A post full of business analytics updates

Here are a few updates, news and noteworthy links for this week.

New book about Performance Management

Make sure to check out the latest book about Performance Management written by Steve Player and the late Jeremy Hope. It’s called Beyond Performance Management: Why, When, and How to Use 40 Tools and Best Practices for Superior Business Performance. I just downloaded it for my Kindle and will post a review as soon as possible.

IBM Finance Forum 2012

IBM Finance Forum is a great event for all finance professionals. Continue reading “A post full of business analytics updates”

Visualize This! A book review

Visualize this!

Visualization of data is one of the hottest topics these days. No matter where I go, people are taking a huge interest in it. Infographics are floating the Internet, for example. Companies are looking to refine their dashboards with better visuals. This was also apparent at the Gartner BI Summit earlier this week.

Despite the tremendous attention, there are only a few good books about this topic in the market. One of them is Nathan Yau’s title Visualize This: The FlowingData Guide to Design, Visualization, and Statistics. This week, I was able to finally read it all the way through. Did I enjoy reading it? Yes and no.

visualize this

Great concepts

Yau does a fine job with engaging the reader in the first part of the book. He explains a number of important fundamentals of visualization. This includes a process that he suggests people should follow:

  1. Get your data
  2. Ask a question (what do you want to know about it?)
  3. Choose your visualization tools
  4. Explore the data (look for trends, patterns, differences, etc.)
  5. Tell the story and design the visual

There is a lot of relevant information for business analytics professionals in this section. I particularly like that Yau urges his readers to clearly figure out what story they want to tell by visualizing data. This is often forgotten in the design of a dashboard (e.g. do I use a line-chart to show the trend, or do I use a bar chart to show the variances?)

“Approach visualization as if you were telling a story. What kind of story are you trying to tell? Is it a report, or is it a novel? Do you want to convince people that action is necessary?” Nathan Yau

The other chapters

The remaining chapters of the book contain valuable content as well. The author covers topics such as handling data and picking tools for building charts. Several chapters are dedicated towards describing how to best visualize certain problems (e.g. patterns, proportions, spatial relationships, etc.). Each section provides plenty of examples and some good ideas. I enjoyed working through this. But I do have to say that the content isn’t nearly as deep as let’s say Stephen Few’s material.

A good book for BI professionals?

So far so good. There is just one thing that you should know: Many chapters are also full of technical instructions that teach you how to build graphs and charts in the open source package R along with Adobe Illustrator. There is a lot of code in the book. Technical folks might enjoy this. But it is not my cup of tea and most BI professionals will hopefully build their charts using the corporate BI platform. To be honest, I went ahead and skipped those pages.

Visualize this!

Nathan Yau’s book Visualize this! is definitely a good book. I learned a few things here and there and took ample notes. It is also entertaining.  However, one has to understand that this is not necessarily a book dedicated towards BI professionals. Rather, this is a book for people who are looking to build infographics and other standalone visualizations. Nevertheless, you can tell that Nathan Yau is passionate about it and he inspired me to hone my skills. If you are looking for a deeper and more business oriented read, I would rather recommend the books by Stephen Few and Edward Tufte.

Why the Kindle Touch is better than a book

Kindle Touch Review

Reading business books is one of my favorite activities. You can probably imagine how delighted I was when I received a brand new Kindle Touch as a present. This is the third Kindle I have owned since the first generation. And let me tell you – the Kindle Touch is awesome! Amazon managed to make a great product even better. It is so nice that I ended up leaving my beloved iPad at home during our last vacation. I have read over five books on the Kindle Touch in the past three weeks. Continue reading “Why the Kindle Touch is better than a book”

Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness – A review

ZARRELLA’S HIERARCHY OF CONTAGIOUSNESS

A few days ago I bought and downloaded the ubiquitous eBook Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness: The Science, Design, and Engineering of Contagious Ideas. There is a lot of stuff about social media out there but I find that many materials are fuzzy and hype-oriented. Dan Zarrella’s book is definitely different and I think that Business Analytics professionals like you will enjoy the book.

ZARRELLA’S HIERARCHY

Social media have changed the way we market to our customers. But reaching the right people is not all that easy as you have probably experienced. The basic idea of Zarrella’s book is to look at why certain ideas are contagious and what you can do to make sure that your message is heard in the various social media channels. Zarrella introduces a useful model (Zarrella’s Hierarchy) that helps explain how messages get spread through social media. It is a hierarchy of three criteria:

  1. Exposure: People need to be exposed to a piece of content.
  2. Attention: Once people are exposed, will they actually notice the message?
  3. Motivation: Once an idea has been noticed, will people share it with others? Continue reading “Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness – A review”