A recent Google search of “data visualization” produced 4.47 million results in 0.27 seconds. Now that we’ve entered the era of Big Data, a major challenge has become what to do with the data; specifically, how can we harvest information from the data, and then present this information in a way that makes sense and drives better decision-making?

The rise of data visualization tools suggests that vendors have spotted at least two problems they want to help clients address:

1) Decision-makers are not seeing the information produced from data (via analytical tools) clearly or quickly enough;

2) Not enough people/decision-makers throughout the organization see this information.

These issues represent Big Data’s “last-mile” problem: getting the information into decision-makers in an effective way. These challenges also call to mind the 2000s-era “PowerPoint is evil” school of thought promoted by visual-information guru Edward Tufte. His point was that the ubiquitous slide-show application was abused by many, if not most, presenters—who generally crammed far too much text (not to mention cutesy, cringe-worthy graphics) onto their slides. As a result, important information on those slides never made it into audience members.

“The numbers have no way of speaking for themselves,” writes hotshot statistician Nate Silver in his book, The Signal and the Noise: Why so Many Predictions Fail – but Some Don’t. “We speak for them.”

And when we speak for important risk, finance and other performance numbers, we ought to do so in a more compelling way, says Tidemark CEO Christian Gheorghe. “People naturally gravitate to stories,” says Gheorghe, who recently chatted via e-mail about his company’s narrative-friendly offering.

 

Please explain what your offering, Storylines, is and how it’s designed to help organizations make better planning and forecasting decisions?

Christian Gheorghe:Tidemark Storylines are a revolutionary way for companies to create, share and impact their company’s story. These “action graphics” allow people across the organization to get insights into the company’s data, understand what’s happening in the business, then take action to impact performance.

People in the business that have historically been reliant on a few to create reports that only tell a piece of the story can now see not only what’s happening inside the business, but also what’s happening external to the business that is affecting performance. At a time when data from outside the walls of an organization matters almost more than data inside the walls, businesses are clamoring for a way to bring everything together in a way that everyone in the organization can understand. Once people understand what's happening and why, they can take action—collaborating with other people and updating forecasts in real time.

 

 

What are some of the most common problems or shortcomings related to how planning, forecasting and related performance management data currently is shared within most companies?

Gheorghe:The biggest challenge most organizations face is that the performance management data is locked in the finance organization. They are the gatekeepers of the data, and people outside of finance are reliant on someone else to get the data they need to make decisions.

The legacy tools in use in these organizations were never designed to be used by the masses, so even innovative finance organizations are struggling to empower their employees as active participants in the management of the company's performance. At the same time, organizations are under increasing pressure to forecast more frequently so the business has a continual view into where they expect to go.

Moving towards continuous forecasting requires operations to be involved in the process, but they don’t have the expertise in the tools used to create plans and forecasts. These challenges are creating a big opportunity for innovative approaches to planning, forecasting and analytics.

 

 

Why are narratives, or “stories,” more effective than traditional forms of organizational information sharing via dashboards and reports?

Gheorghe: People naturally gravitate to stories. A story is something everyone can understand and they can follow along with the narrative. Dashboards and reports require translation by the reader and often show only part of the information required to really understand what’s happening. Stories combine data and the narrative with the business process, which allows people to see the big picture, then take action to impact the story while it’s still being written.