August 14, 2019


This article is part of a four-blog series that takes an in-depth look at data visualization. Follow the links below to see the other stories:


Analytic use photo

Data visualization projects are at the tip of your analytics platform iceberg. While all the data gathering, processing and modeling go on below the waterline, data visualization dashboards engage users and present key data in a visible and meaningful way.

At WebbMason Analytics, we’ve developed hundreds of visualizations. The single biggest challenge we see is the temptation to jump right in and start creating charts before doing sufficient discovery.

Without an upfront strategy that clarifies what you want to accomplish, you’ll probably end up with dashboards people won’t use or dashboards that are not capable of providing the data and insights necessary to drive business change. Writing a comprehensive set of use cases for every project — whether you are starting from scratch, improving what you have or adding features — is one of the most important steps you can take to ensure your dashboards align with your objectives.

Creating use cases is an iterative process designed to document the current and desired future state, define the scope of work and assign responsibility for each part of the project. The requirement gathering methodologies you need for this are relatively routine for professional delivery managers and business analysts. And, while the methods don’t change, when it comes to data visualization projects, the scope does.

Why is this? Because even projects that look simple on the surface can reach deep into the heart of an organization. They can have unexpected impacts on numerous departments, uncover multiple sources of data and hide complexity.

Here are a few of the most revealing questions you can ask as you begin to create the rules that data engineers or business intelligence (BI) developers will use to formulate a technical solution.

  • What data do business users and departments need and want to see?
  • How often will they want the dashboard refreshed?
  • Do you know why that data is so vital to the users?
  • Do they have any specific goals, such as performance improvement or cost reduction?
  • What industry guidelines do you need to build into the data visualization and the analytics platform that powers it? For example, you may need to accommodate strict regulatory demands in healthcare, finance or other industries.
  • Do you have an owner for each dashboard with a) the right domain knowledge and b) the authority to approve system changes during the iterative development of each dashboard and its entire lifecycle?
  • What data will you need, where does it live and who is currently responsible for it?

Every effective visualization solution is rooted in how the technology supports the people who use the dashboards — how the data is sourced, stored, processed and finally presented. So, as you define your use cases, you will need to engage data engineers and architects. They will select the most appropriate visualization tools, other technologies and integrations for your application.

Our teams of advanced analytics professionals help you develop use cases and guide you through the layout of your dashboards. WebbMason Analytics also supports you with technical planning, development and implementation of the entire project.