“If communication is more art than science, then it’s more sculpture than painting. While you’re adding to build your picture in painting, you’re chipping away at sculpting. And when you’re deciding on the insights to use, you’re chipping away everything you have to reveal the core key insights that will best achieve your purpose,” according to Craig Smith, McKinsey & Company’s client communication expert.
The same principle applies in the context of data visualization. Chipping away is important to not overdress data with complicated graphs, special effects, and excess colors. Data presentations with too many elements can confuse and overwhelm the audience.
Keep in mind that data must convey information. Allow data visualization elements to communicate and not to serve as a decoration. The simpler it is, the more accessible and understandable it is. “Less is more” as long as the visuals still convey the intended message.
Finding the parallel processes of exploratory and explanatory data visualization and the practice of sculpting could help improve how data visualization is done. How can chipping away truly add more clarity to data visualization?
Exploratory Visualization: Adding Lumps of Clay
Exploratory visualization is the phase where you are trying to understand the data yourself before deciding what interesting insights it might hold in its depths. You can hunt and polish these insights in the later stage before presenting them to your audience.
In this stage, you might end up creating maybe a hundred charts. You may create some of them to get a better sense of the statistical description of the data: means, medians, maximum and minimum values, and many more.
You can also recognize in exploratory if there are any interesting outliers and experience a few things to test relationships between different values. Out of the 100 hypotheses that you visually analyze to figure your way through the data in your hands, you may end up settling on two of them to work on and present to your audience.
In the parallel world of sculpting, artists do a similar thing. They start with an armature-like raw data in designing. Then, they continue to add up lumps of clay on it in exploratory visualizations.
Artists know for sure that a lot of this clay will end up out of the final sculpture. But they are aware that this accumulation of material is essential because it starts giving them a sense of ideal materialization. Also, adding enough material will ensure that they have plenty to work with when they begin shaping up their work.
In the exploratory stage, approaching data visualization as a form of sculpting may remind us to resist two common and fatal urges:
The urge to rush into the explanatory stage – Heading to the chipping away stage too early will lead to flawed results.
The urge to show all of what has been done in the exploratory stage to the audience, begrudging all the effort that we have put into it – When you feel that urge, remember that you don’t want to show your audience that big lump of clay; you want to show a beautified result.
Explanatory Visualization: Chipping Away the Unnecessary
Explanatory visualization is where you settle on the worth-reporting insights. You start polishing the visualizations to do what they are supposed to do, which is explaining or conveying the meaning at a glance.
The main goal of this stage is to ensure that there are no distractions in your visualization. Also, this stage makes sure that there are no unnecessary lumps of clay that hide the intended meaning or the envisioned shape.
In the explanatory stage, sculptors use various tools. But what they aim for is the same. They first begin furtherly shaping the basic form by taking away large amounts of material. It is to ensure they are on track. Then, they move to finer forming using more precise tools to carve in the shape features and others to add texture. The main question driving this stage for sculptors is, what uncovers the envisioned shape underneath?
In data visualization, you can try taking out each element in your visualization like titles, legends, labels, colors, and so on. Then, ask yourself the same question each time, does the visualization still convey its meaning?
If yes, keep that element out. If not, try to figure out what is missing and think of less distracting alternatives, if any. For example, do you have multiple categories that you need to name? Try using labels attached to data points instead of separate legends.
There are a lot of things that you can always take away to make your visualization less distracting and more oriented towards your goal. But to make the chipping away stage simpler, C there are five main things to consider according to Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic as cited in her well-known book, Storytelling with Data:
De-emphasize the chart title; to not drive more attention than it deserves
Remove chart border and gridlines
Send the x- and y-axis lines and labels to the background (Plus tip from me: Also consider completely taking them out)
Remove the variance in colors between the various data points
Label the data points directly
In the explanatory stage, approaching data visualization as a form of sculpting may remind us of how vital it is to keep chipping away the unnecessary parts to uncover what’s beneath, that what you intend to convey is not perfectly visible until you shape it up.
Overall, approaching data visualization as a form of sculpting may remind us of the true sole purpose of the practice and crystalize design in the best possible form.
Sign up for The KPI Institute’s Certified Data Visualization Professional course to learn the fundamentals of creating visual representations, the most effective layouts, channel selection, and reporting best practices.
Big data is a major asset for businesses that can access its insights. Making this happen, though, is a complicated job that needs the right tools. Enter data enrichment.
