Humans are naturally visual creatures, so it is no surprise that we search for better ways to portray and understand what data is telling us. Data visualization is one of the most effective ways to achieve this because it enables us to take data or ideas that are abstract and difficult to understand as written, and turn them into something easily understood in a more graphical or visual format. To learn more about data visualization and how organizations use it, see our blog post.

However, for any data visualization to be effective, it requires the right tool – which in many cases can mean a multifunctional tool that includes capacity for both visualization and analysis.

Choosing a Data Visualization Tool

When organizations run into challenges related to meaningful communication, the right data visualization tool can make all the difference. It can solve issues of miscommunication, ‘undercommunication’, or just simply bad communication. 

There are a wide range of factors that come into choosing the right data visualization tool. It is helpful to start by identifying the requirements of your business so that you can later compare these with the different capabilities of tools available in the market. Once these elements have been established, choosing the right solution for your organization can proceed more efficiently.

Data Visualization Tools: 3 General Criteria.. And Questions to Help Meet Them.

After completing an initial assessment of your goals, it can be helpful to consider the needs of your organization in the following categories.

Data requirements of your organization: Some questions you can ask to help determine your data requirements include:

  • How many sources of data do you have?
    • What is the quality of this data?
  • Do all of these sources need to be available in a single location?
  • How much transformation will the data need?
  • How large are your datasets?
  • How will data be imported into the visualization tool?
    • Are there any built-in connectors available?
    • Will it be imported raw or need to be aggregated first?
    • Where will the data live?

Communication: Data visualizations are only useful if they can reach the right people at the right time. A few questions to help find your communication requirements are:

  • How will visualizations be shared?
  • How often will they be updated and will sharing of these updates be automated?
  • Will there be a need to export data from the visualization separately?
  • Who will be the final audience for the visualizations?

Visualization capabilities: Being able to effectively and efficiently create a visualization is key. Some questions include:

  • What information will be displayed?
  • Who will be creating the visualizations? What is their skill level?
  • How much interaction and filtering is needed?
  • Should statistical features be included?

By thoroughly assessing your needs based upon the above criteria, you can help to improve the odds of acquiring the right data visualization tool for your business. Cost, of course, is an important factor to consider as part of any decision making process.

Photo source: Evan Sinar via Medium

Common Functionalities

Common functionalities found in many general data visualization software include:

  • View multiple datasets and reports within a single location
  • Real-time access and mobility
  • Display data from multiple sources within a single, customizable dashboard
  • Data transformation tasks such as: joining, pivoting, custom calculations
  • Location intelligence

There are a number of tools dedicated to data visualization alone or to a certain topic or industry. Subsequently, the volume of vendors is increasing rapidly. A few vendors on the market today are:

NameFoundedStatusNumber of Employees
Google Charts1998Public10,001+
Geckoboard2010Private11-50
FusionCharts2002Private51-200
Datawrapper2011Private2-10
Highsoft Highcharts2006Private11-50
Plotly2012Private11-50
iDashboards2004Private51-200
Zoho Reports1996Private1,001-5,000
Tableau2003Public1,001-5,000
GoodData2007Private201-500
Birst2004Private201-500

What about BI and Data Visualization?

An example BI dashboard with visualizations. Photo source: ConceptDraw

Business intelligence (BI) and data visualization have a close relationship because they both ultimately aim to help users in making more informed decisions. Subsequently, it is not uncommon to have a BI solution that includes visualization capacity. Some other reasons why data visualization and BI support each other are:

  • Improved communication of data
  • A faster and better way to identify patterns, correlations, trends
    • Leading to improved chances of early identification of new opportunities 

Some BI tools with data visualization capabilities are:

NameFoundedStatusNumber of Employees
QlikView1993Private1,001-5,000
Klipfolio2001Private51-200
Microsoft Power BI1975Public10,001+
Google Data Studio1998Public10,001+
Domo2010Private501-1,000
YellowFin2003Private51-200
BOARD1994Private201-500
Dundas BI1992Private51-200
InetSoft1996Private51-200
Looker2012Private201-500
SAS1976Public10,001+
Zebra BI2013Private2-10

Big Data Visualization

Big data is a term for data that is broad, can be structured, unstructured, or semistructured, and is generally used for analysis. For data to meet the criteria of being ‘big data’, it must meet a certain threshold in the 3 V’s: volume, velocity, variety, as defined by Gartner Chief Data Officer Doug Laney. Big data, when utilized properly, can bring a wide range of benefits to an organization, such as:

  • Cost reductions
  • Time reductions
  • New and better product offerings
Image source: Anthesis Group

In the case of big data, visualizations are particularly important because many times data can exist in forms that are difficult to understand or interpret. By having clear and accurate visualizations, stakeholders and decision makers that are presented with the data are able to make choices more quickly and effectively. Some tools for big data visualization include:

NameFoundedStatusNumber of Employees
Sisense2004Private201-500
Project Jupyter2014Nonprofit11-50
Tableau2003Public1,001-5,000
Google Chart1998Public10,001+
D3.JS2011Open source
Infogram2012Private11-50
ChartBlocks2014Private11-50
Oracle Visual Analyzer1911Public10,001+
Ember Charts2011Open source
Zoomdata2012Private51-200
Tibco Spotfire1997Private1,001-5,000

Data visualization tools demonstrate the importance of not only having data, but having data that can be understood. Subsequently, choosing the right data visualization tool for your business is a process that should include stakeholders from both business and IT in order to ensure that all needs are met.

Are you interested in exploring more articles on data, AI, and the technologies that are shaping our businesses and organizations? Be sure to check out our blog. Additionally, we’ve got an extensive list of over 3,000 AI vendors and use cases that can help you if you’re in search of AI solutions for challenges in your industry.

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