4 Steps to Increasing Data Visualization Competency

As data visualization increasingly becomes top-of-mind for data-driven organizations, it’s time to introduce the concept of data visualization competency. There is a need today to provide a framework to fingerprint data visualizations as unique digital assets in the business for maximum impact and consistent execution against strategic business practices and goals.

One approach to supporting the use of self-service data visualization and establishing guidelines for how these assets should be designed, created, and leveraged in the business is to create a data visualization competency center, or center of excellence. Ultimately, this management structure houses the essence of governed data visualization, but replaces the red tape of restrictive policies with a culture of education and collaboration.

Though the mission statement of the center will be adapted to fit the needs and culture of any individual organization, it should encompass three areas: education for users, best practices for understanding data types, and capabilities for communication and collaboration.

As you begin building your data visualization competency, consider these four key implementation steps:

Align business outcomes to drivers and technical efficiencies to assure that an anticipated outcome meets real needs for the business-at-large. This exercise validates that goals are worthwhile within the larger context of the business strategy and provides tangible benefits back equally to business and IT.

Desired business outcomes should speak to what is important for the business to accomplish. These can span across data unification needs, centralized information management, business agility, and beyond.

Establish success criteria. Include three stages that cover platform delivery (tool platforms, foundational decision documents, and training materials); an index of quick-win opportunities; and a robust, enterprise-wide communication strategy. Assign targets and milestones as you work toward the goals in each stage to monitor progress and track successes.

Regardless of the specific outcome assigned, it should be qualified with success criteria that set the precedent for when and how a deliverable can be deemed reached. These success criteria are the catalyst for working backward to ensure that the goal is reached in achievable, incremental steps. And, the criteria act as a guiding light that defines the point where the outcome can be checked as completed and serves as a clear timeline of when to do so.

Identify quick-win opportunities, where emerging data virtualization centers can capitalize on low-hanging fruit. These opportunities should be those that can clearly be addressed by data visualization and have minimal obstacles or ambiguity. They should be quick to deliver, easy to implement, and highly visible to influential groups within the business whose support will be valuable for ongoing success.

An easy way to identify quick wins is by thinking of challenges that users or departments are struggling with and devoting resources to overcoming those challenges.These opportunities should be “bite size” and take from 2 weeks to 2 months to accomplish. Thus, they deliver near-immediate and continuous value back to the business on its investment in data virtualization center.

Build an all-inclusive communication plan involving two streams of communication: top-down and bottom-up. These streams should also be bidirectional, and the data virtualization center should share information, as well as receive and incorporate feedback.

For the general population, make information accessible and approachable. Offer training opportunities, networking events (such as lunch-and-learns or user group meetups), or make the most of digital forums (such as online communities or wikis). For an executive audience, create an easily digestible data visualization scorecard which includes the metrics that the business team needs to know and provides proof points it can share with the enterprise. Leadership will need the right information at the right time to make informed decisions, plan strategically, and provide trickle-down communication.


Image courtesy of Shutterstock.



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