data visualization - the practical guide for small business owners

Data visualization: The practical guide for SME businesses

Reader alert: This practical guide on “what is data visualization” is built for SME business owners who are interested to know and explore the world of data visualization.

It is long and will consume more than 15 mins of your time to read & understand.

But if you are truly interested to explore this vast subject, we guarantee that it will be worth your time.

Let’s begin?

As a small or medium-sized business owner, hearing the words “data visualization” will usually push you back. But to your surprise, small businesses are also generating massive amounts of data.

Hence, it is not just a “big-boys” game anymore and you too should leverage the power of data analytics. If SME businesses optimize their data through data analytics software, they can capitalize on next-level growth opportunities.

To cover this huge guide of “what is data visualization” we will be breaking it down into 5 main parts –

  1. Why is data visualization important for businesses?
  2. How does data visualization impact business decision-making?
  3. Top data visualization tools, best practices, and poor examples
  4. Is it worth investing in data visualization tools/software?
  5. What are the advantages of partnering/working with a data visualization consultant?

Now that you know the main objectives of this practical guide, and what to expect, let’s go dive deeper into these aspects.

Part 1: What is data visualization and why is it important?

What is Data visualization – It is an activity that involves collecting unstructured data from various sources, modeling it, and displaying it in an organized and readable manner thus aiding better decision making.

It presents the data using visuals like interactive graphs and charts, making information more compelling and easy to interpret for all types of users.

Here’s a great 3-min video to give you a better understanding of what is data visualization and why is data visualization important.

According to an article published in Forbeslow-quality data impacts businesses adversely. It can jeopardize your relationship with customers, increase spend, waste marketing and communications efforts, and hamper decision-making.

Thus, improving data quality should be the top priority for any business. And, to make the maximum use of the quality data, it must be presented in a decipherable and informative manner.

Here are 8 big reasons why data visualization is important for any business –

  1. Determining performance over a period
  2. Understanding customer sentiment
  3. Ease of data analysis
  4. Seamless data presentation
  5. Interpreting correlations in relationships
  6. Analyzing risk
  7. Identifying patterns
  8. Analyzing and predicting trends

To know more about these factors, you should definitely head on to the dedicated blog piece we have written on this topic. Click the button below –

Now that you have a fair understanding of things, it is essential that you know, what you’re getting into, is actually a safe and sound bet for the future that lies ahead.

And that’s exactly what we will look at in this section – the future of data visualization

What is the future of data visualization?

Over the years, data visualization has made a significant impact not just in large organizations but also in medium and small enterprises – thanks to data generated at a break-neck pace.

Each day 2.5 quintillion bytes of information are generated globally, which will go wasted if not put in a proper framework. Looking at this stat itself, you can get an estimation regarding how the future of data visualization is not only bright but robust!

Why should SMEs use data visualization?

Despite a large number of BI and data visualization solutions, most SMEs are doubtful about using them as they fear cost escalations and have misconceptions that BI tools are too advanced for their business.

(Credits – Splash BI)

A few more benefits of data visualization are:

  • According to the American Management Association statistics reports, data visualization saves time by reducing business meetings by 24%.
  • Business leaders are able to make decisions more independently without having to rely on technical skills or other resources.
  • Dashboards and reports developed using BI software are more comprehensive, and help leaders make real-time, accurate, and informed business decisions.
  • A study by Nuclear Research claims that practical data visualization tools provide an average ROI of $13.01 for every dollar spent.

Instead of looking at dashboards with fragmented views of business, such as the markets, customers, competitors, etc., a data-friendly architecture is sure to help SMEs reap more benefits.

In fact, it will be easier for SMEs to implement these technologies since migration and adaptability are much easier than large organizations.

Few industries that hugely benefit from the use of data visualization are –

  • Travel & Logistics
  • Banking and Finance
  • Healthcare
  • Education
  • eCommerce & Retail

To read in-depth on these and to find out more about data visualization’s future, do check out the following blog post –

Having known the importance & benefits of data visualization, it’s time to know how exactly does it impact and help a business.

