MANAGING KNOWLEDGE COMPLEXITY THROUGH VISUALIZATION
The case for visualization as an important element of KM is not hard to make. Anyone who has seen an Excel spreadsheet transformed into a set of colorful bar charts knows that visualized data is more easily understood than a set of numbers. The use of graphs and charts makes it unnecessary for people to interpret numbers on-the-fly or perform mental gymnastics in order to compare different data categories or see chronological trends.
The human visual cortex is specialized to process visual information and does so without requiring conscious thought. In contrast, processing text requires engagement of multiple brain areas—one to understand words, another for flow and tense, and a third for emotional response and retention of information. So, it is not surprising that people absorb visual information much more quickly.
Data in visualized form provides insights into patterns, connections, and for interactivity, to easily drill down or consolidate data elements. Data exploration is perhaps one of the biggest advantages of visualized data. This capability is particularly useful for business analysts, who lack the programming skills that would enable them to manipulate data expertly.
Most business intelligence (BI) and other enterprise solutions have visualization tools embedded in them, enabling them to present dashboards and a variety of graphs and charts. For example, Microsoft Dynamics 365, an enterprise resource planning (ERP) application, has that as a built-in ability. It can also import and visualize data from other applications. SAS Visual Analytics runs on the SAS Business Intelligence platform to provide quick insights, derived in part using machine learning, and can return natural language responses.
Some tools are oriented toward a primary function. For example, Whatagraph was designed for marketing teams to display information to their clients. It integrates with numerous applications, including marketing platforms such as Facebook and analytics products such as Google Analytics.
This broad usage supports a strong and growing market. MarketsandMarkets expects the visualization software tools market to grow from $5.9 billion in 2021 to $10.2 billion in 2026, reflecting an average growth rate of more than 11% per year.
Climate data revealed
Providing insights into complex data is an area where visualization shines. C40 Cities is a network of nearly 100 mayors in cities throughout the world that together constitute 20% of global GDP. It is working to contend with the impact of climate change and to support climate action goals. The organization selected Qlik to make its climate data easily accessible to a wide range of users, including members and the general public.
One data source in the C40 knowledge hub provides greenhouse gas emissions data, divided into three categories—stationary (buildings), transportation, and waste. A variety of viewing options allow users to view total or per capita emissions in graph form. Results can be filtered by sector, sub-sector, and region. Integration of map data allows users to select the countries or regions they are exploring from the map. Other data supported and visualized by Qlik on the C40 Cities site includes Clean Energy, Air Quality, and Transport Data Explorer. The site also provides a variety of environmentally related policies that can be accessed by geographic location and then compared.