Even cavemen understood the value of using pictures to help tell a story. But telling the story of a woolly mammoth or saber-tooth tiger is one thing; explaining the clinical and financial insights gleaned from crunching millions of data points is another.

Or maybe not. For all the complexities of analytics programs, the goal of user-facing visualization efforts is pretty simple: Boil down the essentials into a visual display that enables executives, clinicians and other end users to quickly grasp what the data is saying, and what actions can be taken to ensure the "story" has a happy ending.

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