You wouldn't walk into a presentation and show a slide with just sentences that have a few bolded numbers, right? Why do it to yourself then?
Getting some charts, graphics, and indicators from your data doesn't require a special occasion. Your data can easily turn into your biggest ally if it's put into some good visuals, and you’ll notice the difference in your business, and how you spend your time!
The short summary is that you’ll spend significantly less time trying to understand your business performance (therefore increasing your efficiency and making your life easier) and you’ll be more inclined to actually use your data to your advantage and make some good, business-growing data-driven decisions!
1) Visuals are significantly easier to understand
65% of people are visual learners. That “learning” applies to reading things like financial statements too. It’s much easier for the numbers to stick with you if they are presented in a visually appealing way (ex. chart, graph, etc.) as opposed to “plain paper” black and white income statements that are honestly pretty boring to look at. And I say that as a financial professional...
I think that 65% number is a bit low, but regardless, if you’re looking at something and there is a big red down arrow, you’ll be able to very quickly grasp that the metric in question is down. It doesn’t take a visual learner to see that – that’s universal.
2) 13 milliseconds. That’s how long it takes to process an image.
The smart folks at MIT tested this and found out that your mind can process an image in as little as 13 one-thousandths of a second (13 milliseconds). Depending on what research you look at, text is processed up to 60,000x slower! Even if it’s processed half as fast… that’s still very significant.
So when you’ve got a big meeting in 5 minutes and you’ve been absolutely swamped to the point where you haven’t been able to dive into your numbers, you’re out of luck if you’re going to try and thumb through accounting reports.
However, if your numbers are in colorful and descriptive dashboards, you can easily glance at the charts, get the numbers, the comparisons to prior timeframes, and the trends all while saving enough time to grab a cup of coffee before your meeting!
3) So much less manual work!
A few of the common gripes with data are that it takes so long to work through, understand, and keep up with. It can really be a hassle when you have to do everything manually!
Setting up a process to have the data digestion set up and then produce an updated graph, charts, etc. saves an incredible amount of time. Those updates can typically be automated too, but even if it’s something as simple as going to a CRM or QuickBooks, downloading a CSV and dumping that into your template – that’s still somewhat automated!
How does that tie into visualization? Well when your data is in visuals, it really encourages you to create some level of automation because you probably won't want to create a graph every time - you'll love the benefits of the graph but you'll also make it easier to update with a small investment of your time And you will quickly find that it isn’t that bad to make it automated to some degree!
I have saved a client from 8 hours of manually copying pasting/automating his financials and turned it into literally a 10-minute process with essentially no manual work on his end! Who wouldn’t want 8 hours back a month?
It might take a tiny bit of manual work (essentially going to a website) but that’s it! That level of manual work beats the heck out of printing out two different financial statements, comparing them side by side, and using a calculator to see what percent change you’re dealing with.
4) You’ll actually use your data to influence your decisions!
When getting actionable insights from your data is a huge hassle that takes half a day just to set up… you’re not going to use the data. No one has half a day to invest in something that shouldn’t take more than half an hour.
It’s like having that writer’s block feeling. You just can’t get started because it seems like a daunting amount of work that has to be done. You know the end product is necessary and really amazing (and beneficial in data’s case) but it feels like you don’t even know where to start.
Having that feeling every month when you’re trying to see how your business did is not good. Building simple and repeatable processes that show your business performance is a great thing.
Easy to update, fun to look at (in your brand colors), simple to interact with, and highly beneficial. You won’t have that writer’s block feeling when that’s the situation. Heck, it’s not just that you’ll actually use your data… you’ll look forward to seeing what it looks like!
5) Noticing trends early and often
Now that we’ve covered the fact that visuals are great, automatic updating is easy, and you might even be looking forward to checking out your performance, I’ll highlight one last point that gets a bit more technical.
When looking through your visual dashboard, you’ll be able to spot trends quicker and easier. If you’re looking at numbers of 105, 98, 108, 97, 95, 96, you would likely recognize that they’re all pretty similar. Nothing really jumps out. However, when you look at them in graph form, you can spot a trend forming.
If this was something like your conversion rate or your revenue, you might be raising some red flags and digging pretty deep into these numbers.
So, why visualize your data? Well, not only are visuals easier on the eyes (but more importantly, the mind too), they also lend themselves nicely to a more automated solution, and you’ll be able to see where your business might be heading quicker and easier. All of those will combine to actually make you want to check out your data and use it to influence your strategy going forward!
The simple power of visualizing your numbers… you’ll be able to see the difference.