Understanding how it works and its impact on current industries is a great way to get to know what data enrichment can do for your organization. How it benefits the use of big data will become clearer, too.
What Is Data Enrichment?
Data enrichment is the process of identifying and adding information from different datasets, open or closed, to your primary data. Sources can be anything from a third-party database to online magazines or a social network’s records.
People and organizations use data enrichment to gather legitimate intel on specific things, like a customer, product, or list of competitors. And they can start with just their names or email addresses.
As a result, the original data becomes richer in information and more useful. You can find education trends, profitable news, evidence of fraud, or just a deeper understanding of users. This helps improve your conversion rate, customer relations, cybersecurity, and more.
The most popular method of making all this a reality is specialized software. Their algorithms vary in strengths and weaknesses, as SEON’s review of data enrichment tools shows. They can target human resources, underwriting, fraud, criminal investigations, and more. However, the goal is the same: to support the way we work and give us better insights.
Data Enrichment and Big Data: What Statistics Say
Data enrichment is a good answer to the problem of big data, which often sees masses of disorganized and sometimes inaccurate information that often needs cleaning, maintenance, and coordination.
Creating a data-driven culture within organizations
Despite the benefits of smart data management and major investments already in place, only 24% of firms have become data-driven, down from 37.8%. Also, only 29.2% of transformed businesses are reaching set outcomes.
What this shows is that, yes, big data is difficult to deal with but not impossible. It takes good planning and dedication to get it right.
Also, the four biggest benefits of data analytics are:
More effective research and development
Better products and services
These achievements are taken further with data enrichment, which adds value to a company’s datasets, not just more information to help with decision-making.
How Does Data Enrichment Help Different Industries?
The positive impact of constructively managing data is clear in existing fields that thrive because of data enrichment and other techniques. Here are some examples.
Data enrichment helps businesses avoid falling victim to fraudsters. It does this by gathering and presenting to fraud analysts plenty of information to identify genuine people and transactions.
For example, you can build a clear picture of a potential customer or partner based on information linked to their email address and phone number. Do they have any social media profiles? Are they registered on a paid or free domain? Have they been involved in data leaks in previous years? How old are those?
It’s then easier to make informed decisions because we know much more about how legitimate a user looks.
Banking services, from J.P. Morgan to PayPal, benefit from such intensive data analytics, as do brands in the fields of ecommerce, fintech, payments, online gaming, and more.
But so do online communities, where people create profiles and interact with others. For example, fake accounts are always a problem on LinkedIn, mainly countered through careful tracking of user activity. Data enrichment can help weed out suspicious users in such communities, keeping everyone else safe.
Data enrichment in marketing tracks people’s activities and preferences through cookies, subscription forms, and other sources. To be exact, V12’s report on data-driven marketing reveals Adobe’s survey findings regarding what data is most valuable to marketers.
48% prefer CRM data
40% real-time data from analytics
38% analytics data from integrated channels
Companies collect this data and enrich it to create a more personalized experience for customers in terms of interactions, discounts, ads, etc. Additionally, brands can produce services and products tailored to people’s tastes.
The more information your human resources department has, the better it’s able to recruit and deal with staff members. Data enrichment is a great way to build strong teams and keep them happy.
Starting from the hiring stage, data enrichment can use applicants’ primary data, available on their CVs, and grab additional details from other sources. Apart from filling in any blanks, you can flag suspicious applicants for further investigation or outright rejection.
As for team management, data enrichment can give you an idea of people’s performance, strengths, weaknesses, hobbies, and more. You can then help them improve or organize an event everyone will enjoy.
As we saw in these examples, data enrichment already contributes to the corporate world in different ways, both subtle and grand.
With the right knowledge and tools, we can tap into this wealth of information even further, allowing it to make a real difference in how we work and what we know, rather than simply amassing amorphous and vast amounts of data.
About the Author
Gergo Varga has been fighting online fraud since 2009 at various companies – even co-founding his own anti-fraud startup. He’s the author of the Fraud Prevention Guide for Dummies – SEON Special edition. He currently works as the Senior Content Manager / Evangelist at SEON, using his industry knowledge to keep marketing sharp and communicating between the different departments to understand what’s happening on the frontlines of fraud detection. He lives in Budapest, Hungary, and is an avid reader of philosophy and history.
You’ve probably heard tech buzzwords like “data-driven decision making”, “advanced analytics”, “artificial intelligence (AI)”, and so on. The similarity between those terms is that they all require data. There is a famous quote in the computer science field — “garbage in, garbage out” — and it is a wonderful example of how poor data leads to bad results, which leads to terrible insight and disastrous judgments. Now, what good is advanced technology if we can’t put it to use?
