The Business Shift to Big Data
If you’ve been keeping current with the latest business industry practices the last decade, you’ve probably seen that many significant company decisions today affecting time, money, and outcome are no longer made based solely on executive counsel, trends, or even past experiences, but they’re now made based on pure data that the company has obtained. Successful enterprises like Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and many others operate this way; wholly dependent on the solid data gathered to fuel their businesses. This is no surprise and makes perfect business sense, but raw data alone, however, is not enough to grant the insights desired to know what the business needs. It takes time to connect the dots to the bigger business picture and then present it in a way that everyone understands. This comes from the power of data visualization.
Welcome to the World of Data Visualization
According to information technology author, Stephen Few, data visualization is the graphical display of abstract information for two purposes: sense-making (also called data analysis) and communication. Important stories live in our data and data visualization is a powerful means to discover and understand these stories, and then to present them to others.1
Take a look at the visual comparison below between a table of survey data about the dream company workers dream of working for and it’s data visualization equivalent taken from the “Storytelling with Data” blog2:
From the example above, we can see that data visualization can help viewers understand the raw data better, faster, and easier. When this happens, it allows them to potentially ask better questions about the data and make better decisions based on it.
Interacting with Big Data
While there has always been basic data visualization tools used in business, the biggest difference today is that companies can now live stream and interact with their data digitally. Author Phil Simon of the book, “The Visual Organization: Data Visualization, Big Data, and the Quest for Better Decisions”, says that at the most advanced companies, “you’ll see that employees are doing a great deal more than creating simple graphs, bar charts, and pivot tables. Employees here are interacting with their data, and learning new things about their businesses in the process.”3
This is a very powerful shift in business because it allows companies to make decisions that let them discover and learn new things about their business in real time much faster4. And with the latest ability to interact with the data, businesses are no longer just passively viewing it, but letting their people experience it.
Experiencing Data Visualization in Big Ways
The days of displaying big data and their visualizations on a piece of paper are starting to fade. Besides being shown at a usual keynote presentation, there is a growing interest among companies to bodly display data visualizations in their corporate lobbies, dedicated mission control-type meeting rooms, executive briefing centers or customer experience centers, and special museum-like exhibits.
Experiential designers understand that when data visualizations (not just raw data) are presented in a larger-than-life fashion on video walls or digital signage and/or are allowed to be interacted with (input, altered, or shared), intended audiences can begin to experience the data rather than just passively view it.
Examples of Experiential Data Visualization
As an experiential design agency, we’ve developed and designed data visualizations for large scale viewing for some of the world’s top companies. Here are two examples:
Cisco Executive Briefing Center in Silicon Valley
Cisco tasked us to conceive a digital interactive experience for them to present the $19 trillion of opportunities becoming available in the next decade by the Internet of Everything (IoE now IoT). Array tapped into thousands of data points, facts, and figures to create compelling, on-demand data visualizations for 21 selectable countries that was then exhibited on a massive 3×2 video wall with a touch interactive podium in front of it and 2 interactive touch displays adjacent on either side.
The data and data visualizations were designed to be interacted with by touching or swiping key visuals on the screens or inputting data to see different data results. Users could also send themselves information that they wanted to keep or solutions that Cisco had to offer. It was clear that Cisco wanted more than a data visualization exercise, they wanted an experience designed to drive home a message of opportunities and we delivered.
View the Cisco IoE Data Visualization experience here: https://youtu.be/DIbXlEj7wBU
ABC Energy* is a utilities company based in California. ABC Energy had a trading floor and used an elaborate set of desktop displays to present raw, standard data tables. The company’s traders would rely on these smaller format displays and the real-time data they served to inform and make strategic trading decisions. Two challenges were evident:
- Data visualizations were not visually intuitive and often contained data not relevant to core decision making
- Critical content was not within easy viewing distance given the proximity of the displays to the trading staff
The primary focus for Array was to revitalize the trading floor experience by creating a more intuitive, visually-friendly set of data visualization designs customized for a 10×2 video wall. Our experiential design team created sleek energy data visualizations (tables, charts, and graphs) to achieve the objectives. Real-time data was placed atop subtle animations that reflected ABC’s different energy assets. While each animation was designed to be beautiful, dramatic, and mesmerizing to look at, their inclusion was purposeful: to create a pleasing backdrop for data that was viewed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Working in parallel with the creative team, our developers tied the front-end, HTML-based applications to secure energy data sources, dynamically populating the various visualizations. Now empowered, traders no longer wrestle cognitively with data, but enjoy a visual and experiential solution that increases the speed and accuracy of the decision-making process.
*This is a fictitious name used to protect the identity of our client
Big data and data visualizations are here to stay. It’s now a crucial part of advanced companies’ learning and decision making processes and when designed to be displayed in big and bold ways in public or private spaces, it lets intended audiences understand and experience the data and not just view it.
It’s also a crucial part of experiential design and at Array, we believe that beautifully designed data visualizations and emerging technology can help companies bring real data to be experienced in real life, in real time.
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