Choosing Data Visualizations for Your Business Intelligence Strategy

July 29, 2019

Having an easy selection of data visualizations is easily one of the chief benefits of business intelligence software. They can help you discover new insights and provide an at-a-glance view of your success metrics. It's up to you to choose what visualizations will best tell your data story.

Here are some of our favorite data visualizations for building out solid dashboards, comparing trends, and gaining a greater understanding of the inner workings of your company.

Unique Visualizations for Unique Intents

When building your dashboard, the first point to keep in mind is that the visualizations you choose needs to correspond with the dashboard’s primary use. For example, a sales leaderboard will look very different from a dashboard highlighting business forecasting.

A sales leaderboard will use visuals like an area chart that shows profits over time, or a bar graph that displays which salespeople have made the most sales so far that quarter. A forecasting dashboard, on the other hand, will use a stacked column/line combo graph to compare previous forecasts with actual profits, or a funnel chart that easily displays the stages of the forecasting process. (You can see examples of different dashboards on our Dashboards We Love page.)

Dissecting Data Visualizations

How do you decide which visuals will help you the most?

First, you need a solid understanding of each type of visualization so you can figure out how to best bring your data to life. Here’s a list of the most important types, including some specific examples of how they’re commonly used in a corporate dashboard:

Area

An area chart is a line chart with the area below the line filled with color. Often, several area charts are mapped together for comparison.

Example: MachMotion uses an area chart in their sales projection dashboard to compare given quotes to booked orders.

An example of an area chart in an area chart in a sales projection dashboard.

Bar

On a bar chart, numerical values are represented by horizontal bars and compared by length.

Example: Displaying the results of a “yes/no” customer survey question.

Bar/Line Combo

A bar/line combo combines a bar graph with a line graph to display a trend or compare multiple data sets. It is horizontally oriented.

Example: Comparing targeted sales with actual sales.

Bubble

Bubble charts are used to display data points with three numerical dimensions represented by the x-axis, y-axis, and area of the bubble.

Example: Comparing overall value with cost and profits of a group of projects.

Bullet

A bullet graph is a variation of a bar graph that measures values on a qualitative range.

Example: Comparing monthly budget allocations from one year to the next.

Donut

A donut chart is a hollow circle divided into sections that each represent a portion of the whole.

Example: Comparing budgets for different departments.

Funnel

Funnel charts represent stages in a sales, marketing, or other “funnel” process.

Example: Sococo uses a funnel chart to gauge the success of their sales in comparison to the success of their marketing efforts.

An example of a funnel chart in a business intelligence dashboard

Gauge

Gauge charts use needles to show change in a single value on a dial.

Example: Noting current customer satisfaction levels.

Line

A line graph displays information as a series of data points connected by straight lines.

Example: Tracking unique site visitors over time.

Map

A map chart displays geolocational data.

Example: Displaying common sales locations.

Pareto

A Pareto chart contains columns and a line, where columns are presented in descending order and the line shows the cumulative total.

Example: Determining the most significant problem in a company’s customer service process.

Pie

A pie chart is a circle divided into sections that each represent a portion of the whole.

Example: Breaking down audience demographics.

Radar

A radar chart displays multivariate data on multiple axes starting from the same point.

Example: Comparing three products based on eight different characteristics.

Stacked Column

A stacked column chart breaks down and compares parts of a whole. Columns represents the whole, and segments represent different parts of the whole.

Example: Spread the Vote uses a stacked column graph to track the number of monthly voters added per state each month.

An example of a stacked column visualization in a business intelligence dashboard

Stack Column 100%

Similar to a stacked column chart, but each column segment represents a percentage of the whole, rather than the actual value.

Example: Tracking the percentage of monthly newsletter signups by region.

Stacked Column/ Line Combo

Similar to a column/line combo, a stacked column/line combo overlays a line graph on a stacked column graph.

Example: Charting budget funds spent on specific projects.

Stacked Bar

A stacked bar chart breaks down and compares parts of a whole. Bars represent the whole, and segments represent different parts of the whole.

Example: Comparing the cost of a marketing strategy by product.

Table

A table is a set of data systematically displayed in rows and columns.

Example: Displaying scores from employee competency surveys.

Different Visualizations for Different Data

There isn’t a set format for building out your dashboard (although Grow does offer templates if you're new to BI software)—what determines the visualizations you choose is the goal that you’re driving toward. The purpose of visualizations is to bring data to life, moving it from a static spreadsheet to a more dynamic layout that your team can make sense of.

Ready to get started building your own dashboards? Grow can help. We offer a variety of powerful visualizations that can help you tell your story in the most impactful way possible. Demo Grow for yourself.
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