Building Trust through Innovative Visualization of Complex Data

Who Should Read This: Anyone who uses multiple types of data to make business decisions. Anyone who has ever been overloaded with too much data. Anyone who has provided or received a suite of charts and graphs without context. Anyone who wants to understand data visualization better.

Client: Senior Director and her data reporting team charged with improving profit margins on global assets.

The Story

This story begins with a lack of trust in company data, which had grown from the way the data was being formatted and presented in charts and graphs. The data reporting team would send out carefully curated visualizations to show recipients what data had been provided, and then encourage the recipients to interpret it. Recipients of the reports would dig in to the visualizations seeking to understand them better, and occasionally they would find conflicts within the data sources. Over time, people outside the reporting team began to run their own data scenarios in parallel to the charts and graphs they were being provided. Probing questions and delays in getting answers ensued, along with debates about what the data revealed. Everyone involved was working hard, and with the best of intentions—but as questions escalated and the response times increased, it became obvious that there had to be a better way. If providing business insights through data visualization was so valuable, why was it proving to be so difficult in this case?

Faced with these challenges, the client asked Abundiant to evaluate the reporting team’s data, its work products, and its visualization software. Abundiant was asked to present recommendations and then implement the agreed-upon solution.

The Outcomes

Let start by making it clear that this client is highly sophisticated when it comes to data reporting. The team has the market’s best data visualization tools available to them. The company hires and retains extremely smart, talented people who are motivated to understand, monitor, and interpret data. Furthermore, this client understands that while data should always inform business decisions, the story that data tells can also inspire decisive action.

The fact that even this client needed time and assistance from Abundiant provides an important perspective. Presenting meaningful business insights is not easy. A lot of data is just noise. Filtering the noise out to present only the most relevant elements requires imagining and engineering data visualizations in new ways, drawing on automated calculations and dynamic data sources. It requires modeling data cleanly, with pristine discipline.

This story has a happy ending. Abundiant researched available software packages and found that what the team had was sufficient for the company’s complex needs—including dynamic geo-mapping and layering with industry-standard definitions of geological formations (as well as traditional geographic mapping). Our team then researched and refined our client’s data sources. We found ways to build links to dynamic data sources, and we worked closely with the client to group more than 40 data visualizations sequentially and logically, so that a story could emerge. As we worked with end users—the same ones who had expressed frustration earlier—we heard one word, over and over: “Wow. Wow. Wow.”

As the recipients of the reports poked and prodded and dug into the new visualizations, they found data they recognized. Believed. Embraced. And then, as their confidence in the data grew, they started showing it off! They made bold recommendations to executives several job-grades above them, confident in their presentation of the pros, cons, risks, and rewards associated with their decision scenarios. Business insights of this quality aren’t just about numbers or visualizations. They are about strategy, growth, leverage, and winning in the market. “Wow” just about sums it up.