October 31, 2017
Not everyone loves looking at numbers and spreadsheets. How do you communicate complex, data-driven ideas without everyone’s eyes glazing over? Thankfully – data doesn’t have to look so boring. Visualization can help stakeholders and customers clearly understand the story your data tells without falling asleep in the process.
Some of the best, most powerful visualization models include charts, indicators and maps. These can typically be created in Excel, PowerPoint or Visio.
Before choosing your visualization model, understand your data and your audience. What are you trying to measure? What outcome does your data reveal? How much detail do you need to include to get your message across?
Charts are the most common form of data visualization. However, they don’t have to be dull. Esthetically appealing charts can express a point in a simple, effective manner. When making a chart, be sure to use one that clearly emphasizes your data trends the most. Use colors that clearly designate different variables and that are appealing to the eye.
Line charts work best for comparing methods or correlating trends over time. Perhaps you want to visualize the returns on three different investment portfolios over the course of five years. A line chart will paint a clear picture on how they stack up.
Pie charts are the most effective visualization tool for proportional data. Use pie charts when comparing percentages of lead sources by marketing method (i.e. social media platforms, AdWords, email campaigns etc.) or logistics spend by transportation mode (ocean, air, truck etc.).
Indicators are typically used when visualizing key performance indicators (KPIs). They provide an opportunity to get creative. Many presenters use gauge indicators to depict revenue goals. Sales KPIs are often expressed as a pipeline to show the progress and status of each opportunity.
If your data compares geographies, try to incorporate a map. Most people find maps interesting to begin with. Use different sized circles on maps to visualize customer revenue by city or responses to marketing campaigns by region.
For supply chain data, try using Sourcemap to create a picture of your global sourcing footprint, distribution locations and customer locations. Flow maps allow your audience to obtain a foundational understanding of your global business program in a matter of seconds.
Whenever you present data, make sure to include a visualization tool. It helps emphasize your point while allowing your audience to take away key insights immediately. While numbers and spreadsheets can become mundane, some creativity with visualization can make data fun!