Key factors to consider before investing in a data visualization tool

Jim Sun

Big data and visualization is such a hot topic nowadays, and the market is filled with different kinds of visualization tools. Some of them are well-developed complete products, such as Tableau, IBM Cognos and so on, these tools have user-friendly interface and well-defined functions. But it is definitely not the complete story of data visualization, there are advanced products for professional data scientists and developers to make more customized and informative dashboards and reports. And there are also a bunch of open source "projects" that are designed for the use of data visualization, although not completely finished, some of them are quite functional and useful. And since there are a lot of developers from all over the world are contributing to it, those open source tools can also be good choices for experienced end users. In this post I will discuss some key factors for potential clients to consider when they are selecting a visualization tool.

  • Data Source: most clients apply the system to visualize their internal data, such as financial, operation, marketing and so on. In that case, my suggestion is to apply a visualization tool that is aligned with your management system. For example, if you are using SAP ECC/Net Weaver system internally, then it is better to implement an SAP BI platform, and the reason is obvious: it saves your implementation cost and training effort to do so. Or if you want to collect and visualize external data, such as posts on Facebook, then you will need not only a visualization tool but also a big data streaming application. Because the data volume is larger, the nature of data is unstructured.
  • End User: if the main user of your new system is professional IT guys or experienced data scientists, then your choice could be wild, because you can pick those JAVA-based or Linux based tools as you want---those tools are averagely cheaper---and of course, it will cost you more money to hire those IT employees and data scientists. On the other hand, if your end users are just general managers and other functional people, your choice will be narrowed, because you have to pick a schema freed tool from limited number of choices. And since there would be a lot of users, you need to be very careful about administration and license management.
  • Functions: it depends on different companies and industries. For example, Wal-Mart has thousands of retailing stores all over the world, then it is necessary for them to have a visualization tool that enables GIS features, also if the under/over stock cost is high, they may also need a real-time computing engine.
  • Current Visualization Tools: Excel is a good visualization tool for a main part of companies, I have seen a lot of companies trying to implement advanced data management system but leave a mess with their spreadsheets. Although Excel is not a good choice to store data, it performs better and better in dashboard development and visualization. And good Excel administrator can always help you overcome those disadvantages of Excel. Besides, it is always better to enhance your current system/resources than simply implementing a new one. So before deciding to implement a brand new BI tool, we can go back and look for any potential enhancements in our current system.

For those of you who are planning to make some changes on your internal data management system or if you are willing to get some ideas on some further factors to consider, you can contact us for immediate help or click the below button for more information.