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Data Visualization: Making Big Data Approachable and Valuable
Data Visualization: MakingBig Data Approachableand ValuableData software is as mature as it needs to be in order tobe accessible to business users at most enterprises,”says Paul Kent, vice president of Big Data with SAS. “So ifyou’re not Google or LinkedIn or Facebook, and you don’thave thousands of engineers to work with Big Data, it canbe difficult to find business answers in the information.”What enterprises need are tools to help them easilyand effectively understand and analyze Big Data.Employees who aren’t data scientists or analysts shouldbe able to ask questions of the data based on their ownbusiness expertise and quickly and easily find patterns,spot inconsistencies, even get answers to questions theyhaven’t yet thought to ask. Otherwise, the effort andexpense that companies invest in collecting and miningBig Data may be challenged to yield significant actionableresults. And companies run the risk of missing importantEnterprises today are beginning to realize the importantrole Big Data plays in achieving business goals. Conceptsthat used to be difficult for companies to comprehend—factors that influence a customer to make a purchase,behavior patterns that point to fraud or misuse, inef-ficiencies slowing down business processes—nowcan be understood and addressed by collecting andanalyzing Big Data. The insight gained from such analysishelps organizations improve operations and identifynew product and service opportunities that they mayhave otherwise missed. In essence, Big Data promisesto deliver the advantages that companies need to driverevenue growth and gain a competitive edge.However, getting to that Big Data payoff is provinga difficult challenge for many organizations. Big Datais often voluminous and tends to rapidly change andmorph, making it challenging to get a handle on anddifficult to access. The majority of tools available to workwith Big Data are complex and hard to use, and mostenterprises don’t have the in-house expertise to performthe required data analysis and manipulation to draw outthe answers that the business is seeking. In fact, in arecent survey conducted by IDG Research, when askedabout analyzing Big Data, respondents cite lack of skillsand difficulty in making Big Data available to users as twosignificant challenges.“A lot of existing Big Data techniques require you toreally get your hands dirty; I don’t think that most BigA RESEARCH REPORT DETAILING HOW ORGANIZATIONS AREUSING DATA VISUALIZATION TO SUCCEED WITH BIG DATAMarketPulseWHITE PAPERSOURCE: IDG RESEARCH SERVICES, AUGUST 2012Big Data ChallengesLack of skills/expertise needed torun analysis on all the dataToo difficult to access all data andmake available to users for analysisNot effectively using our mostvaluable data to drive decisionsToo difficult to analyze andunderstand all of the dataToo difficult to share informationand insights with othersRunning queries and reportstakes too long57%50%45%37%22%19%
2 DATA VISUALIZATION: MAKING BIG DATA APPROACHABLE AND VALUABLEbusiness opportunities if they can’t find the answers thatare likely stored in their own data.» THE DEMOCRATIZATION OF DATAWhy are some companies able to use Big Data totheir advantage, while others remain mired in reamsof information, but gain little insight? In many cases,those companies that have found success with BigData are using data visualization to help make senseof the information.According to the IDG Research study, among therespondents who say their organizations are highlyor somewhat effective at Big Data analysis, 58% havealready implemented, or are in the process of imple-menting, a data visualization solution; another 40%expect to implement one. Put another way, of those whoare most effective with Big Data, 98% have data visual-ization squarely in their sights. Of those with data visual-ization solutions in place, or plans to implement, 68%intend to use their data visualization solution to reportand share information, and 60% plan to use the solu-tion for discovery. Compared with those who say theirMarketPulseData Visualization: Visualization-based datadiscovery solutions that offer highly interactive andgraphical user interfaces, are built on in-memoryarchitectures, and are geared toward addressingbusiness users’ unmet ease-of-use and rapid deploy-ment needs. These solutions typically enable usersto explore data without much training, making themaccessible by a wider range of employees than tradi-tional business analysis tools.organizations are not very/not at all effective at Big Dataanalysis, only 16% of these respondents have imple-mented a data visualization solution. Almost one-third ofthese respondents have no plans to do so.