Daily Archives: December 1, 2013

You Need Analytics. You Need Intelligence. But Do You Need Visualization?

Probably not. Especially if all that visualization does is significantly jack up the cost of your analytics solution.

As a Procurement Pro, you need to know who is buying what, from which supplier, at what price, and in what quantity, and you need to present the relevant aggregate summaries to department managers and overall summaries to the CPO and the C-Suite — who will want to see the data graphically. Since even Excel has a plethora of charts and graphs at your disposal, it’s a safe bet that any decent spend analytics platform is going to have just about every standard graph and chart imaginable.

But just because you need charts and graphs, does this mean you also need interactive graphics that form the cornerstone of modern data visualization solutions? Kind of yes but mostly no. Interactive tree-maps, that are already built into leading spend analysis solutions, that allow a user to click on a quadrant that corresponds to a category and drill down into sub-category spend to understand why a certain category represents such a significant percentage of spend are quite useful, but 3-D rotating graphs, hyperbolic category hierarchies, network models, etc. are not that much use when it comes to understanding spend.

SI really likes the straight-forward answer to the question of does your company actually need data visualization given by Bill Shander over on the HBR Blog Network.

Given that data visualization can be expensive, especially if it involves large amounts of data and complex algorithms or deep interactive experiences, you need to decide if it’s worth the investment. If you’re selling straightforward solutions to
simple problems, data visualization is probably not worth the money. Consumer packaged goods firms Coca Cola and Nestle don’t need interactive graphics to explain their products, just as Playboy and Playgirl don’t need to educate the opposite sex much about their centerfolds.

If a vendor is trying to convince you of the value of their analytics solution, they shouldn’t need rotating cubes to demonstrate that they can do sophisticated analysis, just like you shouldn’t need 3-D graphs to point out that a certain department’s refusal to adopt the corporate contract is increasing costs 15% and costing the organization 1 Million a year.

Simply put, if the analytic solution at your disposal has some advanced data visualization capability that is useful, use it, but don’t spend a lot of money for fancy graphics that don’t convey any more information than you can package in an Excel bar chart!