Data visualization is a general term used to describe any technology that lets corporate executives and other end users “see” data in order to help them better understand the information and put it in a business context.
Visualization tools go beyond the standard charts and graphs used in Excel spreadsheets, displaying data in more sophisticated ways such as dials and gauges, geographic maps, time-series charts, spark lines, heat maps, tree maps and detailed bar, pie and fever charts. Patterns, trends and correlations that might go undetected in text-based data can be exposed and recognized easier with data visualization software.
Visualized data is frequently displayed in business intelligence (BI) dashboards and performance scorecards that provide users with high-level views of corporate information, metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs). The images may include interactive capabilities, enabling users to manipulate them or drill into the data for querying and analysis. Indicators designed to alert users when data has been updated or predefined conditions occur, can also be included.
Most business intelligence software vendors embed data visualization tools into their products, either developing the visualization technology themselves or sourcing it from companies that specialize in visualization.