If we look at the professional landscape in the early 2000s, the idea of a software developer, website designer or a front end developer being such significant roles would seem strange. Fast forward to today, there’s barely a business who wouldn’t, at some point, have called on these specialised skills.
Data visualisation is the same. While until now it might have sounded like a niche role you could probably make do without, we’re already seeing the difference it makes to organisations who invest in the specialised skills of data visualisers.
That’s because data visualisation is about more than just creating a chart and a dashboard. We know that anyone can plug numbers into a spreadsheet and produce a graph, but data visualisation goes further to give context and meaning to data so that people can not only interpret it, but use it with confidence and understanding.
Data visualisation vs data engineering
The main focus of a data engineer is to create the most efficient, optimised pipeline for curated data. It’s then a data visualiser’s role to take that data and present it in a way that makes it easier to identify trends, patterns and important outliers.
Typically, organisations will try to find someone to fulfil both these skills within a single role. At X is Y, we have two distinct roles for data visualisers and data engineers. We recognise that visualisers and engineers each have specific skills to contribute, and therefore it would be difficult (and costly) to find someone who knows both well enough to deliver to a standard we’d expect for our clients. You wouldn’t ask a software developer or website developer to design (and build) the front end of a website - it's not their speciality; that’s a job for a UI (User Interface) designer. Similarly, it’s important to distinguish between someone that really understands how to build the plumbing that feeds the data, and someone that really knows how to take that data and design a good dashboard to provide the right information and right user experience.
Efficient and effective storytelling
A data visualiser's objective is to provide the most useful information in the most simple way, so that users can make decisions and take action. Essentially: to give data context and meaning.
After all, data is only as good as someone’s ability to make sense of it. More effective dashboard visualisation means more accurate and accessible insight, so an organisation can zero-in on what they need to do to meet their goals. That means filtering out anything that isn’t going to be useful or needed. It’s about clarity and precision, but not over-simplification. With more clarity comes a lower barrier to data literacy across the board within your organisation.
There’s a method to this that goes beyond just design skills (and tools), which also considers user experience, storytelling, product knowledge, visualisation best practice, current levels of data literacy and data training.
The metrics that matter
With this blend of specialised knowledge, visualisers can draw out the aligned information that is going to make the most difference to an organisation’s goals. Consider your current dashboards: How often do you look at them? How much time do you spend exploring them? If you're not using them at all, or you find that you only look at one or two numbers on your dashboard, then chances are your dashboard hasn’t been designed with goals and actions you will take in mind. A data visualiser would take the time to understand what information isn’t useful, what actions you will take, the ceremony and where it will be used, and consolidate more meaningful disparate data into a centralised dashboard.
Visualisation plays an important role in telling the story of your data, and with that, getting buy in and aligning action to goals. Quality outcomes start with access to the right information. If you’re curious about the difference data visualisation could make to the way your organisation leverages quality data, then a data audit could be a good place to start. To book yours, or find out more about our approach, get in touch for a free initial chat.