way to let them change the criteria they’re using to view data insights. This is useful for people trying to look at only a subset of a vast data set.

When users can click to infinitely drill down into data — meaning the visualization isn’t sitting on top of aggregated or cubed data — they’re able to get a much firmer grasp on the details rather than being limited to looking at the big picture. Interactive charts allow users to click into different parts to get a more granular view of what the data is saying — necessary context when it comes to making informed decisions.

Are Embeddable into Regular Workflows

Users should be able to embed interactive data visualizations, as charts and dashboards, into the workflows and applications they already use. This capability helps normalize and fuel data-driven decision making because it’s possible to put data viz models wherever people are already spending time — and for users to easily share their insights with colleagues in a shared portal.

These four characteristics help explain why interactive data visualization models offer significant advantages over static ones, and how they’re helping to power better decision-making for users with access.