Incorporating data visualization into business strategy

Advanced analytics may have gotten its start in science – by NASA or lab researchers, for instance – but another, unexpected industry helped bring it to the consumer level.

By now, most people are familiar with "moneyball," the term used to describe the data analysis strategy employed by the Oakland Athletics, a Major League Baseball team. Joe Ward, a New York Times graphic editor and a former associate scout for the Cleveland Indians, recently spoke at an MIT conference about how this innovative technique has now spread throughout the entire sport.

"I've done a lot of biomechanics stuff, so I was able to break the swing down to some of its biomechanics and try to impart that a little bit," Ward told Baseball Prospectus. "You don't want to tell him too much and make him think too much.Then just some simple data for these guys just sort of brings things home. 'Look, you're hitting .275. If you get one more hit a week, you'll be hitting .310.'"

Ward discussed some of the reasons data visualization has become so popular, most notably its simplicity. Because of its ability to help people understand complex matters, the technology has not only spread to other sports, but it's starting to gain traction within many industries as well.

Bringing data visualization to the enterprise
Business intelligence has been around for many years, but only recently has the technology caught the interest of decision-makers outside the world of IT. That's because new and improved solutions have made it easier for non-experts to comprehend reports.

In a recent blog post for SmartData Collective, Index Analytics CEO Raghu Akkapeddi highlighted the benefits of data visualization services with a focus on the enterprise. These strategies, he said, can "address all the data needs of the organization." This can include any number reporting – transactional and operational, for instance, or executive dashboards and KPI scorecards.

But the key to enterprise-focused data visualization, according to Akkapeddi, centers around the ability to deliver relevant information to members of every department in a timely manner.

For example, if salespeople want to find out where sales are strong for a particular product, they can leverage Twitter visualization tools, which produce real-time maps, graphs and other graphics. Meanwhile, marketers would be able to use those same tools to gather different information depending on their needs.

The first step to successful data visualization requires integrating that information into a central warehouse. While this might take some time, the potential benefits make it worth the effort.

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