Start Your Data Visualization Journey
Around this time last year I was working on something now known as the Experience Analytics Showcase: a website focused around telling the customer experience story through data visualization. A year later we are redesigning the showcase in preparation for the Total Customer Experience Global Celebration and I’m reflecting on how much we’ve learned in that time. This year’s theme is redefining your experience in the digital world. It is right in line with our company wide efforts including data visualization.
The old adage says “a picture paints a thousand words”. The human eye can process and interpret vast volumes of data far more quickly in a visual format, helping to piece together a story. At EMC, we use Data Visualization to transform data into insight and help drive action to continuously improve our customer’s experience. This technique can be leveraged by any company with organized data to enhance their understanding and execution. In fact, there are tons of resources within the wider global Data Visualization community, who share innovative ideas and best practices. In this spirit, I want to share what we have learned about cultivating a successful Data Visualization ecosystem within EMC’s Total Customer Experience group.
Grab Their Attention: There is no place better than an industry event to get your stakeholders attention. We first started leveraging data visualizations at EMC World in 2014. The Total Customer Experience booth was considerably smaller than most but it still garnered more traffic than many. Customers, partners, and even employees enjoyed the transparency of seeing customer experience data in an easily consumable format. They also appreciate knowing EMC is taking their feedback seriously and looking at it in new ways. Executives recognized the success and we were off.
Organizing Your Data:
Of course there were some growing pains to work through. The 80|20 rule applies to data science: In many of our projects, analysts were spending 80% of their cycles manipulating data into a consumable format and 20% of their time building the actual visualization to derive insights. At EMC, we recognized this challenge and took a number of steps to address it, including:
- Creating a Big Data Lake so that disparate data sources are available from a single location
- Introducing a Data Governance system to catalogue available data, lineage and ownership
- Providing data sets with some element of pre-processing, which standardized calculations and helped to eliminate duplication of efforts
- Investing in tools that simplify data blending and analytics while simultaneously documenting the process
Community: Sharing best practices is key because there are hundreds of options on how to display your data. At EMC, we established internal Data Visualization Summits as an opportunity for data analysts, data scientists, dashboard designers and data enthusiasts to get together on a periodic basis and showcase their work, obtain training, exchange ideas and build networks. Participants share real-life examples of using data visualization tools, such as Tableau, to help our business teams make data driven decisions faster. Since our first conference in 2013, the interest in this event has grown exponentially. The planning team is made up of representatives from different business groups and our vendors to drive variety and cross-pollination with different business units. In addition, we hold bi-weekly WebEx sessions with key vendors to share product features and use cases to ensure knowledge remains current. Finally, we created an internal “Analytics Enablement Center” site that centralizes content related to Data Visualization and Analytics – a one-stop-shop showcasing upcoming events and training opportunities, use cases, success stories, templates and best practices.
Presentation: Interactive visualizations are becoming commonplace in online newspapers and websites. The great part about this is users are becoming more familiar with consuming data in this format. However, as a developer, it’s important to remember to keep your audience in mind. Sometimes the visuals alone aren’t sufficient to tell the story or users can be distracted by anomalies in the data. Cole Nussbaumer, a recent presenter at one of our internal Data Visualization Summits, publishes an excellent blog highlighting common pitfalls and advanced techniques to tell a compelling story with data. At EMC, data governance stewards help ensure data has been used in the correct context and we frequently partner with Marketing teams to fine-tune our dashboards to ensure the message is clear – a method that has proven successful in our Experience Analytics Showcase, EMC World dashboards, and TCE Celebration visualizations.
If you’re interested in starting your own Data Visualization Project, check out these links:
- Cole Nussbaumer’s Blog, storytellingwithdata.com, explaining how to tell a compelling story with data
- Tableau Public Gallery, publishing inspirational visualizations created with this application
- EMC’s Experience Analytics Showcase, showcasing visualizations that improve the customer experience.
- Pivotal Hadoop and Pivotal Greenplum
- Presidio review of EMCWorld 2015 TCE Data Visualization content: EMC World Dozen
At EMC, our journey continues. We are constantly evolving and excited to continue sharing examples of how we leverage big data to drive continuous improvement to your customer experience with us.
If you have questions or would like to share your experiences, leave them in the comments below.