Pavel Nakonechnyy
Digital Leadership & Soft Skills

Data Visualization with dashboards: Use Cases

Published in Business Analysis.

There are multiple Business Intelligence instruments available nowadays. However, many corporate world employees still don’t understand the scope of applications for dashboards and other visualizations. In this article, I’ll try to explain when and where you can and should apply BI instruments to deliver value to your company.
Let’s begin with a fundamental concept. Data Visualization is a pictorial representation of a dataset or information using maps, graphs, charts, and other visual elements. We apply visualization to digest complex data into easily understandable forms allowing us to find trends, insights, patterns, and other connections. Based on this information, the company should optimize its products, processes, and customer proposals to gain more profit at a lesser cost.
Tableau and Power BI are some examples of end-to-end analytics platforms that are greatly used for data discovery and analysis. Such platforms have replaced more old-school technology like Excel and SAS, requiring much more work and technical expertise to produce a simple bar chart. Some BI tools like Tableau are a good fit for small companies to large enterprises. Others are more tailored to specific company sizes and internal structures.
The main users of BI technology in terms of roles in the company are Business users (e.g. Product Managers, marketing, finance, credit, and sales departments) and IT people (e.g. developers, data scientists, business analysts, and statisticians). And there’s a big gap in technical knowledge and expertise between these groups.
Unlike SAS or Excel, BI tools can work with disparate data sources, even though using a single Data Warehouse is preferred. With Tableau, you can connect Excel and CSV spreadsheets, and non-relational and cloud data to a single dashboard. Still, in most cases, BI tools require the business to have a functional IT department capable of setting up a proper data workflow (data preparation, cleaning, MDM, etc.) and a DWH.
One of the Use Cases for dashboards is real-time KPI and OKR monitoring. Imagine a company where a product team creates weekly financial reports manually. It’s a big hassle. With Tableau, you can connect your production data sources once to update the numbers automatically.
This is especially important for data coming from separate sources like Google Analytics, Google Adwords, and CRM software. With BI software this data can be combined and presented on a single dashboard to calculate more sophisticated analytics and easier hypothesis evaluation.
Properly designed dashboards allow end users to perform small-scale ad-hoc analyses themselves, providing efficiency improvement all across the board.
[Sales] go straight to their iPad, pull up a dashboard and answer questions right then and there.
– Shawn Crenshaw, senior Business Analyst, Coca-Cola bottling company
Creating charts and presentations for management is a big Use Case for systems like Tableau. In many organizations, senior management wants to get information through email, and sending executive reports automatically is another Use Case for BI systems.
In the EMEA region, the analytics market isn’t very mature. Therefore, many BI users just restrict themselves to basic statistics in Tableau. However, forecasting and predictive modeling is another functionality often inbuilt into BI tools.
Ad-hoc data analysis is another Use Case. As you’ve developed a Python or R model and used it to gather data (e.g. performed regression. prediction, classification, clusterization, etc.) you can then use BI tools to present your data in a visual format.
After all, Business Intelligence tools are quite flexible and can be adapted to the business needs of your company. An example of an unorthodox usage can be real-time Hardware Monitoring.