When we consume data in a work environment or even in news stories, a graphic representation goes a long way in furthering our understanding and ability to draw inferences. This is why the practice of presenting data in the form of visualizations is growing in business, government, and even personal applications.
While massive volumes of data are now available, most of us don't have the time or the skills to really dive deep and derive meaning that's relevant to us. So this is why data visualization is important - it enables viewers to identify patterns, connections, trends, and outliers. This generates insights that would have been difficult to garner from purely textual or numerical data. Visualizations are also helpful in providing a visual context of data, for example, to see how it is distributed on a map.
Why data visualization matters
Research has shown that when our eyes view data, say in the form of a spreadsheet, it's processed by the cerebral cortex. This process is called 'cognition', and is relatively slow, as compared to visual perception. When we view an image, such as a chart or graph, visual perception is handled by the visual cortex in the brain, which is fast and efficient.
Data visualization uses this capability of our brain to best advantage, enabling faster understanding and leading us more rapidly to the 'aha' moment when we uncover valuable insights.
Data visualization benefits
Data visualization is a powerful technique to build a data-driven culture - whether in government, healthcare, education or business organizations. Individuals also leverage visualizations to better understand and manage data related to their goals.
Let's look at some of the top data visualization benefits.
Insights from data
Visual data helps us to see how different values compare or to rank a set of values. We are able to see trends more easily - how things have changed over time. Relationships between variables become far more apparent when we view a scatter plot or network graph. As decision-makers can see patterns that were not known before, rich insights can be obtained from data. These can be explored further to analyze underlying causes or correlations.
In the endeavor to achieve strategic business goals such as growth or competitive differentiation, insights from data are a huge asset. They are also vital to arrive at the right decisions for public health, utilities, medical research, sports, and a host of applications across industries. That is why data visualization is important for leadership in organizations of all sectors.
A sales manager who is reviewing sales data across product lines, regions and sales channels will notice patterns and anomalies much more easily through visualizations than through tabular data and can formulate strategic and tactical plans armed with these insights.
Faster decision making
Decision-makers are able to understand and interpret data more easily with visualizations, so they can focus on building a deeper understanding of underlying factors. They are also able to take action based on data-driven insights faster. These data visualization benefits have a significant positive impact on business, research, and government organizations as they enable proactive action, faster responses, and competitive differentiation.
Today, as authorities around the globe are still trying to identify the right response to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, the value of visualizations to demonstrate the relationships between infection rates and a variety of other factors, such as public meetings, or air pollution, is of vital importance.
Data visualizations are interactive, and users can explore them on their own to find answers to their specific questions. Visualizations make it easy for viewers to apply filters, drill down, and modify their view. With the right tools in place, business users can interact with data visualizations on their own and are not dependent on data engineers. As non-technical users are more empowered, they become more aware of the power of data and can get the best value from it. Data visualizations are best used to get a high-level understanding, while granular information is available if the user wants to know more.
Data visualizations can help a variety of users to become self-sufficient - accessing data and insights faster and on their own.
These are just some of the data visualization benefits that are continually helping businesses to move from data to insights to action faster and more efficiently than ever before.