The problem is clear: organizations need to have a good data management system in place to ensure they have relevant and reliable data. Data management is defined as “the process of collecting, storing, and utilizing data in a safe, efficient, and cost-effective manner”. If the scale of your organization is large, it is very reasonable to employ a holistic platform such as an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system.
On the other hand, if your organization is still in its mid to early stages, it is likely that you cannot afford to employ ERP yet. However, this does not mean that your organization does not need data management. Data management with limited resources is still possible as long as the essential notion of effective data management is implemented.
Here are the four fundamental tips to start data management:
Develop a clear data storage system
Data collection, storage, and retrieval are the fundamental components of a data storage system. You can start small by developing a simple data storage system. Use cloud-based file storage, for example, to begin centralizing your data. Organize the data by naming folders and files in a systematic manner; this will allow you to access your data more easily whenever you need it.
Protect data security and set access control
Data is one of the most valuable assets in any organization. Choose a safe, reliable, and trustworthy location (if physical) or service provider (if cloud-based). Make sure that only the individuals you approve have access to your data. This may be accomplished by adjusting file permissions and separating user access rights.
Schedule a routine data backup procedure
Although this procedure is essential, many businesses still fail to back up their data on a regular basis. By doing regular backups, you can protect your organization against unwanted circumstances such as disasters, outages, and so forth. Make sure that your backup location is independent of your primary data storage location. It could be a different service provider or location, as long as the new backup storage is also secure.
Understand your data and make it simple
First, you must identify what data your organization requires to meet its objectives. The specifications may then be derived from the objectives. For example, if you are aiming to develop an employee retention program, then you will need data on employee turnover to make your data more focused and organized. Remove any data that is irrelevant to the objectives of your organization, including redundant or duplicate data.
Data management has become a necessity in today’s data-driven era. No matter what size and type of your organization, you should start doing it now. Good data management is still achievable, even with limited resources. The tips presented are useful only as a starting point for your data management journey.
We deal with data every day, especially at work. It can fuel our decisions and change the way we work. At the same time, if we’re surrounded by a huge amount of data, we may not find it easy to arrive at an optimal decision. This is where data visualization comes in.
Data visualization refers to the graphical representation of the data. It makes large amounts of information easier to understand and helps identify patterns and trends. People can easily comprehend information and make conclusions through data visualization.
“Graphical excellence is that which gives to the viewer the greatest number of ideas in the shortest time with the least ink in the smallest space,” wrote American statistician Edward R. Tuffe, author of the book “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information.”
Understanding how to approach data visualization allows people to equip themselves with the right tools, approach, and strategies as they gather data and present them visually. This is important to businesses who want to understand consumer behavior patterns or governments seeking data-backed insights on a crisis.
Data visualization may be considered a science because it is a process and represents data methodically and accurately. Data visualization begins with volumes of information, undergoes an intensive cleaning, classification, statistical and mathematical modeling, analysis, and design process, and ends with a visualization.
On the other hand, many argue that data visualization is a language because it uses diagrams to convey meaning. Data is encoded into symbology and semiology. The syntax and conventions of these diagrams are not inherent and must be learned.
Data visualization helps to communicate analytics results in pictures. In simple words, data visualization is the language of images. That is on par with the language of words both written and spoken and with the language of numbers and statistics.
Merging science and language
Science and language do not have to invalidate each other. Their elements can go hand in hand in data visualization.
In data visualization, the challenge is how to make more people take interest in scientifically processed data. Presenting appropriate and relevant information in an engaging format through design is what makes data visualization successful. Science processes and provides information based on certain objectives while design is a form of communication shaped by visual elements.
Combined, scientific data and design can generate meaning out of raw data. The end result of data visualization is almost always a story. In storytelling, the plot (design) won’t be able to progress without the characters (scientific data) and vice versa.
Ensuring that graphs and charts present meaningful results is important now more than ever. In MicroStrategy’s “2018 Global State of Enterprise Analytics,” 63% of data-driven organizations said that implementing analytics initiatives led to high efficiency and productivity while 57% said they became more effective in decision making.
With this, the challenge for organizations is to know how to structure, format, and present their graphical data that will allow them to make faster business decisions. Sign up for The KPI Institute’s Certified Data Visualization Professional course to learn the fundamentals of creating visual representations, the most effective layouts, channel selection, and reporting best practices.