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Probably the most powerful way to view and digest big data is by way of graphical representation. We all consume data this way, and it has almost become second nature for us to read graphs and infographics to extract analytical insights so that we may better understand concepts. Most notably and recently, those of us in South Africa wishing to keep their finger on the pulse of the political situation in our country had one or other dashboard open in their browser as the election votes were tallied and broadcast live.
The IEC Results Dashboard, amongst others, showed the results by colour code so that at first glance one could determine the party with the most votes. It also enabled the user to click on each province to see the further breakdown of the results, and so on and so on up until the individual wards. This was valuable data to any South African wanting to keep tabs on the political landscape as the results streamed in hour by hour over the two days. It also says a lot about graphical representation of data as a concept and in the application, in the business sense as well.
Graphs and dashboards reveal valuable insights into trends
Numbers on their own mean nothing, as does only looking at a set of data from one period in time. To establish trends and extract useful insights or predictions you need to see data over time to make comparisons. As with the elections, seeing the actual number of votes per political party does not highlight any obvious trend. Showing their growth or recession over a period of four consecutive elections makes it easier to see if one party is gaining in support in particular areas and where others are dwindling year on year.
Graphics can be misleading when not set in context, for example when one looked at the Results Dashboard at a national level it seemed that the ruling party had made a sweeping victory, however looking at it in this way was not an accurate representation of the current situation. Being able to delve deeper into the details of the data (ie. view votes per province and ward) revealed a much more telling and true story of how opposition parties were seizing major metros like Nelson Mandela Bay and the Tshwane metropole, and other great losses for the ruling party.
Applying this to your business finance
When you look at one financial statement you are only seeing your business’s finance at one point in time, but your income statement is the living and changing face of your finances over time and allows you to make comparisons month on month and year on year. Because of this you are able to discern whether your business is growing or in a recession. Looking at your business finances in raw numbers and especially at a single point in time does not articulate the full story, but with graphics and accumulated data over a period of time you will easily pick up trends and see growth.
Being able to model your data so that it gives you this kind of view is very important. This is all possible with Microsoft Power BI, the technology we use to develop solutions for our clients. It gives the flexibility to switch between different representations and a mix of graphics, numbers, percentages and trends that tell the story that you need to hear and not just the story you want to hear. This way you can confidently put a course of action in place that will correct and improve your business outcomes.
If you would like to find out how your business can benefit from graphical reporting, using Microsoft Power BI, leave your details and let’s connect!
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