Companies that can establish common visual languages for data can leverage that data to drive successful decision making.
That’s what Thomas Davenport, visiting professor at Harvard Business School and a senior adviser to Deloitte Analytics, says in a recent Harvard Business Review post.
P&G, which uses visual analytics from Spotfire, has put visual displays of key information – called Decision Cockpits – on the desktops of more than 50,000 employees.
The company also has built meeting spaces called Business Spheres in more than 50 locations where managers can review information on large displays to bolster decision making.
“If decision makers have to spend too much time with the data figuring out what has happened in an important area of operations, they may never get to why it happened, or how to address the issue,” Davenport notes. “Good visual displays keep the focus on managing the business by exception, and direct management attention to where it is most needed.”
For example, a heatmap can show all the markets in a region where P&G competes and the relative share of its products. Red indicates low market share, and green symbolizes high market share.
“Having such displays in common use is especially important to P&G because it is an extremely global company, and prefers to develop managers by moving them regularly from one brand and geographical market to another,” Davenport adds. “Consistent data visualization across the corporation reflects and supports that strategy.”
In addition to having a common way of presenting information, the company has also developed multiple models that specify what information should be used to address a particular problem.
“P&G’s dedication to common and well-understood data displays shows what is possible when senior managers are able to stop spending so much time discussing whose data is correct, what data should really be used, and how it should best be displayed,” according to Davenport. “They can spend that much more time devising ways to address the problems and opportunities. It’s the creativity that is exercised on those fronts that really drives the success of businesses.”
The software has allowed the company to make decisions in one day that used to require up to a month of data gathering.
Research also underscores the importance of data visualization.
For example, 62% of more than 1,100 business and technology executives believe that big data can deliver a competitive advantage, according to PricewaterhouseCooper’s recent 5th Annual Digital IQ Survey. However, 58% agree that moving from data to insight is a major challenge.
“When combined with data analysis, visualization can help put data into context and bring the business case to life,” according to PricewaterhouseCooper. “Some companies already investing in data visualization seem to get it, with almost two-fifths of survey respondents saying they plan to boost their investments in data visualization this year.”
The report also notes that top performing companies – those that link information technology and business strategy and aggressively invest in emerging technologies – are four times more likely to be top performers than those with less collaborative leadership teams.
Top performing companies, according to the report:
- Are more likely to integrate internal and third-party data to better support decision making
- Can also adapt quickly to market changes to maintain competitive advantage over competitors
- Are more likely than other respondents to strongly agree that harnessing big data will provide competitive advantage.
- Have a sufficient pipeline of talent to undertake a deep analysis of big data
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- You can learn more about Procter and Gamble’s Business Sphere Technology here.