Wayne Jones The Latest Visualisation Techniques Should Be Part of the CI Professional's Toolbox
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By Wayne Jones


Competitive intelligence by its nature requires the presentation of new and complex ideas to audiences that are not necessarily predisposed to hear them. Wayne Jones explains how the latest visualisation tools and techniques can help your ideas get through to your audience.


Most competitive intelligence professionals know the basics of information visualisation – when to use a line chart versus a bar chart, how to highlight the clusters in a scatter plot.

Unfortunately, our colleagues (and internal competitors) all know these same tricks, so standing out from the crowd is more difficult than ever, as the overall quality of business presentations rises.

Stay Ahead of the Curve

To keep ahead of the curve, we can take three basic steps:

  • Learn the latest features of our day-to-day software
  • Explore new, cloud-based alternatives
  • Participate in online communities that share visualisation best practices.

Fully Exploit Excel's Features

While almost everyone uses Microsoft Excel, few take advantage of its full capabilities or stay up to date on the latest releases. For those who haven't explored all of the menu options in even their aging editions, features such as conditional formatting can add clarity to complex datasets and draw attention to the most significant parts of a table.

For those using the current release, Excel 2013/Office 365 introduced a range of new visualisation features such as Quick Analysis and Recommended Chart, which examine the structure and ranges of your data to recommend the best from a set of common visualisations.

Explore Free Cloud-Based Apps

Most of the latest visualisation tools are deployed as cloud applications, and many have free versions that enable you to experiment before making a significant investment.

The most popular tool at the moment is Tableau, which is available in a free version known as Tableau Public. The tool offers a wide range of visualisations and interactive modes that can be shared online even with users that are not signed up for the software.

Tableau makes formerly complex data manipulation simple even for non-specialists, enabling users to explore a wide array of visualisations without too much concern for the structure of their data.

Take Tips from Peers

The best work of others engaged in data visualisation can inspire us to find improved ways to communicate insights about our own data.

Community projects such as IBM's Many Eyes provide open platforms for the sharing of datasets and visualisations, giving both new and experienced practitioners the opportunity to explore alternatives for presenting their own datasets. (Sorting by rating quickly surfaces the community's most impressive examples.)

Because members of the community can comment on and improve each other's contributions, you might find that someone has discovered a new and even more interesting way to look at your own data!

Focus on Keeping Stakeholders Engaged

Staying up to date on the tools and techniques of information visualisation ensures that our insights remain continually fresh and engaging to our stakeholders.

Ultimately, the goal of any market intelligence function is to drive beneficial change – keeping stakeholders engaged and finding the best ways to highlight the most valuable insights are important components of ensuring that your insights become actions.

Editor's Note

FreePint Subscribers can log in to read and share more in Wayne Jones' article, Turn Your Insights into Action with the Latest Tools for CI Communication.

This article is part of the FreePint Topic Series: Next-Generation Competitive Intelligence running from May-June 2014. Register your interest now, and you'll also get a free copy of the FreePint Report: Buyer's Guide on Competitive Intelligence when it's published in June.

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