Data Visualisation Roundtable: Cost efficiencies for the 'new normal'

On May 15th Vantage was joined by Tableau and Alteryx specialist, Neil Bradshaw, to discuss the importance of data, specifically how data visualisation can help us adapt to the ‘new normal’ following COVID-19.

Kicking off the session, Neil talked us through the expectations of data visualisation. Starting with the fact that businesses are struggling to use data visualisation effectively. Citing a stat from McKinsey Analytics, Neil discussed how 92% of businesses were failing to properly scale their analytics, with most still leveraging it for vanity purposes or to “make the stats look pretty”. He emphasised the need to go far beyond that. He believes that data should be at the centre of every business conversation.

Some businesses get it, some don’t. And those that don’t, won’t be around for much longer.

Others agreed that while some businesses do recognise the benefit of using data, they tend to downplay good data visualisation – too often they’re easily pleased with an excel spreadsheet containing a few graphs and charts. The team discussed the best way around this and how approaching senior stakeholders, showing them what they’ve currently been reviewing and what they could get access to by using a data visualisation tool, such as Microsoft Power BI or Tableau, was the best way to get buy-in.

“What I’ve realised is that when people don’t know something, they’re either very curious about it or a bit scared” commented one attendee. It’s our job to help them on the data journey. With the current situation, it’s going to mean that people are forced into having a new perspective and will need to look at data in a new way that delivers more than just dashboarding or reporting.

Moving onto the opportunity for users of data visualisation, self-service was at the forefront of the discussion, for project managers, desktop users and developers alike. Neil identified two streams, consumption self-service and creation self-service.

Consumption self-service supersedes manual refreshing of data, increasing automation and providing more interactivity for end-users to define what data they see, without requiring support. Neil described how, aside from the savings that better data insight could provide, the hours and headcount efficiencies of centralising the data and introducing automation have also created large cost-efficiencies for multiple businesses that he’s worked with.

One example of this, on a micro-scale was shared, “I had a client who had a simple monthly budget report, cost versus budget and just by automating this, it saved 4 days of one chap’s time. When he moved on elsewhere, the organisation didn’t replace him as they could spread out the rest of his work amongst others. It was only a small finance team of 4-5 people but they were able to use this system to save a significant cost to the business.”

The second type of self-service is creation self-service. This is to do with the technical subject matter experts, the developers and consultants who focus on creating user-friendly data sources that enables businesses to build their own reports. The step before consumption self-service, it’s where the business requirements and data sources are mapped out to provide a platform for non-technical users to produce data sets and visualisations themselves.

Aside from time and cost-saving gains by reducing bottle necks in the business, there was a strong argument that by upskilling workers to do self-creation based off the core dataset, it’s more likely that these individuals will spot opportunities and build new reports that a developer wouldn’t identify.

The team went on to discuss potential blockers of implementing data visualisation and reasons why people may not adopt best practice.

It’s a short-term cost for a longer-term gain

From lack of understanding to initial outlay, there were plenty of issues attendees had come up against when trying to get a data visualisation project off the ground. What was clear was that stakeholder management pre, during and post implementation was paramount, particularly in identifying quick-wins and demonstrating real value back to the business. Neil finished the session with a sentiment that rang true for many attendees, “this isn’t going away. People need to adapt to this world, or they’re going to be side-lined. They need to embrace this reality that we are going to be more data-driven and they can be part of that journey.”

If you’d be interested in finding out more about the Data Visualisation Roundtable or any of our future events, get in touch.

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Ben Gosling

20th May