Stop flying blind: how world-class data visualisation can drive unprecedented business results
At Elula we are passionate about artificial intelligence (AI) revolutionising how businesses operate. However, in the journey to embedding AI in an organisation, it is easy to underestimate the importance and business impact of effective data visualisation. When executed well, data visualisation empowers business leaders to more fully understand their business, make better commercial decisions, and drive action. World-class data visualisation can drive game-changing business outcomes, including substantial revenue uplift, cost reduction, risk mitigation and enhanced customer experiences.
Most traditional reports lack actionable insights
Many organisations—large and small—remain mired in basic spreadsheet-based reporting. It’s not uncommon for analytics teams to spend three weeks or more in a month manually preparing reports. There is frequently substantial overlap between reports, and it can be difficult and time-consuming for business leaders to interpret them. The reports typically contain static historical information. They are backwards-looking and because of the lag time in producing them are “yesterday’s news.” Often reports that are emailed to business leaders are not read. We routinely hear from business leaders in all sectors that they are “flying blind.”
How to get started with game-changing data visualisation
Many organisations have a desire to move away from spreadsheet-based reporting, but are unsure how to move forward. There are a number of tools on the market to transition away from spreadsheets. In our view Tableau is hands down the best data visualisation product and it’s what we exclusively use. However, what is most important is approach and mindset. Below are seven core data visualisation principles that we have developed working with businesses to drive actionable insights, unprecedented results, and adoption.
1 Focus on key business priorities
First and foremost concentrate on what leaders need to run their business, not secondary priorities. This is deceptively simple—typically every conceivable metric is stuffed into a report. Each business has unique challenges and goals, and these priorities should always be kept front of mind. Start by reflecting on the key challenges and the most important business outcomes that your business wants to drive, such as revenue uplift by customer segment, targeted cost reduction, or risk mitigation. Avoid the temptation to boil the ocean with endless secondary business priorities.
2 Drive commercial value
Once you have selected your key business priorities, the dashboards must highlight and drive improvements related to those priorities. If there is extraneous information that is unrelated to driving commercial value, it should be cut. For example, on a sales pipeline dashboard rather than only indicating headline conversion rates, highlight which deals are stuck and how they should be actioned to drive incremental revenue (see case study 1).
3 Enable action
Most dashboards and reports simply don’t have actionable insights. Effective dashboards empower leaders to make better, data driven decisions and drive action. When designing and building a dashboard, we always ask “can a business leader make a clear decision?” We rethink our approach if the answer is no. For example, if a dashboard has an operations focus, the best and worst performers over time could be highlighted so that leaders can coach poor performers or learn potential process improvements from top performers (see case study 2).
4 Drill-down and roll-up
One advantage of tools such as Tableau is that they can enable interactive, dynamic views. The most impactful dashboards include both a senior executive view of performance, as well as the ability to drill down into the data, and then roll back up again. This enables deeper business insights and understanding of performance, and therefore the ability to take action at a granular level.
5 Embrace a clean, minimalist design
Just as it is challenging to solely focus on key business priorities, it is tempting for leaders to request that a lot of charts, tables and data be stuffed into a dashboard. Try to resist that temptation. Instead embrace a “less is more” approach to ensure leaders aren’t overwhelmed by data. Bear in mind that the purpose of any data visualisation is to focus and drive actionable insights and commercial value, not distract with passing curiosities.
6 Only include intuitive visualisations
A fundamental principle we have always held is that if a data visualisation cannot be understood by someone without any context within five seconds, it doesn’t work and we start over. World-class data visualisation designers consider every dashboard design detail so that they are easy to interpret and use. For example, every colour should be carefully selected so that the dashboards intuitively highlight where action should be taken without any ambiguity.
7 Embed adoption
Even if all the above principles are followed, dashboards can still be a failure if they’re not used. We always partner closely with leaders to fully understand how they will actually use the dashboards on a day-to-day basis. We closely track usage data and reiterate based on feedback and learnings. Championing a genuinely data-driven culture within an organisation is challenging. However, perseverance will pay substantial dividends and can drive game-changing outcomes for your business.
More Case Studies