Data, Story and Eye Candy.
Data Visualization has at least 3 parts: largest will be a Data, the most important part will be a Story behind those Data and a View (or Visualization) is an Eye Candy on top of it.
However only a View allows users to interact, explore, analyze and drilldown those Data and discover the Actionable Info, which is why Data Visualization (DV) is such a Value for business user in the Big (and even in midsized) Data Universe.
One rarely covered aspect of advanced DV usage is a huge a productivity gain for application developer(s). The estimation of a time needed to develop an interactive DV reporting application with 2 different groups of DV & BI environments is very different for traditional BI and advanced DV tools.
Samples of Traditional BI Platforms can be toolsets like Oracle OBIEE, IBM Cognos, SAP Business Objects, SAS, Jaspersoft, Infobright, or Microstrategy (before the release of Visual Insight).
Samples of Advanced DV tools, ready to be used for prototyping is what we used here at PRACTICAL: Spotfire, Tableau andQlikview.
Results proved a productivity gain I observed for many years now: traditional BI environments need month or more to complete the prototype and advanced DV toolsets required a few days to complete the prototype of the application. The same observation done by ... Microstrategy when they added Visual Insight (in attempt to compete with leaders like Qlikview, Tableau, Spotfire and Omniscope) to their portfolio (see below slide from recent Microstrategy presentation, this slide did not count time to prepare the data and assume they are ready to upload):
PRACTICAL uses this productivity gain for many years not only for DV production but for Requirement gathering, functional Specifications and mostly importantly for a quick Prototyping. Many years ago I used Visio for interactions with clients and collecting business requirements, see the Visio-produced slide below as an approximate example:
DV is the best prototyping approach for traditional BI
This leads to a surprising point: modern DV tools can save a lot of development time in traditional BI environment as ... a prototyping and requirement gathering tool. Our recent experience is that you can go to development team which is completely committed for historical or other reasons to a traditional BI environment (Oracle OBIEE, IBM Cognos, SAP Business Objects, SAS, Microstrategy etc.) and prototype for such team dozens and hundreds new (or modify existing) reports in a few days or weeks and give it to the team to port it to their traditional environment.
These DV-based prototypes have completely different behavior from previous generation of (mostly MS-Word and PowerPoint based) BRD (Business Requirement Documents), Functional Specification, Design Documents and Visio-based application Mockups and prototypes: they are living interactive applications with real-time data updates, functionality refreshes in a few hours (in most cases at the same day as new request or requirement is collected) and readiness to be deployed into production anytime!
However, in our estimate the many BI teams, even they will be impressed by prototyping capabilities of DV tools (and some will use them for prototyping!), will stay with their environment for many years due political (can you say a "job security" ?) or other "strange" reasons, but more and more teams will seriously consider to switch to Qlikview/Tableau/Spotfire, at least for prototyping purposes. As you see from Diagram below, the Prototyping is very important part of our PRACTICAL process:
Andrei Pandre, Ph.D., VP of Data Visualization, Practical Computer Applications