“A crucial element in minimizing the amount of timeneeded to understand data, visualization tools areimperative [to] realizing the value from a Big Data initia-tive,” says Tammi Kay George, manager of R&D Program& Project Management at SAS. “When incorporatedwith approachable analytics capabilities from the onset,organizations are empowered with focus and the abilityEMPLOYEES WHO AREN’T DATA SCIENTISTS ORANALYSTS SHOULD BE ABLE TO ASK QUESTIONSOF THE DATA BASED ON THEIR OWN BUSINESSEXPERTISE AND QUICKLY AND EASILY FINDPATTERNS, SPOT INCONSISTENCIES, EVEN GETANSWERS TO QUESTIONS THEY HAVEN’T YETTHOUGHT TO ASK.to reduce the time required to know where opportunities,issues, and risks reside in voluminous data.”When combined with analytics, data visualizationdoes this by enabling business users to quickly and easilyexplore data. This means that employees don’t have tobe well-versed in analytics in order to work with Big Data;line-of-business users can rely on their own expertise suchas marketing, finance, or supply-chain operations to askinformed, specific questions of the data, gain insight fromthe answers, and put those answers to use to improvethe business.Adding data visualization to a strong, successful coreof analytics gives users the power to make the right busi-ness decisions. With visual analytics, business users canSOURCE: IDG RESEARCH SERVICES, AUGUST 2012Top Benefits of Data Visualization ToolsImproved decision-makingBetter ad-hoc data analysisImproved collaboration/information sharingProvide self-servicecapabilities to end uersIncreased ROITime savingsReduced burden on IT77%43%41%36%34%20%15%
3 DATA VISUALIZATION: MAKING BIG DATA APPROACHABLE AND VALUABLEMarketPulsedrill down into data to confirm a hunch, spot patterns,understand trends, or figure out where a process wentwrong. And because these tools convey results visually,they are significantly easier to work with and derive valuefrom than traditional analysis tools. By making use of allthe data that an organization collects, data visualizationgives users new perspectives for data analysis, allowingthem to look at more options and make more precisedecisions. Combining the power of visualization andanalytics with business users’ domain expertise givesenterprises innovative ways to improve the business,or even launch new business initiatives.“The value of these tools is you can pull strands ofinsight out of a pile of data, which offers new ways ofthinking,” says SAS’ Kent. “The very nature of showingusers sets of Big Data in an interactive tool introducesthem to new ways of thinking about something.”In most organizations, IT staff is inundated withrequests from business users and analysts for differentsets of data, ad-hoc reports, and one-off requests forinformation. With solutions focused on providing visu-alization of Big Data, IT can give users access to moreinformation and allow them to leverage data visualizationto progress through Big Data analysis at their own pace.Thanks to in-memory technologies, IT can load data andmake it available for multiple users, who can dynamicallyexplore the information, create reports, and share infor-mation on their own. And IT staff is liberated to focus onother projects.» TOOLS TO DEMYSTIFY BIG DATAThe combination of analytics and data visualizationshould be an integrated component of any businessintelligence (BI) initiative to enable users to exploredata, interact with it, apply analytics to understand orglean insights, and then share those insights in visu-ally appealing ways, so actions can be taken quickly toimprove the business. Key features of data visualizationsolutions include:HOPE FOR ACOLLABORATIVE FUTURECompanies that have deployed data visualizationsolutions to help derive value from Big Data arefinding that there are behind-the-scenes benefitsto using these tools. Not only does the combinationof strong analytics and data visualization give usersthe power to make the right business decisions,it also facilitates the coming together of differentdisciplines within an enterprise to help solve abusiness problem.Big Data: Data that is of such volume, variety, andvelocity (or the pace at which it is changing) that itputs an organization outside of its comfort zone totechnically derive intelligence for effective decisionsIn a recent survey conducted by IDG Research—in which a majority of respondents say they haveor plan to implement data visualization solutionsfor Big Data analysis—nearly half report that boththe business and IT organizations are driving busi-ness intelligence and/or data analytics at theirenterprise. Data visualization allows IT to enableline-of-business users to quickly and easily workwith Big Data, so that the two disciplines are lend-ing their own expertise to help address a businesschallenge.