Business Intelligence vs Visual Intelligence

The difference between making good decisions and making bad decisions is the quality of information used to make those decisions. In many businesses today, decisions are being made based on old or incomplete data because there is no easy way to extrapolate data and communicate findings in a timely manner. iDashboards for Data-Driven Decisions: Business Intelligence versus Visual Intelligence An iDashboards Whitepaper The Data-Driven Decision Difference The difference between making good decisions and making bad decisions is the quality of information used to make those decisions. In many businesses today, decisions are being made based on old or incomplete data because there is no easy way to extrapolate data and communicate findings in a timely manner. In other businesses, the sheer volume of data is overwhelming, and important information is sometimes buried in lengthy reports or overlooked due to the vast amounts of data available. Both of these scenarios, and dozens of others, make it difficult to glean important information, collate it into an understandable format and report it in a way that allows good decisions to be made quickly. What Dashboards Do for Data Dashboards help aggregate data from various sources, display that data visually, communicate the message behind the numbers and encourage action based on the information presented. The amount of data generated today can be overwhelming. While business intelligence (BI) is a field that tries to make sense of the data, there is often a breakdown when that intelligence cannot be communicated in an understandable manner or when data is stored in systems that fail to interact with one another. How do we get real-time data to stakeholders in an understandable format? How do we dig through the data to find outliers that need to be managed? How do we develop key performance indicators (KPIs) that are common across the organization and communicated in a way that can be understood by all — even when data is compartmentalized? In other words, how do we make visual intelligence (VI) out of business intelligence? A visual dashboard takes information out of rows and columns and puts it into charts and graphs that people can easily understand. The Importance of Visualizing Data Anscombe’s Research Frank Anscombe, the founding chair of the statistics department at Yale University, illustrated the importance of visualizing data prior to analysis based on research done in the 1970s. Using four similar data sets, Anscombe developed what is commonly known today as Anscombe’s quartet, showing the effect of outliers within the data set using a graphical representation of that data. All four charts have the same linear progression but graph very differently. Managing Data with Dashboards A visual dashboard assists viewers in finding and managing disruptive outliers that can hurt (or sometimes help) a business. Statistics prove that many managers spend a great deal of time managing easily sustainable, normal processes and behaviors within a business and often miss outliers which fall outside the norm. However, as Anscombe’s quartet demonstrates, even a few significant outliers can have a profound impact on a business. Visual Intelligence Examples Dashboards allow users to recognize outliers early and deal with them. For example, one client built a dashboard that showed overnight shipments and noticed immediately that the number of red alert shipments consistently rose from one or two on Monday to dozens on Friday week after week. By simply asking a few questions, the plant manager determined that most just in time inventory for their largest client was off the shelf by Thursday or Friday, and because of service-level agreements (SLA) with that client, products were being taken 2. right from production at the end of the week, then packed and shipped overnight to avoid penalties. When illustrated using a visual dashboard, the data on Thursday and Friday for overnight shipments appeared as a consistent outlier and with minor changes to production, the client immediately started saving $10,000 a week in overnight shipments. Another client was using multiple data sources with no commonality across the business. Many people reported using Excel spreadsheets, and each department had its own database and enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. The client had no way to measure or monitor their communal KPIs across the organization. By implementing a visual dashboard, the client was able to integrate their ERP databases and spreadsheets into a single visual format. They now see regular KPI trends and conduct what-if analyses with those KPIs, ultimately making more informed executive decisions because the quality of information is higher. Another client has pulled data from their financial software, human resources, marketing (Google Analytics), CRM ( and other ERP databases, none of which are tied together. By adding dashboards, they have a complete picture of their business for the first time and are updated automatically with real-time data. Better Information, Better Decisions Is it possible to communicate these results in a multi-page Excel report of rows and columns? Of course it is; however, a visual dashboard provides an intuitive tool that spots trends, provides analyses and calls for action at-a-glance. Best-in-class dashboards are real-time, pull from multiple data sources and provide complete mobility so decisions can be made on the fly. Explore your BI resources, build a dashboard and discover for yourself how to turn the BI into VI. By taking information out of rows and columns and putting it into a visual format, you will be able to spot trends and make analyses in an easy- to-use format in real-time. As one client recently said, “Our dashboards provide information in a format that clearly calls for action.” By color coding results, defining trends or building charts that show the outliers, you will make better decisions based on better information that will result in cost savings, clear communication and the achievement of standardized KPIs across the organization. Now that is intelligence. Learn more at 3.