Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Data Visualization: The future of Business Intelligence

In the past few years the importance of data visualization has come to the forefront for the Business Intelligence software. Data visualization or information visualization or visual analytics is nothing but the visual representation of important enterprise data in terms of graphs and charts. The business user's need has always been a graphical representation which makes sense and can be easily explored or analyzed so that the trends and patterns can be spotted with ease. Moreover, the graphs and charts that are seen by the upper management needs to summarize information and should provide actionable ideas to them. Considering these facts today the Business Intelligence tools are being designed with the data visualization at its core.

The focus of Business Intelligence today is shifting towards the point of view of the business users. The new kinds of charts, graphs and dashboards which became available to business analysts over the last few years is really mind-boggling. Also, the view of Business users are changing and they are not willing to only analyze the stale data in Data Warehouse instead they are looking forward to analysis of real-time data as well with the help of data visualization.

Here are some interesting visualizations from IBM. These visualizations are part of a project named Many Eyes. You can also create your own visualizations with sample data:

IBM Cognos 10 has come up with completely new features like Business Insight ans Business Insight Advanced using which a business user can create his personal dashboard in a flash using the report objects (list, charts, graphs or crosstabs) from other reports. So without having to create anything the business users can today reuse their report objects into their personalized dashboards along with the ability of adding the own analysis on the top of it. This feature allows the business users to put their creativity into use.

The demos for IBM Cognos 10 Business Insight and Business Insight Advanced is available at the following link:

The new kinds of charts and graphs which have been introduced in Cognos 10 is also enormous. If you have seen or used the previous versions of IBM Cognos you can realize the number of charts and graphs that has been added in Cognos 10. Here is a screenshot for the selection screen for the charts available in Cognos 10:

However, the most discussed feature in Cognos 10 is Active Reports. This functionality allows the report authors to create interactive reports for offline use (when the users are disconnected). Business users can explore the information independent of their location or network connectivity. Here is the link to the Active Reports demo from IBM:

Another great addition in IBM Cognos 10 is the use to external data which enables the users to focus on the real-time data as well. A business user might be having the latest data in an excel sheet and not yet uploaded to the reporting database. Using this feature, they can analyze this data along with the current data with the data they have in data warehouse. For an overview of this feature, check the following video:


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