In 2017, Show the Way—With Data
This year, more than ever, Federal government leaders will benefit from those of us who are able to visualize data effectively to get their message across. There’s no better way to illustrate the ROI of a program than to literally illustrate it—with effective, irrefutable visuals of the data—which can serve as common ground for discussions about the work being analyzed.
As we begin the first 100 days of new leadership in the Federal government, we’ve heard many reports from the Trump administration and media analysts about an increased level of accountability when it comes to government spending. Data-driven accountability supported by well-done analysis brings the advantages of precise measures, proof of performance, and clear communication about the bottom line.
I mentioned in a previous blog post that analytics can keep us honest. Let’s look at this new administration as an opportunity to focus on analytics and honest assessments about program costs, benefits, and the impact on the constituents that each business unit serves.
Interdisciplinary research on data visualization chronicled by scholars including Stephen Few and Colin Ware teach us that visuals help us understand the data, relate to it, and remember it. To show your program’s value, illustrate its impact and relative value to the organization’s mission to show why investments should be redirected or eliminated, illustrate the tradeoffs. (Check out our complimentary download for tips on The Language of Data Visualization.)
Effective and worthwhile analytics is analytics that includes visuals.
Visuals provide narrative and insight. Brent Dykes, Director of Data Strategy at Domo, writes, “Ample context and commentary is often needed to fully appreciate an insight. When visuals are applied to data, they can enlighten the audience to insights that they wouldn’t see without charts or graphs.”
In addition to telling an effective story, visuals enable us to process ever larger pools of data. We can process information much faster than we can read. Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine discovered that the retina communicates with the brain at approximately 10 million bits per second. We cannot read anywhere close to this fast, however, and to communicate the same amount of information through text takes literally 10,000 times longer (we can read at about 1,000 bits per second).
Data is one of an organization’s most valuable assets, and visuals empower us to unleash the value of that asset and analyze more effectively and communicate even more efficiently and persuasively. Most of us will not have access to virtual reality data immersion technology in 2017 that enables us to be surrounded by our data, but we can get more hands-on with the data we use by building effective charts and graphs to analyze it and paint the picture for us (and for our audience of decision makers).
In 2017, let the following be our guiding wisdom:
Above all else show the data.
―Edward Tufte, renowned statistician and Professor Emeritus at Yale University
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