Where do data visualization tools need to improve?

Analytics and business intelligence can help enterprises predict scenarios and unearth insights, but key data visualization improvements would streamline that process.

Maturation of data visualization tools is a big topic. The problem is that we're dealing with data in new ways, and we're doing it in real time. We're making decisions based on information that is extremely fresh, and we have to act quickly if we're going to make good use of it. That's the big challenge, right now, in analytics and business intelligence: responding quickly and understanding what we're seeing.

The problem that we have is that we tend to render our visualizations of data in very old-fashioned ways. We use static graphs that have been ubiquitous in business for 50 years, and we're not up-to-date when it comes to visualizing data that gets across the dynamics of the information that we're looking at. What we need are better data visualization tools for watching something over time. The devices can keep up -- we have extremely sophisticated devices for visualizing data in different ways. We can do a lot with making pictures move in meaningful ways, but what we need are graphic representations of data that are animated that allow us to view information -- time series information in particular -- in ways that allow us to understand what's going on.

Another thing we need to see in data visualization is more what-if functionality, where I can have a graph on screen and I can move something on one axis of the graph and see the consequences for it, if a given factor changes. That would be a big help to people in just about every industry.

There's a lot of work to be done. But one problem I've seen is that the major vendors, like Microsoft, are counting on third parties to deliver a lot of this functionality, and I'm not sure that's the best thing. I think the industry as a whole needs to come together and put together an industry standard for visualization that will take hold. That's a real opportunity for whomever gets that ball rolling.

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