Use it or Lose it: Practice Using Data Visualization Programs

Data visualization programs are frequently integrated into business intelligence applications. However, with dozens of data visualization types, you may struggle to find the best visualization to represent your data. Adopt the “use it or lose it” approach and practice using data visualization programs frequently. The more you use these business intelligence applications, the more familiar you will become with communicating data and statistics graphically.

Unlike sports or music which have specific drills and scales that you can practice, business intelligence applications are not designed for practicing. However, that’s not to say you can’t practice using these tools. Examine your role and responsibilities and think about the data you need in order to make smarter decisions. Whether it’s sales performance by region or water pollution rates by municipality, practice working with your data. Use the business intelligence application’s data visualization tools to display that data in different ways.

This exercise isn’t just about practicing and memorizing steps, though that certainly helps. It also has a critical thinking component to it.

Print various views of the same data. Next, evaluate what works and what doesn’t work. Does a certain chart make the data more relevant or does it make it more confusing? Which data visualization is easiest to comprehend? Why? Which data visualization is hardest? Why?

By evaluating the various data visualizations available in your business intelligence applications along with what works and doesn’t work (and why), you should be better able to select the most appropriate data visualizations when you need to create a report in a pinch. Your choices will be more intuitive because you’ve taken the time to understand how different charts and graphs communicate data. Wouldn’t you rather work intuitively thanks to practice than scramble to create a visual report at the last minute? Not only will practice help you to make a suitable choice quickly, you’ll likely choose a data visualization that will have the greatest impact thanks to your earlier efforts.

Frank Poladi is an author and recognised authority on data visualization and has worked with companies from around the world to improve their business intelligence departments with software from InetSoft. Feel free to follow him on Google+.