Good, Bad, and Ugly Trends for Data Viz and BI

How your favorite BI solutions stack up in 2015

In 2015, most organizations are working to harness modern data visualization capabilities to bolster adoption and Business Intelligence. The sheer number of resources (books, articles, papers) for learning how to use visualization for data science, business analytics, and media are plentiful.

A panel of business judges showing three scores: one good, one bad and one very bad.

How has data visualization changed in 2015?

While the principles that guide data visualization best practices have not changed in a long time, business and technology trends have a tremendous influence on how we use interactive data visualization today.

  • Design trends:  The technology used to create and distribute visualization has moved from glossy skeuomorphism into simpler, flat graphics. Organizations are more aware than ever, how good user experience design and composition can impact the success (adoption) of a BI solution.

Roambi Blink

  • Technology Trends: Visualizations in modern BI apps need to be exploratory and interactive for today’s class of workers who are accustomed to interactive, touch-friendly interfaces. With structured and unstructured data exploding exponentially, and predictive (statistical) analysis on the rise, businesses are clamoring for new ways to wrap their minds around “advanced analytics.”
  • Business Trends: User adoption is increasingly becoming a critical metric for success rather than focusing on traditional ROI metrics. A strong urge to get results faster is accelerating the adoption of data discovery solutions, bypassing IT orchestrated BI initiatives.

Business Intelligence Impact on Data Viz in 2015

Business Intelligence platforms, old and new, are harnessing modern standards for visualization. Whether you are an Excel guru or predictive analytics wizard, here are the good, bad, and ugly data visualization facts for common BI solutions:

Spreadsheets and Reporting Still Reign Supreme

Good: Excel is growing up as a BI tool with new BI features like PowerQuery and PowerMaps. Enterprise reporting platforms that are heavily engrained in the business are also gaining modern HTML5 visualizations that will help business consumers think more visually.

InformationWeek Report

Information Week: 2015 Analytics, Business Intelligence, and Information Management Survey

Bad: Many enterprises are still backlogged providing more complex enterprise reports to business users. Most enterprise reports today still consist of pages and pages of data without any visualization.

Ugly: Too many organizations are still distributing Business Intelligence using Excel and PowerPoint. This “Excel-mart” workflow creates the information silos and data inconsistencies that the BI industry has long rallied against.

Dashboards & Scorecards are Mature Solutions

Good: Dashboards have matured as the primary delivery vehicle for business performance for many enterprises. Dashboards still stand in a class of their own because they are closely aligned to supporting measurable KPIs and typically blend features for data exploration, reporting, mobile, and visualization in one package.

Antivia DecisionPoint

Bad: “Dashboard” has become a generic term that encapsulates any Business Intelligence app with interactive charts and tables. As such, there is a significant variation in how BI vendors define a “dashboard.”

Ugly: There are still dashboard platforms that require an army of consultants and a lot of development, which typically isolates dashboard dev teams from business stakeholders. In 2015, dashboards should be drag and drop and require minimal coding.

Self Service / Data Discovery

Good: Data discovery and self-service BI has armed analysts and power users with quick and powerful data visualization. Tableau is by far the most popular and widely adopted data discovery platform, but most BI vendors have followed suit with their data discovery solution, re-invigorating the BI marketplace with a visualization focus.


Bad: While “self-service” is the holy grail for enterprise leadership, data discovery tools in 2015 are still geared toward analysts and power users, which make up a small percentage of the enterprise.

Ugly: Data discovery and self-service BI go hand in hand in 2015, which exposes a series of issues related to scaling adoption to a larger enterprise.

Advanced Visualization

Good: Powerful, open source data visualization libraries have commoditized data visualization with HTML5, which is the standard for which modern visualization apps are being built. As such, we are seeing a visualization renaissance where technologists and designers can better collaborate to tell better stories with visualization.


Bad: Many enterprises still lack the skills to design advanced infographics and visualizations. As “Big Data” visualization and statistical analytics become more pervasive, business intelligence will need to provide better solutions for visual narration.

How do your BI solutions stack up?

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