Insights Blog

The power of data visualization

17 Jun 2019 | Share

Data analysis lets you assemble, order and interpret data. But it’s also about educating, simplifying, clarifying and persuading.

In the hands of skilled analysts, data can:

  • make a powerful impression
  • change opinions
  • instill values
  • translate experiences
  • influence society, and
  • inform human behavior

Data analysis and visualization isn’t only about reporting change – it can bring about change.

Change through data

‘Press freedom is at risk in different countries, and we need to act to prevent the situation from getting worse.’ Sounds plausible, but does data support this?

This analysis and visualization by Marc Soares investigated press freedom for ten different countries and provides commentary about each of them. The higher the score, the more limited press freedom is. The audience not only gets context but also a clear visual of the countries most at risk.

Change through data

While this visualization doesn’t tell you what needs to be done, when and by whom, it delivers a clear picture of the situation. Its modular structure makes comparison easy, and graphs are bolstered by additional background information.

Data visualization in itself usually isn’t the end goal – it’s about initiating discussions, debate and ‘next steps’.

Up close and personal with data

Data isn’t limited to businesses, KPIs and corporate decision-making processes. Data can be very personal.

Climate change is the topic everyone is – and should be – talking about. Data enables analysts and advocates for change to make causes visible, factual and persuasive.

Food is something we take for granted. This visualization by Sarah Bartlett shows how much less efficient the ‘per gram of protein’ land use is when comparing beef or mutton with other foods, particularly grains and pulses.

For some, visualizations like this are enough to start reconsidering their food choices. To start a conversation, you might only need a convincing and fact-based data story. The more curious members of your audience will then seek more information.

The important thing is that after the initial information has been shared, you also have additional resources and insights available for those who need them to follow-through with the change they want to make.

Don’t provide your audience with the core facts however tempting. Tease the depth of the topic, and let them explore the issue in more detail.

Let data be the change

The non-profit sector has started to benefit from data and analytics in recent years. This is also supported by corporate philanthropy projects. The missions of these organizations are often backed by software grants, free training and consulting.

The organisation ‘Operation Fistula’, a non-profit focused on maternal health, stands out. Operation Fistula’s mission is to end female obstetric fistula everywhere by 2045.

But how does data come into the equation? The team at Operation Fistula recognized that funding wasn’t reaching those who needed it or the surgeons doing the work. These two factors played a big role in the lack of treatment for disadvantaged women in developing countries.

Operation Fistula turned the traditional funding model on its head. Data was provided by surgeons as evidence of quality care in return for grants. Money now goes directly to the doctors doing the work.

Data is critical to the success of Operation Fistula, both long term to accomplish their mission, as well as short term to secure funding and allocate grants.

Data lets the team share insights about this debilitating condition through data visualizations, highlighting facts and increasing awareness.

Data influence

Data analysis and visualization can change the future, and influence the way we think and act as individuals and sometimes even as a society.

Data visualizations stimulate discussions, support your argument or change the lives of thousands.

And they can help you to take a big step forward.

Eva Murray

Meet Eva Murray

As Exasol’s Head of Business Intelligence and Tableau Evangelist, Eva is responsible for executing Exasol’s data-driven strategy and developing our Center of Excellence. She is highly passionate about bringing data to more people and creating educational content and collaboration opportunities for data analysts across the world to create a community of like-minded professionals who drive action and change.

After studying psychology and business at the University of Wellington, New Zealand, Eva worked as an IT Consultant for Deloitte before moving to Sydney, Australia, as a Senior Solution Designer for Commonwealth Bank. Subsequently, she became a Tableau Consultant and Trainer for Tridant.

Outside of work, she is a keen triathlete, traveler and gelato addict, for which Nuremberg is the perfect environment.

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