What is the future of Data visualization and Dashboard solutions?

This article is not about any futuristic "Iron Man style dashboard/data visualization product" where you are combing through holographic cubic chunks from your ultra fast Big Data pipeline.

From time to time I keep pondering on what could be the future and I am sure lot of us get this science fiction imagery where the future data analyst will be given just a pair of holographic gloves and perform three dimensional analysis.

Let us stop day dreaming and get to the basics.
Dashboards have come a long way. These days lot of vendors are catering towards consuming big data etc. but I remember the days when the common target of BI vendors was "Excel". Looks like the focus has totally shifted from "Excel as the enemy" to "Big Data as the elephant".

In my opinion, Excel is still a big problem and because Excel solves other big problems in any organization it is going to co-exist for a long time. Look at how the open data sites have done it. They have democratized the availability of data through portals and you can download your data via csv files, XML or JSON dumps.

A good BI eco-system should allow for easy assemblage of such small sized datasets whether it be Excel/CSV or any other text file into a central repository. If this can be achieved then "Excel" is no longer your enemy and it becomes just another vehicle for your data set.

For e.g Earlier your marketing department exported your monthly google analytics data into Excel and did some independent powerpoint presentations. It is this powerpoint presentation that is being circulated around the company. This is a big problem as no one can go back to the source and validate if the data set was manipulated, what kind of calculations were done and so on.

But in an altered scenario, if the person, simply uploaded the excel file into a common BI repository where you can continue your data visualization and then simply pass this URL around, now this is revolution. Not only you have untainted data set, but anybody can jump in and perform their analysis on the same dataset.

Visualizations will continue to improve and no longer be a differentiating factor among vendors. Users will be able to perform advanced visualizations by simple drag and drop operations.

Dashboards will continue to be used for monitoring real time events as well as publish scorecards and performance metrics. The line between a dashboard page and any other internal web page will fade.

Eliminate desktop based development and enable every user to learn data visualization and data analysis. Desktop based development provides lot of friction for the end user to jump into any kind of visualizations and quick analysis. Imagine if all business analyst were able to login into the browser and quickly connect to any data source and publish visualizations.

Can you see how a small change in deployment model can change the whole attitude of your business community? This way you are nurturing the use of data and the idea that decisions based on data are much more valuable.

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Comment by Nilesh Jethwa on December 15, 2014 at 7:37am

Hello Mark,

 (quoting your example) 10 years ago wordpress and other blogging platforms made it easy for anybody to simply jump in and start pouring their ideas and thoughts. Imagine the number of Mom-blogs, small business blogs, cooking blogs would not have been possible if there were no easy way to write your thoughts out.

I think that is the greatest success of democratizing blogging. Of-course there are negative side effects to everything (like bad blogs) but people learn to filter them out.

So is the case with data visualizations, as more people learn it, more people evolve learning the good and bad ones and the cycle continues. 

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