At my job, we like to present data in nice colorful charts - often through a snappy dashboard solution. Top management in today's business seems to have a certain predilection for charts and graphics. Their love for charts and graphs is so endemic that the query and OLAP tools salespeople have learned the importance of underlining the charting capabilities in the tools they are trying to sell. No such demo is complete without creating a few charts. In reality, very few reports made by query and OLAP tools actually rely on charts. Tables with data placed in rows and columns still rule. However, charts do look a lot cooler.
Diagrams and graphics are definitely useful though, and the market for specialized data visualization tools is getting more mature. Data visualization tools have been around for quite some time, especially useful in trying to understand large amounts of data and its relationships. Until only a few years ago, data visualization was often classified as a form of data mining, given its complex usage. In order to distinguish data visualization from other data mining techniques, it began to be called visual data mining. Today it is most often simply called data visualization. These days, its appeal is broadening to a wider business audience instead of a select few.
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