Being able to visualize and communicate the ever-increasing amount of data we now have access to has become a vital skill. But what are the best data visualization tools out there? Here we look at the top seven.
Visualization is an essential element of any Big Data and analytics strategy. The most up-to-date, real time information and advanced analytics solutions are an expensive waste of money if you can’t communicate the results clearly and effectively to the people whose job it is to put them to work.
Data visualization tools are constantly evolving to the point where they are no longer the sole domain of the formally trained BI analyst or data scientist. Increasingly businesses are understanding the value of putting analytics at the fingertips of all segments of the workforce and today’s tools are a reflection of this.
Here’s an overview of my top 7 paid-for visualization solutions, and for those on a tight budget look for my round-up of free tools coming soon.
Microsoft Power BI
PowerBI is an all-in-one BI and analytics platform provided as-a-service or as a desktop client but it is particularly highly rated for its visualization capabilities. Visualizations are created directly from reports and can be shared with users throughout your organization. As well as a large number of inbuilt visualization styles, new ones are constantly being created by the AppSource community or if you want to get your hands dirty with coding, they can be created from scratch using the Developer Tools and shared with other users. It also includes a natural language interface allowing visualizations of varying complexity to be built from simple search terms. It is consistently rated as one of the easiest to use tools for visual data exploration.
Tableau is often considered the gold-standard of data visualization tools and as such it enjoys wide deployment with a reported 57,000 active user accounts. Much of its appeal stems from its flexibility and while it may not be as beginner-friendly as some packages, a vast support network exists in the form of its global community of users, spread across many industries.
In particular its power means it is well suited to Big Data operations involving fast, constantly changing datasets, and as such it is designed to easily plug in to a large range of industry-standard databases such as MySQL, Amazon AWS, Hadoop, SAP and Teradata. Three basic distributions are available – Desktop, Server and cloud-based Online. New additions to the service this year include the Hyper in-memory capabilities designed to greatly speed up analysis of large data sets.
QlickView is another very popular option for building and sharing visualizations based on any data used by an organization. Qlik has worked hard in recent years to make its product more accessible and easy to use regardless of technical ability when it comes to working with data. This doesn’t mean it sacrifices power or features, however, with insightful visualizations being achievable in minutes, which can be shared instantly with anyone thanks to its device-agnostic infrastructure. Often it is used alongside the provider’s QlikSense platform to provide end-to-end analytics and reporting. It also has advanced security features which allows different levels of access to data to be set according to the needs of individual users.
Sisense is another end-to-end analytics solution with a powerful suite of visualization tools. It features an intuitive drag-and-drop method of building any sort of visualization from simple charts to complex, interactive infographics and dashboards. This year it has added machine learning components which simplify the process of crunching through Big Data to unearth the most relevant insights, and making connections that would go unnoticed by even the most highly-trained human eyes. Its aim is to make data understandable to anyone in your organization through fully customizable, interactive visual environments.
FusionCharts Suite XP
Carto is specifically focused at creating graphics which take the form of maps, and as such has a number of features that make it a great choice for this particular form of data visualization. It uses a wizard-driven interface which means it doesn’t take long to start mapping your data thanks to a graphical, web-based drag-and-drop environment. Its software-as-a-service (SaaS) model means that it is both affordable for small organizations but also scales as your needs for graphical reporting of location-based intelligence grows.
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Bernard Marr is a bestselling author, keynote speaker, and advisor to companies and governments. He has worked with and advised many of the world's best-known organisations. LinkedIn has recently ranked Bernard as one of the top 10 Business Influencers in the world (in fact, No 5 - just behind Bill Gates and Richard Branson). He writes on the topics of intelligent business performance for various publications including Forbes, HuffPost, and LinkedIn Pulse. His blogs and SlideShare presentation have millions of readers.