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Web-Based Visualization

  • June 01 2001, 1:00am EDT

Industry experts believe that a picture is worth a million records. For decision-makers in information-hungry corporations, Web-based visualization tools can provide a snapshot of business reality so key decision-makers can quickly turn insight into action. Better, faster decisions can provide companies with a significant advantage in a competitive, evolving marketplace.

Companies are experiencing data overload from daily interactions with customers, partners and vendors. Visualization tools are offering decision-makers new ways to slice and dice terabytes of corporate data. New visualization techniques, ranging from 3D visualization methods to real-time Web-based graphics, are providing decision-makers with the rapid access to mission-critical business information to better understand the past, react to the present and anticipate the future.

Corporate intranets are becoming the information portals for decision-makers who can access, analyze and visualize analytical information and share it with others instantly. Desktop delivery of analyses to key decision-makers cuts time to insight ­ and action ­ helping companies beat the competition to market, predict future business trends and reduce risk.

Traditional Reporting Tools

Historically, executives and business analysts shared insights by printing hard copies of analyses and circulating the information to the appropriate employees. This inflexible system was time-consuming and unable to keep up with rapid changes in business conditions while the reports were being digested. Today, business information systems are capable of collecting and storing vast quantities of data and require next-generation tools to glean business insight for effective corporate decision making.

Traditional tabular reporting systems are unable to keep pace with the corporation's need to access and gain insight from this valuable resource.

Reasons for new systems include the need to:

  • Manage massive, rapidly changing databases.
  • Use more sophisticated analytics.
  • Implement easy, visual ways to find relationships in corporate data.
  • Deliver analytics using browser or Java-based interfaces.
  • Integrate with e-CRM applications and information portals.

The ability to identify important trends in corporate and market data provides enormous advantages. More accurate predictive models provide significant business advantages in applications that drive content, transactions or processes. Confident action, based on superior methods of visual data analysis, helps companies improve income and avoid costly mistakes.

Next-Generation Visualization Tools

Visualization tools can provide decision-makers with specialized views, reports, graphs and charts of corporate data. These tools help decision-makers interpret information, understand relationships and, more importantly, present and communicate justifiable conclusions to others.

Visualization tools combined with Internet technology can provide decision-makers with a dashboard- like overview of real-time business situations from customer service to manufacturing. Decision-makers can highlight exceptions to statistical norms quickly, slice the data into new visual models for more detailed analyses or compare different queries in a single view for faster, more accurate analyses of ongoing business operations.

Corporate intranets are providing an organized, intuitive way of presenting business information to decision-makers enterprise-wide. For example, intranets can deliver information globally to external sales personnel or quality control engineers who can access corporate views, drill-down into specific data and contribute to the corporate decision- making process within minutes.

Visualization tools are becoming more sophisticated and flexible. New 3D technologies are providing users with a greater understanding of corporate data. Other techniques are offering multipanel views of multidimensional business data in one view. These graphics can be particularly valuable when comparing business scenarios, such as pricing and sales models or understanding customer purchasing patterns. The key is enabling both technical and nontechnical decision-makers to see groupings, relationships and trends in corporate data to make decisions quickly.

The Advantages

Make Important Discoveries Sooner. Data visualization tools can help decision-makers in many areas such as marketing, sales and quality control discover important trends in business operations much sooner than from tabular presentations. Insight can lead to stronger customer loyalty and sales activity, reduced costs and increased profits. By making it easier to see and understand reality, visualization tools can help companies reduce risk, capitalize on market opportunities or respond to customer needs more quickly.

Companies are also using visualization tools for customer relationship management. Visualization tools enable companies to isolate risk areas and drill into customer-specific issues to improve the likelihood of a satisfied customer. For example, a major clothing retailer needed to determine why its products were being returned to the manufacturing facility. Was it customer or product related? Using state-of-the- art visualization tools, they were able to quickly review manufacturing and customer data to determine the cause of the business problem. Without visualization tools, this process would have taken days and would have resulted in considerable lost revenue and customer attrition. Visualization tools helped this retailer solve a business problem by drilling-down into the data and making quick decisions to address business challenges.

Analyze and Compare Different Business Scenarios in One View. Visualization tools can combine representations of multiple data sets simultaneously, present multiple views of a single data set or even one view encompassing millions of data points. Single-view representations can save decision-makers valuable time when decisions need to be made. Tools such as Trellis Graphics allow decision-makers to compare different business scenarios and gain an understanding of business reality easily. Flexible visualization techniques offer decision-makers an opportunity to explore different variables that may be affecting a particular business decision, identify the cause and take action to improve a business situation.

Collaborate and Share Information Easily. Advances in Internet technology and sophistication of visualization tools are delivering unprecedented graphic and analytical capabilities to employee desktops. Web- based systems are allowing nontechnical users to gain insight from corporate data and contribute to decision-making processes. Web-based visualization systems are meeting the needs of today's distributed, global businesses which need access to deliver accurate, reliable information in real time to geographically dispersed users with varying levels of expertise.

Propagation of Best Practices. Visualization tools deployed from a central server help companies deliver critical analytic information to all employees in a standardized format. Using best practices, companies can ensure the information that is being viewed has been analyzed using stringent statistical methods and that employees are sharing common views of a business situation so the decision-making process is efficient and effective. The system maintains the integrity of the data being analyzed and ensures that the latest information is available enterprise-wide. Web-based deployment reduces training, maintenance and software upgrade costs, and time required by corporate information technology (IT) staff.

Access To Real-Time Information Makes Companies More Responsive. Access to real-time information provides key decision-makers information about how the business is performing while it is happening. Easy access to current data, combined with sophisticated analytics, leads to faster decisions and allows companies to capitalize on market opportunities and minimize risk. For example, companies can quickly create visualization methods to notify decision-makers when sales are falling below specified profit margins. When notified, they can make actionable decisions to correct the business situation within minutes, enhancing corporate profitability.

Selecting Visualization Tools

Select Web-based visualization tools that integrate with powerful server-based analytical software. Graphic displays of the data are generated from powerful data analysis of raw corporate data. Flexible, next- generation data analysis packages offer decision-makers the analytical capabilities they need to produce graphics that truly represent the current business situation, along with predictive analysis to help anticipate the future. Inaccurate or misleading data or simplistic analysis often means poor business decisions with huge potential costs. Less sophisticated analytics with simple bar and pie chart visual representations do not enable decision-makers to see the whole picture.

Flexible, Web-based tools allow decision-makers to interact with data. New Java-based visualization tools allow decision-makers to interact with the graphic representation. This feature can be invaluable for decision-makers interested in exploring specific business scenarios or digging deeper into a specific business issue. Delivering analysis and visualization via an information portal empowers decision-makers to make better, more informed decisions.

Choose visualization tools that offer organized multipanel, multipage views. Shortening the decision-making cycle from raw data to insight can help companies react more quickly to opportunities and risks. Well-organized graphic information can provide decision-makers with greater access to mission-critical information faster than traditional tabular reports for more responsive decision making. Multipage, multipanel displays simplify the comparison of different business variables, reducing the time required to convert insight into action.

Turning insight into action using rapid response visualization tools is essential to compete in today's high-velocity decision-making environment. The pace and quality of everyday decision making ultimately determine a company's profitability in the future. Given this fact, nothing is more strategic than using collected data and effective visualization tools to boost business intelligence.

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