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Don't let data visualization projects get lost in complexity

In a podcast Q&A, consultant William McKnight explains why keeping things simple can help set data visualization initiatives on the path to success.

Data visualization capabilities are becoming an integral part of business success for organizations looking to fully capitalize on their investments in business intelligence and analytics technologies. In a podcast interview with SearchBusinessAnalytics, consultant William McKnight discussed key data visualization trends and offered advice for managing successful data visualization projects.

"Being simple is vital," McKnight said when speaking of potential visualization errors that can lead to end-user confusion. "With the tools today, it's easy to get carried away." He recommended that to start with, most business users looking to create data visualizations should focus on using a limited set of basic types in the right context. Oftentimes, using the wrong visualization can obscure or distort data, making it difficult for others to accurately interpret the information being visualized, said McKnight, who is president of McKnight Consulting Group in Plano, Texas.

As the shift toward self-service BI continues, McKnight's motto on involvement by IT and BI teams is "trust, but verify," to ensure that business users are using BI and data visualization software effectively. He also highlighted the importance of evaluating data quality and fixing problems before deploying visualization tools, noting that low-quality data may result in visualizations that are inaccurate or misleading.

In evaluating and selecting tools for visualizing data, McKnight stressed the importance of looking for software that users will be able to learn quickly and easily. And, he said, ease of use "is going to be different on a mobile device than when you're tethered to a desktop." That adds further considerations to keep in mind during the technology evaluation phase and after deployment if support for mobile BI applications is part of the plan.

In the podcast, moderated by SearchBusinessAnalytics Executive Editor Craig Stedman, McKnight further discussed the complexities of managing data visualization projects. Listeners will:

  • Get a head's up on some common mistakes that organizations make in data visualization programs
  • Learn about the roles of BI and IT teams and steps they can take to help increase the effectiveness of data visualizations
  • Hear about noteworthy data visualization trends and the most useful types of visualizations

Next Steps

Listen to a podcast Q&A with consultant Lee Feinberg on best practices for visualizing data

Get tips on evaluating data visualization tools and selecting ones that fit your needs

Browse our guide to managing data visualization programs to find additional insight and advice

This was first published in June 2014

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