Self-service reporting brings data visualisation to SMBs

  • Richard Thelwell
  • December 5, 2014

Data visualisation has traditionally been a term associated with larger organisations that have the resources and technical expertise to devote to this area of data analysis. With self-service reporting, however, you no longer need these skills to be able to create professional-looking data visualisations, which means SMBs can derive the same level of utility from their data as these larger firms.

Data visualisation is a critical component in a successful business intelligence and analytics strategy. It might seem daunting at first, but chances are you are already using some form of data visualisation in your company at the moment.

For many smaller businesses, this usually exists in the form of the charts and graphs created on top of data stored in your Excel spreadsheets. Excel is perfectly acceptable for creating basic visualisations over small, simple data sets. However, when the data gets increasingly complex and you require more advanced insight, a more robust data visualisation solution is needed.

Alas, this does not come without a cost – and many SMBs have previously lacked the financial resources to invest in standalone data visualisation tools.

Self-service reporting software solves this problem in a cost-effective manner by providing business users with the tools to create advanced reports and professional-looking data visualisations on their own, without the help of IT departments.

What is data visualisation?

In simple terms, data visualisation involves the graphical representation of data and can take a large number of different forms such as charts, info graphics and dashboards. Data visualisations can help to transform often complex data into something that is not only easier to understand but also more aesthetically pleasing.

self-service reporting data visualisation
self-service reporting brings data visualisation to businesses of all sizes

The benefits of data visualisation for SMBs

‘If information is important, it deserves to be well communicated.’
Stephen Few, Information Dashboard Design, 2013

The benefits of effective data visualisation for companies of all sizes are becoming increasingly apparent. In a modern workplace, where time is of the essence, it has become crucial that information is efficiently communicated across different levels of the business. The effective use of data visualisation can allow you to present large volumes of data in a much more simplified and user-friendly manner.

Nathan Roberson discusses how effective data visualisation is, not only in capturing people’s attention, but also in maintaining this attention for a greater length of time. This can be particularly important when communicating data to key decision-makers higher up in the business who require quick and actionable insights.

Data visualisation not only allows better communication of data, it also improves analysis. This is a view supported by Michael Rappa who states that, “We see visualization as an important, integral part of not just communicating insights to decision-makers, but very important to your understanding and analyzing your data”. Data visualisations can help you spot trends in data that may not have been noticeable from the figures alone. They can also enable you to make more effective comparisons between data sets by plotting them on the same visualisation, helping you to gain more value from your data.

Breaking down the barriers

Up until recently, there have been a number of barriers to entry for smaller businesses looking to engage in advanced data visualisation – primarily cost. However, that is beginning to change, and self-service reporting tools are helping to break down these barriers, improving access to these tools for SMBs.

Ellis Booker discusses how data visualisation tools are slowly getting into the hands of “regular business users”. This highlights the changes that have occurred in recent years to make business intelligence and reporting as a whole much more accessible.

self-service reporting data visualisation users
Business Users are gaining increased access to Data Visualisation tools.

With self-service reporting, users no longer require high levels of experience or technical knowledge to be able to create and manipulate data visualisations, meaning these tools are no longer restricted to particular areas of the business.

The quality of the data visualisation tools found within business intelligence solutions are constantly improving. Users are beginning to expect higher quality data visualisation, and in order to keep up with these expectations, vendors are continuously being forced to innovate the capabilities of their software.

To learn more about the creating great data visualisations for your business, download our free E-Book below.