Going From Big Data to Beautiful Data

I think big data is boring. One future certainty that we will all see is the continued explosion of data in our business. Not just in our industry, but in so many other industries, from healthcare to entertainment to sports and more. Data, and the intelligent application of it, will continue to dominate the discourse for some time to come.

There’s so much data out there, that agencies and advertisers alike are trying desperately to figure out what to do with it. Check out the below Google trend for the worldwide usage of the keyword “big data.”

There is absolutely a trend right now in what I call making big data beautiful. Whether you call it BI (business intelligence), digital intelligence, visual analytics, dashboarding, or another term, it all comes down to making your data more pretty. There is an unsatiated need to make data easy to use, easy to understand, and simply fun to interact with. Tableau Software, one of the leading companies in this space, calls it “storytelling on the web.” Below is a sample from its visual gallery online.

The use of data visualization techniques is enabling businesses to better understand data and use it to achieve strategic objectives. These visualizations can come in the form of charts, maps, and really any kind of graphical representation you can conjure up. A 2011 report from TDWI Research titled “Visual Reporting and Analysis – Seeing is Knowing” stated that 74 percent of its survey respondents credit data visualization for a “very high” or “high” increase in business user insights. The use of graphical representations of data communicate patterns, trends, and outliers far more quickly than tables of numbers and text. With visualization, users can spot issues and problems needing attention at a glance and take appropriate action. However, the research from TDWI pointed out that 65 percent of respondents still spent their time analyzing data in tables and text!

Beyond just improving insights, data visualization also accelerates user productivity. More than two-thirds (67 percent) of the survey respondents felt that data visualization had a “very high” influence on productivity. Users can more easily identify relevant patterns and trends that might take hours or even days with the traditional tabular-based reports.

Forrester has a good six-layer model on how it describes the process of digital intelligence:

1. Digital data inputs – incorporating data from all digital marketing touchpoints

2. Business data inputs – putting digital marketing data into context with data from the business

3. Data processing – collecting, integrating, and managing data with a high degree of speed and granularity

4. Data warehouse – storing digital data to make it available for analysis and execution

5. Analysis – analytics activities spanning dashboards and reports to data mining and forecasting

6. Action – making analytical data and insights directly available to the applications that drive interactions

As it relates to our space in the digital media, marketing, and advertising communities, we are constantly challenged with how we utilize data to benefit our clients and their business. Ensuring that we identify the right “inputs” (1 and 2), then properly processing and storing this data (3  and 4), to visualizing the data, which then allows us to thoroughly analyze it (5), to finally coming up with a set of actions we can take to drive change (6), will be how we lead our clients forward from here.

And I want to highlight the visualization aspect of the data as a critical point for us. Again, I believe the future is in the beautification of data more than the size of the data (i.e., big data).

Image from home page via Shutterstock

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