How do you add value through data analytics?

I recently read this article that really ignited a lot of thoughts that often swirl around in my mind.  If you were to ask me what my drive is, it’s making data-informed, data-driven decisions.  My mechanism for this is through data visualization.  More broadly than that, it is communicating complex ideas in a visual manner.  Often when you take an idea and paint it into a picture people can connect more deeply to it and it becomes the catalyst for change.

All that being said – I’ve encountered a sobering problem.  Those on the more “analytical” side of the industry sometimes fail to see the value in the communication aspect of data analytics.  They’ve become mired down by the concept that knowing statistical programming languages, database theory, and structured query language are the most important aspects of the process.  While I don’t discount the significance of these tools (and the ability to utilize them correctly), I can’t be completely on board with it.

We’ve all sat in a meeting that is born out of one idea: how do we get better.  We don’t get better by writing the most clever and efficient SQL query.  We get better by talking through and really understanding what it IS we’re trying to measure.  When we say X what do we mean?  How do we define X.  Defining X is the hard part – pulling it out of the database, not as difficult.  If you can get really good at definitions, it becomes intuitive when you start trying to incorporate it into your business initiatives.

As we continue to evolve in the business world, I highly encourage those from both ends of the spectrum to try and meet somewhere in the middle.  We have an unbelievable amount of technical tools at our disposal, yet quite often you step into a business who is still trying to figure out HOW to measure the most basic of metrics.  Let’s stop and consider how this happened and work on achieving excellence and improvement through the marriage of business and technical acumen – with artistry and creativity thrown in there for good measure.

The Float Plot

One of the more interesting aspects of data visualization is how new visualization methods are created.  There are several substantial charts, graphs, and plots out there that visualization artists typically rely on.

As I’ve spent time reading more about data visualization, I started thinking about potential visualizations out there that could be added into the toolkit.  Here’s the first one that I’ve come up with: The Float Plot.

The idea behind the float plot is simple.  Plot one value that has some sort of range of good/acceptable/bad values and use color banding to display where it falls.  It works well with percentage values.

I’ve also made a version that incorporates peers.  Peers could be previous time period values or they could be less important categories.  The version with peers reminds me somewhat of a dot plot, but I particularly appreciate the difference in size to distinguish the important data point.

What’s also great about the Float Plot is that it doesn’t have to take up much space.  It looks great scaled short vertically or narrow horizontally.

Enjoy the visualization on my Tableau public profile here.