Data, Story and Eye Candy.

Data Visualization has at least 3 parts: largest will be a Data, the most important part will be a Story behind those Data and a View (or Visualization) is just an Eye Candy on top of it. However only a View allows users to interact, explore, analyze and drilldown those Data and discover the Actionable Info, which is why Data Visualization (DV) is such a Value for business user in the Big (and even in midsized) Data Universe.

Productivity Gain.

One rarely covered aspect of advanced DV usage is a huge a productivity gain for application developer(s). I recently had an opportunity to estimate a time needed to develop an interactive DV reporting application in  2 different groups of DV & BI environments

Samples of Traditional and Popular BI Platforms.

  1. Open Source toolsets like Jaspersoft 4/ Infobright 4/ MySQL (5.6.3)
  2. MS BI Stack (Visual Studio/C#/.NET/DevExpress/SQL Server 2012)
  3. Tried and True BI like Microstrategy (9.X without Visual Insight)

Samples of Advanced DV tools, ready to be used for prototyping

  1. Spotfire (4.0)
  2. Tableau (6.1 or 7.0)
  3. Qlikview (11.0)

Results proved a productivity gain I observed for many years now: first 3 BI environments need month or more to complete and last 3 DV toolsets required about a day to complete entire application. The same observation done by … Microstrategy when they added Visual Insight (in attempt to compete with leaders like Qlikview, Tableau, Spotfire and Omniscope) to their portfolio (see below slide from Microstrategy presentation earlier this year, this slide did not count time to prepare the data and assume they are ready to upload):

I used this productivity gain for many years not only for DV production but for Requirement gathering, functional Specifications and mostly importantly for a quick Prototyping. Many years ago I used Visio for interactions with clients and collecting business requirements, see the Visio-produced slide below as an approximate example:

DV is the best prototyping approach for traditional BI

This leads me to a surprising point: modern DV tools can save a lot of development time in traditional BI environment as … a prototyping and requirement gathering tool. My recent experience is that you can go to development team which is completely committed for historical or other reasons to a traditional BI environment (Oracle OBIEE, IBM Cognos, SAP Business Objects, SAS, Microstrategy etc.) and prototype for such team dozens and hundreds new (or modify existing) reports in a few days or weeks and give it to the team to port it to their traditional environment.

These DV-based prototypes have completely different behavior from previous generation of (mostly MS-Word and PowerPoint based) BRD (Business Requirement Documents), Functional Specification, Design Documents and Visio-based application Mockups and prototypes: they are living interactive applications with real-time data updates, functionality refreshes in a few hours (in most cases at the same day as new request or requirement is collected) and readiness to be deployed into production anytime!

However, my estimate that 9 out of 10 such BI teams, even they will be impressed by prototyping capabilities of DV tools (and some will use them for prototyping!), will stay with their environment for many years due political (can you say job security) or other (strange to me) reasons, but 1 out of 10 teams will seriously consider to switch to Qlikview/Tableau/Spotfire. I see this as a huge marketing opportunity for DV vendors, but I am not sure that they know how to handle such situation…

Example: using Tableau for Storytelling: