Discover the unexpected; it’s all about the journey. Sounds like the beginning of a travel
brochure, right? Well, it fits because visual analytics helps you navigate a world full of data.
When you are trying to make sense out of your data, where do you begin? Two popular
approaches to visual data analysis include data visualization and visual analytics. Each
plays an important role in data exploration. You don’t have to choose one or the other—
they both help you to see and understand your data.
Data exploration usually starts with a question. But the answer to that question doesn’t
need to be the end of the journey.
Asking “what” and “why”
A data visualization is a graphical depiction of data, such as dashboard or report. Data
visualizations present views of data that answer “what,” such as, “What are our sales and
profits, for different regions, and different months or years?” They are good for answering
a finite set of questions, and can be static or provide some level of interactivity for
investigating those questions.
Being able to answer “what” questions in your data is incredibly valuable. It helps to tell a
story about your data, and to identify problems and issues.
For many people, creating dashboards and reports are the goal and final destination of
their data exploration. But what if the data is revealing some type of issue, such as lower
profits for a certain region or type of product?
To get to the root cause of an issue or problem, you need to be able to explore the
dashboard’s data directly, beyond the limits of a canned set of filters and categories. You
might need to view the data with new types of visualizations, beyond the constraints of
report templates and canned chart types, to answer your own questions.’
The power of asking why
Answering “what” is the first step in exploring data. The next step is asking “why.” To dig
deeper, you need to be able to ask why and why again. When you need to learn more about
what the data is telling you, you need visual analytics.
Visual analytics is a dynamic, iterative process where you quickly build different views to
explore infinite paths of “whats,” and the “whys” behind them. Visual analytics can help
you explore, find answers, and build stories in your data. It even goes beyond those initial
insights, so everyone who sees the visualization can ask questions and make unexpected
Why visual analytics is effective
Visual analytics is a method for exploring data visually, in real-time. A productive visual
analytics experience has certain characteristics. At any moment, you can:
• Instantly change what data you are looking at (with one click). This is important because
different questions require different data.
• Instantly change the way you are looking at it (with one click). This is important because
different views of data answer different questions.
With each incremental change, the view of the data updates immediately to help you
intuitively explore different visualization types to find the right one. You can focus on
exploring, instead of the mechanics of how to build a specific chart or being locked into
a canned template. The meaning in your data unfolds as you create different views to
answer different questions—so your exploration leads to better analysis, not dead ends.
Your questions and incremental changes don’t touch the underlying data; they only
change how the data is visually represented. Because the changes are made incrementally,
it is always possible to undo, redo or return to a previous state. Every action is safe,
because it can be instantly undone.
Best of all, the visual analytics process can lead to visualizations that show you the
unexpected. Imagine how surprise findings can stimulate your thought process, and
encourage deeper analysis or a different path of exploration.
What visual analytics can do for you
A high-quality visual analytics platform helps you to easily create impactful
visualizations and dashboards, and encourages exploration to identify new opportunities
for your business. The right solution supports data exploration, data visualization, and
intuitive ad-hoc analysis.
Ask and answer your own questions, at the speed of thought
Visual analytics gives you immediate answers because the structure for your analysis is
created anew, instantly, every time you ask a new question. And you should be able to
analyze data in an ad-hoc way, from different databases and spreadsheets at the same
time, in the same view.