What is data visualization?

A beginner’s guide

The benefit of data visualization

Hidden within your data lie important insights that can help drive business forward. But the challenge is that you can’t always connect the dots by looking at raw numbers alone. When you look at your data presented in a visual format, patterns, connections, and other “a-ha” moments emerge that would otherwise remain out of sight.

Data visualization brings data to life, making you the master storyteller of the insights hidden within your numbers. Live dashboards, interactive reports, charts, graphs, and other visual representations help you unlock key business insight quickly and effectively.

How to make the most of data visualization

Being able to see the story within the numbers makes data visualization a powerful tool for sharing and communicating information. Data visualization can be used for demonstrating performance, communicating trends, understanding the impact of new strategies, showing relationships, and beyond. These representations can be powerful tools for communication and collaboration, creating value in reports, journalism, apps, or any context where sharing information is required.

Check out these interactive examples of data visualization:

Data visualization drives better decision-making

While stunning, rich visuals can be great tools for communicating ideas, the end benefit of data visualization is its ability to drive better decision-making. Here are a few ways data visualization helps with strategic decision-making:

See the big picture

A clear picture of performance is buried within lines of transactions, interactions, processes, behaviors, or whatever type of data you store. Data visualization allows you to recognize the broader context and high-level scenario. As a result, you’ll notice trends and spot patterns you wouldn't be able to see if you were looking at numbers on their own.

Identify the significance

Having visual clarity of the story told within your data helps you identify insights that lead to better decision-making, planning, strategies, and actions. How is performance, what needs to be modified, and where should you focus your resources? The ability to understand the significance of your data drives more effective operations and decisions.

Make informed decisions

With concrete numbers and tangible insights, you can be confident your decisions are backed by data. Having clear insight of performance empowers you with the knowledge and arms you with the tools to make the right decisions at the right time.

Track trends over time

Once you've established a baseline, trends will begin to emerge. Track progress, spot trends, and begin using your insights to drive informed, strategic decisions. As you build your trends, shifts in patterns indicate if things drift off track, allowing you to immediately address any sign of lowered performance.

Data visualization tools

With many data visualization tools available, how do you choose the right solution for your needs? In the end, you want a tool that gives you the insights you need to help you focus on what matters most.

As you evaluate tools to find the right amount of power, flexibility, and ease-of-use, below are some key factors to help as you identify the right data visualization tools solution:

What are your goals and needs?

Take a moment to list out what types of data you have and what information you would like to find out.

What features do you require?

Business intelligence, analytics, enterprise reporting capabilities, and many different features give you flexibility for your needs both today and tomorrow.

Where will your data come from?

Consider how you’ll connect or import your data and determine if the tool offers a seamless fit with your systems.

Where will you need to see your data?

Find a tool that allows you to take your data and dashboards with you on any device, for quick insight and collaboration anywhere you are.

Where would you like to publish your visualization?

Think about where your final presentation will be published. On a website, in a blog post, or in an online news article? Find a tool that allows flexibility to post and share your data visualization wherever your story should be told. Power BI publish to web lets you create data stories with amazing interactive visualizations and publish them to your blog or website in minutes.

Microsoft and data visualization

Transforming your data into rich visuals, Power BI is a customizable data visualization toolset that gives you a complete view of your business. Collaborate and share reports inside and outside your organization, spot trends as they happen, and stay focused on what matters most. Whether it’s on-premises or in the cloud, Power BI provides access to your most important data in one place, updated in real time, on any device.