Data Visualization: Why Business Intelligence is Important

By Mico Yuk, Stephanie Diamond

Did you know that there is an entire multi-billion-dollar industry that focuses on the practice of building and using analytics reports and data visualizations (usually referred to as dashboards) to drive the decision-making process in large and small organizations? It’s called Business Intelligence (BI). BI involves creating any type of data visualization (report, dashboard, or infographic) that provides insight into a business for the purpose of making a decision or taking an action.

Many people have been in the BI industry for many years without even realizing it. Whether you’ve been consuming some type of data for professional or personal use or building a report, dashboard, or infographic for others to use to make decisions, you’ve been part of the BI industry.

Now that you’re clear on the definition of BI, you’re probably wondering why BI is so important, especially if you’re not familiar with it. There are two reasons why business intelligence should be important to anyone in the data visualization arena:

  • BI drives industry trends. Trends in BI influence trends in many other areas, such as Big Data, mobility, social collaboration, and the cloud. These trends affect you as a data visualization consumer or creator, so it’s important that you stay abreast of trends in the BI industry.

    If you’re a consumer, for example, the rise of mobile and social collaboration determines where you access data visualizations, how you interact with them, and how you gain deeper insights from them.

  • BI drives the evolution of data visualization tools. The BI industry is very competitive, and chances are that any tool you choose for building your data visualization will be classified as a BI tool. On one hand, this competition among different software vendors to build the ultimate tool works to everyone’s benefit. It drives innovation that focuses on ease-of-use, better insight, and lower cost.

    On the other hand, the choice of tools is becoming so extensive that it’s sometimes hard to decide on the best tool for the job. Consider the most widely used BI tool in the world: Microsoft Excel. Some members of the BI industry suggest that Excel, despite its wide adoption, is the most dangerous and least effective tool available. It’s important to understand that the evolution of new software in this industry directly affects what types of tools are available to you.