Monthly Archives: March 2016


The DataBoost Nexus #4

The DataBoost Nexus #4

Data Visualization – Why is it important?

Last week we covered the definition of data visualization. According to SAS.com:

Data visualization is the presentation of data in a pictorial or graphical format.”

http://www.sas.com/en_us/insights/big-data/data-visualization.html

So why is transforming information into pictures or graphs a big deal?

The short answer is because it works.

For a longer answer, consider the pages and pages of information you look at every day to run your business. As your company grows, more and more data becomes available to feed into reports, and therefore more pages are placed on your desk.

A good data visualization solution will gather all of the pages on your desk and summarize them, and then summarize the summaries. Then it will allow you to take your newly summarized summaries and compare them to summaries from past days, or weeks, or years, on whatever subject is being summarized.

Sound confusing? Time for a familiar example.

A Familiar Example

A superb data visualization solution can be found in the dashboard of your car. Here, you’ll find a number of instruments and electronics all competing to provide you with information about what’s happening inside your automobile. And all this information about what’s happening inside your car is coming from data sources that you wouldn’t care about otherwise.

When you’re driving, you’re not interested in the number of times your wheels turn per second, and you don’t want a constant update of transmission gear ratios. But you do want to know how fast you’re going, preferable with some degree of accuracy. That’s why you have a speedometer, and a speedometer is a form of data visualization.

But your speedometer isn’t alone. Your temperature gauge, oil pressure indicator, check engine light, even your climate control readout all pull in information from multiple sources to provide you with a constant update in real time on something that matters while you’re driving.

A Business Dashboard

So, imagine a dashboard for your business. You’d have constant updates on important metrics from throughout your company, all created from multiple sources of data, and all summarized in a way that allows you to read them instantly. Like a speedometer.

As your business grows, the amount of information that needs to be processed grows along with it, and the need for a business dashboard that makes sense of all this data becomes increasingly integral to maintaining a competitive advantage.

So, the real question is: If your competitors are using data visualization solutions, can you afford not to?


The DataBoost Nexus #3

The DataBoost Nexus #3

Data Visualization – What is it?

Over the last ten years, few terms have been bandied about the tech sector as often or with as much force as “data visualization.” Anyone presently researching business intelligence will no doubt come face to face with the term on a regular basis.

Understanding data visualization is an important step in comprehending the larger landscape of business intelligence, so we think it’s important to discuss not only what data visualization actually is, but also how it plugs into the greater framework of BI.

Definitions

In 2009, Michael Friendly, a well-known contributor on the history of data visualization, defined it thus:

Information that has been abstracted in some schematic form, including attributes or variables for the units of information.”

http://www.math.yorku.ca/SCS/Gallery/milestone/milestone.pdf

Granted, this is an exceedingly academic definition, but the elements that explain what data visualization are all here. This is Friendly’s definition in plain English:

Information that has been transformed into graphs, pictures, or other easily readable forms.”

This definition is echoed on Techtarget.com:

Data visualization is a general term that describes any effort to help people understand the significance of data by placing it in a visual context.”

http://searchbusinessanalytics.techtarget.com/definition/data-visualization

And SAS.com shares the most succinct definition so far:

Data visualization is the presentation of data in a pictorial or graphical format.”

http://www.sas.com/en_us/insights/big-data/data-visualization.html

An Example of Data Visualization

In short, data visualization is nothing more than the use of graphical representations of information that are more easily processed by the eye and the mind, allowing an individual or a group to more readily absorb and react to that information.

A simple example of data visualization would be the bar graph in Microsoft Excel. Anyone familiar with excel knows how easy it is to transform a string of raw sales numbers into a series of colored bars that allow a reader to instantly see an increase or decrease in sales over time. While today’s data visualization solutions are far more sophisticated than the Excel bar graph, the function is identical.

Now that you know what data visualization is, placing it squarely into the broader context of business intelligence is the next step. Join us next week to see what we mean.


The DataBoost Nexus #2

The DataBoost Nexus #2

Defining Business Intelligence

Understanding what business intelligence can do for your organization requires first understanding how it is defined.

To put it bluntly, there are a great many people inside and outside the tech industry with wrong-headed ideas about what business intelligence means. Before you can appreciate the importance of BI or recognize how BI application s are changing the face of commerce, you need to be sure you have the correct definition in mind.

TechTarget.com defines business intelligence as:

A technology-driven process for analyzing data and presenting actionable information to help corporate executives, business managers and other end users make more informed business decisions.”

http://searchdatamanagement.techtarget.com/definition/business-intelligence

It’s sort of accurate, but it’s nebulous. What qualifies as “actionable information”? Who are these “other end users” that might be utilizing the application? I think we can find a better definition.

CIO.com defines business intelligence as:

An umbrella term that refers to a variety of software applications used to analyze an organization’s raw data.”
http://www.cio.com/article/2439504/business-intelligence/business-intelligence-definition-and-solutions.html

This is a correct definition, if a bit uninspired. BI is certainly an umbrella term, but that’s the problem. A single, unifying definition of BI would cure much confusion. Also, there’s more to BI than just software, so this definition is lacking.

Forrester Research defines business intelligence as:

A set of methodologies, processes, architectures, and technologies that transform raw data into meaningful and useful information.”

https://www.forrester.com/report/Topic+Overview+Business+Intelligence/-/E-RES39218

Bingo! As is so often the case, Forrester Research nails it.

Business Intelligence is more than just software; it is a combination of disciplines that come together to improve efficiency and accuracy of data output organization wide. BI is not limited to keyboards and command lines; it is a complete business philosophy on how to best move and manage information.

Now that we understand what BI means – what it REALLY means – we can talk more about how implementing it properly can help organizations like yours.


The DataBoost Nexus

The DataBoost Nexus

In this first issue of our weekly Nexus post we’d like to take a moment to give our readers a breakdown of what they can expect to find here in the future.

Our Purpose

DataBoost is committed to providing real-world knowledge of how data visualization and business intelligence are changing the way companies operate not only around the world but right here in the California Central Valley.

This blog will be a permanent and ongoing source of information for companies in the area who want to understand how these disciplines are changing the rules of commerce and how they can be harnessed to improve business performance across a broad range of industries.

Going Forward

Here’s what you can expect to find in future issues of the Nexus:

NEWS AND FORECASTS relating to business intelligence, data visualization, custom software solutions, and software-as-a-service models

STRATEGIC ANALYSIS of commonly implemented business intelligence and data visualization tools and how they produce greater efficiency

EXAMPLES AND MODELS of how successfully implemented business intelligence and data visualization tools have solved problems shared by many organizations

PRACTICAL ADVICE on how business intelligence and data visualization solutions can be implemented to improve performance for your organization

EDUCATIONAL REFERENCES AND RESOURCES to help expand your knowledge and understanding of the business intelligence and data visualization disciplines

CURRENT TRENDS that affect business intelligence, data visualization and all related industries

Over time, our hope is that you will become an expert in business intelligence and data visualization, ensuring that you are able to join the growing number of successful operations that utilize these tools effectively.

– The DataBoost Team