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Telling a Good Data Story Through Visualization

Lulekwa Mcwabeni, Independent BI Consultant, PBT Group

Data visualization has been topical for some time now. In fact, based on my experience, it is still debated across many boardroom tables today, as businesses continue to try to make sense of the available data they have.

Given this, data visualization is considered a core component within the data and analytics environment because it assists data specialists to show the immediate value of data, which, of course, is a useful aspect for any business leader required to turn around accurate decisions in a timely manner.

However, all too often, data visualization is viewed as just a process of imagination, a tactic for "prettifying" data into visual elements that can be understood better. While the visual element is key, the core strategic component of data visualisation (and getting the process right to the benefit of the business) is the ability to unlock the story in the data. Otherwise, data visualization adds no real value.

As a result, analytics plays a key role within the data-visualization process and must be driven from the start of any visualization journey. Through analytics, data becomes instantly more applicable, practical, and user-friendly to support the process of identifying the story that needs to be told. In return, the ability to present the data visually then makes this more understandable to the leadership team.

This entire process takes very careful consideration, planning, and design and requires a focus on two areas: asking specific business-related questions to determine what the business wants to see through visualization and expert skills and knowledge to ensure the most appropriate visualization mechanism is used that will best tell the story to the audience.

When it comes to understanding what the business wants to see, the data-visualization process must focus on the what, when, how, and why of the data analyzed to ensure the story being told relates back to what the business needs to see through visualization. This, however, cannot be achieved without certain expertise.

However, the challenge the industry faces is that people skilled in data visualization are hard to come by, and it is for this reason, in many instances, business leaders are not seeing the value in the data-visualization process.

Read the full column here.


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