3 Ways to Rock Your Data Visualization (Hint: Great Collaboration Starts With Cloud File Sharing)

by Michael Fiorenza on April 14, 2016

It doesn't matter what industry you're in, the size of your organization, or even your position within the company. Everyone nowadays is dealing with data. Data is quickly becoming the most valuable of all business assets. But data in its raw format is useless, not to mention astoundingly boring for all but the geekiest of data scientists. For most, it's simply unreadable in its natural habitat. It has to be extracted, groomed, and put in a safe cage with an explanatory plaque for most people to comprehend it well enough to make smart business decisions with it. That means data visualization -- the act of presenting the results of data analysis in an easily digestible form -- is an essential skill for today's businesspeople. Here's how to do it right.

1. Cater the Data Visualization to Your Method of Distribution

As you can see, a pie chart does not showcase small differences in data sets. These are most useful when there are large differences in the data, such as the difference between Android market shares and the market shares of the other mobile devices -- Apple, Windows phone, and Blackberry.

If you are publishing your data findings in a comprehensive industry journal to be read by industry experts with a keen knowledge of your subject, you may have the liberty of droning on about the details of how you came to your conclusions. But that's a rarity. In most cases, you'll be presenting the data to a group of people who want just the facts and nothing but the facts, please, ma'am. This also goes for publishing your findings in newsletters, magazines, and other formats that are known for brevity. Construct your data visualization to cater to the people who will need the information, and present it in a format easy to digest where it will be presented.

2. Determine the Best Data Visualization Technique for the Job

It's easier for the eye to pick up on a longer set of numbers comparison when they are organized in a horizontal bar graph. Learning how data is best visualized is a deep subject, but you can become good enough to get by with just a little study and practice.

Entire books and college-level courses are taught on the subject of data visualization, so it's a bit deeper than the context of this article. However, you can be a good presenter of facts without achieving an undergrad degree in the subject. You just have to master the art of presenting data in the smartest format. For example, a pie chart shows off the stats when there are large differences in the data sets -- such as the market shares of Android versus Apple, Windows phones, Blackberry, etc. If you see such a graph, it is immediately apparent that Android holds the lion's share, while the others essentially share the remaining portion, which is just over one-half of the market. However, pie charts are much less effective for comparing stats when the numbers are closer together.

As a set of general rules:

• Lists and tables are excellent for showing off simple rankings.
• Maps are perfect for showing data that is specific to location.
• Scatter plots are ideal for showing the relationship between two numbers.
• Pie charts (and their close cousin, the donut chart) are great for showing proportions and distributions of data.
• Vertical column graphs are excellent for comparing just a handful of items.
• Horizontal column graphs are perfect for showcasing a number of items in comparison.
• Stack charts are just the thing for showing relative components as they relate to the whole.
• Grids and mosaics are ideal when showcasing images.
• Content organized into groups is perfect to show lists of properties for numerous items -- this works a lot like organizing data into subsets according to alphabetic or another type of order.

3. Make it Memorable

The final point is -- get to the point. Consider this: about 8,000 people get bitten by venomous snakes every year, but only about 5 of them actually die. That's shocking, right? Which means you'll remember it. Likely, you'll be sharing this little-known fact with your dinner companions tonight. Many presenters make the mistake of burying their lead -- hiding the most useful, interesting, and purposeful data in a bank of irrelevant and boring statistics and facts. Don't be that guy. Get to your point, and make your point one to remember. The key to good data analytics is to present it in great format so that it can be digested and utilized for the good of your organization.

Data visualization is ordinarily a team effort, or at least a team needs to be able to access the data in order to make business, operational, marketing, and other decisions based on the findings. The enterprise's most reliable and secure method is cloud file sharing. Store the data in an enterprise-grade cloud platform, like Azure, and then enable users to access the data through a secure cloud file sharing tool like FAST™. You can see how it works with this overview of CloudFAST™. This tool empowers your entire organization to store and access data securely and utilize it for data visualization and many other purposes.

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