We now have GIS-quality maps in our browsers, on our phones, and on the dashboard screens of our cars. Infographics arrive daily via email, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. We make charts instantly in Microsoft Office, and free images abound on the web. Is visualization becoming a commodity, or does it play an important role in understanding and acting on enterprise data?
Representing data visually is arguably as old as writing itself. It makes trends, patterns and outliers immediately and intuitively apparent in a way that lists and tables often can’t. It remains the best, and really only, tool for bringing together spatial, temporal and node information, a requirement for situational intelligence. It provides easier ways to interact with large amounts of data from multiple sources, helping to make big data into little data.
All of this is to say that visualization leads to visual analytics that improve, simplify and speed data-driven decision making.
For all these reasons, visualization cannot be a commodity. It matters how decisions are made, how users interact with data, how trends and patterns and outliers are shown. When techniques and processes matter, then the related tools cannot be commodities, unspecialized and widely distributed.
Ultimately, we’re not concerned with simply seeing large amounts of data. We need insight about the data that we can act upon.