The Brand is quicker than the Eye? Business Intelligence versus "Visual Intelligence"
The phrase “it’s a business decision” has become so common that we seldom think twice about what it really means. We take for granted that a business decision is one made with cold-blooded analytical rigor and strategic savvy. But how often is that really the case? Countless business decisions are made every day, and the unfortunate reality is that the vast majority of those decisions are made based on old or incomplete data.
And because the difference between making a good decision andmaking a bad decision is almost always the quality of information utilized; a wide range of industries is facing an“information gap.”
How can this be? Business Intelligence systems are more powerful than ever, and the quality and quantity of data being gathered by businesses and institutions is greater now than at any time in history. The answer is that visual intelligence has not kept pace with business intelligence. At a time when overwhelming amounts of data are being generated, there is a critical breakdown between compiling that information and understanding that information. If important information cannot be clearly communicated and put into actionable context for decision-makers, it is of limited value. In addition to the sheer volume of data, accessing that data in real-time is often difficult or impossible, and data is frequently stored in systemsthat fail to interact with one another, making comparisons difficult. Data overload leads to data overlooking by its intended audience.
The challenge is to convey essential data to stakeholders in real-time in a comprehensible format—sorting through the data by identifying and addressing outliers and pain points, and developing key performance indicators and consistent metrics that can be applied and communicated across the organization. How do we separate the signal from the noise, achieving clarity and context from enormous amounts of raw data?
One of the most effective ways to overcome those challenges is to transform business intelligence into visual intelligence:
The Eyes Have It
Business intelligence systems can derive a great deal of potentially helpful information from raw data using algorithms, predictive modeling, advanced statistics and analytical techniques. There are big insights to be gleaned—if you can make sense of the chaos. But creating easier cognition for end users visually, in a way that is immediately and intuitively understandable, requires something more than just a complex spreadsheet, a stack of reports or an array of PDFs: business users need a presentation that is easy to comprehend. That is where visual intelligence comes in, translating the data parsing and number crunching into accessible information.
One of the most effective visual intelligence tools is dashboards: a visual display of critical information from disparate systems brought together and displayed on a single screen—in real-time. A high quality dashboard solution makes it possible to track specific metrics, monitoring progress toward clearly defined goals or objectives. Dashboards crystallize and convey important data, presenting it to users in a manner that is accessible, intuitive and visually appealing.
In addition to the real-time nature of visual intelligence, the cross-platform interactivity yields new and enlightening conclusions. The best dashboard solutions automatically identify commonalities and shared variables to draw connections and suggest previously hidden relationships. With the visual intelligence presented through a dashboard, real-time data and critical information at your fingertips can be transformed into actionable intelligence. Essentially, this makes it possible to turn data into decisions.
"At a time when overwhelming amounts of data are being generated, there is a critical breakdown between compiling that information and understanding that information"
Best Practices Make Perfect
Leveraging a visual intelligence solution that will help your organization meet its needs (e.g. enhanced productivity or decreased customer wait times) requires an understanding of basic principles for integrating visual intelligence systems into your operation:
Prioritize simplicity and clarity
Accessibility and flexibility are critically important, and any visual intelligence platform should not only provide a seamless connection to multiple data sources, but should allow clients to visualize their data in the manner they see fit. Choose clarity over complexity.
Collaborate and engage
If you want a solution that is embraced by the end users, then involve them from the early phase of the implementation process. Avoid the silo effect, where analysts and tech-savvy users structure solutions independentof the everyday users.
Make sure IT is on board
With the right visualization tool, more employees will have access to more information, and that may require a recalibration of IT culture.
When these principles are applied, the results can be dramatic. One community mental health organization in Michigan saved 75 IT man hours every month by simply giving employees the power to run their own reports from dashboard data. A major international resort chain was able to increase photography sales and productivity by almost 200% at underperforming locations by drawing comparisons, identifying differentiators and applying best practices consistently across the organization. Large media conglomerates have used these systems to effectively refine their advertising strategies, and manufacturers have made small scheduling and logistical changes that saved upwards of $10,000 a week on expedited shipping. Hospitals and healthcare organizations use visual intelligence to track patient wait times, medical records, referrals, tests and billing. Instead of drowning in information, these organizations are surfing the wave to new heights.
The difference between business intelligence and visual intelligence is about understanding that it is not just the quality of the data, but the clarity of that data.The difference is that critical information must not only be accessible, but also comprehensible. It is about understanding that once you have all of your data in one place; it is what you do with it that matters most. How do you make that datameaningful and relevant to your decision-making? Ultimately, it is the difference between assembling a list of ingredients and preparing a 5-star meal. And, as adopters of visual intelligence are discovering, the future looks extremely appetizing.
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