“Sometimes IT really struggles to introduce newideas to the business, like how to get a handle onbig piles of data,” says Paul Kent, vice president ofBig Data with SAS. “IT could take this opportunityto load data into a visualization tool and sit with thebusiness and say ‘We’ve loaded the data, but wedon’t know what it’s telling us. You know the data,what does this mean?’ That will help get the busi-ness users invested.”NEARLY HALF OF IT PROFESSIONALS SAY THATBOTH THE BUSINESS AND IT ORGANIZATIONSARE DRIVING BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE AND/ORDATA ANALYTICS AT THEIR ENTERPRISE.— IDG RESEARCH SURVEY OF 117 QUALIFIEDIT PROFESSIONALS, AUGUST 2012
“THE VERY NATURE OF SHOWING USERSSETS OF BIG DATA IN AN INTERACTIVETOOL INTRODUCES THEM TO NEW WAYSOF THINKING ABOUT SOMETHING.”— PAUL KENT, SAS» Highly interactive graphics that incorpo-rate data visualization best practices. Solutionsshould automatically represent the data with the mostappropriate visual for the type of data selected; providegeographical map views for a quick understanding ofgeospatial data; identify and explain the relationshipsbetween variables; and offer a variety of analytic visualssuch as box plots, heat maps, and correlations.» Integrated, intuitive, approachable analyticscapabilities. Solutions should remove the complexityof data structures for nontechnical users so that theycan explore and seek correlations on data sets; sliceand dice multidimensional data by applying filters on anylevel of a hierarchy; drill up and down through hierar-chies or expand and collapse entire levels; calculate newmeasures and add them to any view; and save views asreport packages to share with others.» Easy report building. Solutions should have aWeb-based, interactive interface so that users can easilypreview, filter, or sample data prior to creating visualiza-tions or reports and leverage drill-down capabilities.» In-memory processing capabilities. This isnecessary for fast access to Big Data and to deliveranswers to queries in seconds or minutes, instead ofhours or days.» Ability to easily distribute answers andinsight via mobile devices and Web portals. Thisdrives collaboration.In addition, data visualization tools should be easy forIT staffs to deploy and manage in line with their existingpractices, while maintaining control and security overthe data. This means implementing enterprise-wide userauthentication and information authorization policies inaccordance with a company’s data governance rules,supporting data provisioning to in-memory serversbased on volume and frequency of required updatesand scalability requirements, and providing a Web-basedinterface for IT management tasks.» REAPING THE BENEFITSMaking Big Data accessible to more users across theenterprise in a way that’s easy and approachable isn’tan end in itself. The real benefits come from the insightrevealed by analysis of Big Data, and how an organiza-tion capitalizes on those answers. In the IDG Researchsurvey, of those organizations that are consideringusing data visualization, 77% of respondents citeimproved decision making as a top benefit, while 45%cite better ad-hoc data analysis and 44% cite improvedcollaboration.“Inherently, business intelligence enables getting theright information to the right person at the right time andin the right format so that action can be taken. Data visu-alization backed by analytics enables your BI solution toempower better decisions faster,” says SAS’ George. “Welive in a highly competitive world. If an organization can’teasily see and act on an opportunity or risk quickly—orcompletely misses seeing it at all—that greatly impactsa company’s competitive advantage. Loss in revenue,market share, shareholder value, and even legal implica-tions can result from not seeing the relationships, theoutliers, the hidden gems in data.”With analytics and data visualization, enterprises canbegin tapping into the value of Big Data to boost overalleffectiveness and realize a greater return on invest-ment. And enterprises that use data visualization can beassured they are getting the best answers from the BigData they collect, limiting missed business opportunitiesand helping them focus on strategic growth. ■COMPLIMENTARY WHITE PAPER FEATURINGDATA VISUALIZATION TIPS AND TRICKS |SAS.COM/DATAVIZWHITEPAPER