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Eliminate “Data Noise” – Data Visualizations to the Rescue



April 3, 2018

Eliminate “Data Noise” – Data Visualizations to the Rescue Insights from Kiran Shankar, Managing Director, RRD

RRD recently concluded its first-ever Data Artistry Tournament with Gramener and in partnership with NASSCOM in Chennai, India on March 17th, 2018.

Kiran Shankar, Managing Director, RRD Global Outsourcing delivered opening remarks where he discussed the growing importance of data visualizations as a powerful tool to extract insights from big data. This article is part two of a two part feature and provides numerous suggestions on how to “do” data artistry right to ensure optimal usability and comprehension.

Data Artistry—Critical For Success in the Emerging Digital Age

All data sets are noisy. At any given moment, most of the data we collect is noise. This will always be true, because signals in data are the exception, not the rule.

We collect everything possible, based on the premise that the costs of doing so are negligible and that what is useless today might be precious tomorrow. Unfortunately this trend presents a great challenge. As the volume of data grows, finding the useful needle in the ever growing “big data” haystack will get harder and harder.

In a data visualization, data noise can make its presence felt in the form of distracting data sets, decorative icons, and even needless user interface components. From a data management perspective, data noise causes tangible business waste in the form of time squandered on data cleansing and needlessly laborious analytics.

When we rely on data for decision making, what qualifies as a signal or noise? In and of themselves, data is neither. Data are merely facts. When facts are useful, they serve as signals. When they aren’t useful, data clutters an organization’s cognitive environment.

For data to be useful, it must:

  • Address something that matters
  • Promote understanding
  • Provide an opportunity for meaningful action

When any of these qualities are missing, data remains “noise”.

Once collected, how will we make sense and process data? How do we learn things from those diverse sets of data that can help us make better decisions, execute smarter actions and operate more efficiently?

Regardless of how much data you have, one of the best ways to discern important relationships is through advanced analysis and easy-to-understand visualizations. The big challenge is how to display output in a way that’s not overwhelming.

A picture is worth a thousand words – especially when you are trying to understand and discover insights from data. Visuals are especially helpful when you’re trying to find relationships among hundreds or thousands of variables to determine their relative importance—or if they are important at all.

When sophisticated analyses can be performed quickly, even immediately, the results need to be presented in ways that are easy to consume while allowing queries and exploration. This enables people across all levels of an organization to dive deeper into data and to use the insights for faster, more effective decisions.

So, the immediate purpose of data visualization is to improve understanding. When data visualization is done in ways that do not improve understanding, it is done poorly. The ultimate purpose of data visualization, beyond understanding, is to enable better decisions and actions.

Data visualization is primarily enabled by skills—the human part of the equation—and these skills are only augmented and not created by technology. The human component is primary, but sadly it receives much less attention than the technology. For this reason, truly good data visualization is rare. The path to effective data visualization begins with the development of relevant skills through learning and a great deal of practice. Tools are used during this process but they do not drive it.

A data visualization works when designed by a person who understands how humans interact with data. This requires a sophisticated understanding of human perception and cognition. It also requires an understanding of what humans need from data. Interacting with data is not useful unless it leads to an understanding of something that matters.

For this to happen, data should be displayed in ways that are both beautiful (to produce “awe”) and functional (to produce “ah-ha”), without compromising either. Peoples’ attention must first be captured before their minds can be informed, and this can and should be done in a way that maintains the integrity of the information.

The RRD Difference

As the pace of innovation accelerates in a hyper-competitive environment, success depends on putting customers at the center of everything. It is RRD’s mission to enable our clients to better connect with their customers.

RRD offers a comprehensive portfolio of capabilities, experience and scale that enables organizations around the world to effectively create, manage and execute their multichannel communications strategies.

As a leader in integrated communication solutions, with more than 50,000 customers and 43,000 employees across 34 countries—RRD GO is proud to launch the inaugural RRD and Gramener 2018 Data Artistry Tournament, in partnership with NASSCOM that will focus on data artistry and storytelling. This event raises awareness of the special role of “data artistry” in business communications and the unique qualifications of RRD in this space.

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Does your organization need help evaluating an automation solution to optimize a critical process or direction on how data visualizations can be leveraged for critical reporting needs? We invite you to participate in our complimentary Strategic Outsourcing Assessment. Our subject matter experts will review your request and provide recommendations based on your unique requirements.

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