Part 2: How does data visualization impact business decision-making?

Business growth is most often accompanied by growing volumes of data. The effective presentation of this data helps understand the facts, findings, or patterns underlying the business data. This is where data visualization plays a vital role.

It is a means to facilitate necessary information that enables sound business choices. It is the logical representation of data that helps see the big picture at a glance. From trends, patterns to visual aids – data visualization provides insights into a business thus enabling a proper course of action.

data driven decision making
Credits: (Reflective Data)

How data visualization aids in better decision making?

Here are the top 5 reasons how data visualizations improve business decision making

1. Facilitates quicker actions

Data visualization enhance the available information and represent it in a pictorial format. This helps business leaders get a bigger picture of the positives & negatives, draw conclusions, and make informed decisions quickly and efficiently.

2. Simplifies and improves focus

Graphical representation helps users with an effective way to focus on the most important data at any given point. Including visuals in your analytics leads to an overall higher ROI.

3. Enhances trend analysis

Leveraging the key metrics enables business leaders to utilize real-time information and make it effective. They’ll also be well-equipped to adapt and respond to the prevailing market changes and stay on top of things.

4. Personalizes interaction with data

Key insights can be used to build strategies that are data-driven, factual & relevant to the business needs.

5. Improves collaboration between internal teams

With everyone having access to the same data at all levels, there is an improved roadmap and enhanced clarity. The graphical representation of data also helps in guiding the implementation and execution of work. Eventually, helping businesses manage resources in the most optimal way.

For an in-depth view on the above points head on over to our dedicated blog post by clicking the link below –

Next up, we take a look at the means or the ways in which you can implement data visualization. Yes, we are talking about the tools/software.

In the following section, we talk about some of the most prominent and promising BI and DV tools in the market. We will also glance at some of the best and worst data visualization practices and examples.

So stick around as this section is going to be full of information, images, and dashboards…

Part 3: Top data visualization tools/software, best practices, and poor examples

Let’s start with a video that talks about some of the most popular tools in 2020 and then we will take a look at our top picks as well.

(The views and reviews given in the following video are totally independent of what we think and are the original creator’s thoughts.)

Credits: (Edureka)

To make life easier, listed below are the 10 data visualization tools mentioned in the above video –

  1. Infogram – Build infographics, reports, and maps
  2. Sisense – Business intelligence software and analytics platform
  3. FineReport – Reporting and dashboard software
  4. Google Charts – Create graphical charts
  5. Grafana – Open source analytics and monitoring solution for DBs
  6. Dundas BI – Premium reporting and data analytics
  7. Adaptive Planning – Enterprise financial planning and budgeting
  8. Microsoft Power BI – Data visualizations
  9. Whatagraph – Marketing analytics and social media reporting
  10. Tableau – Data visualizations

Now, let’s look at our picks of the top data visualization tools along with 3 of their features and a dashboard preview:

Microsoft Power BI

power bi dashboard example 2020
Microsoft Power BI dashboard example

Key Features of Power BI

  • Access to real-time dashboards.
  • Link information from various sources for comparative analysis and comprehensive representation.
  • Connect to data from a wide range of databases, including MS Access, Oracle, SQL, PostgreSQL, and Sybase. You can also connect it to cloud applications and flat files like Excel, CSV, etc.


Tableau dashboard preview
Tableau dashboard example

Key Features of Tableau

  • Drag and drop feature makes it easy to develop interactive dashboards by non-technical users.
  • Connect to databases like SQL and MS Access, cloud apps, and flat files like CSV.
  • The intuitive user interface is device-friendly and can be accessed from mobiles, also.

Google data studio

google data studio dashboard preview
Google data studio dashboard example

Key Features of Google Data Studio

  • A complete web-based BI tool to develop personalized dashboards with ease.
  • Particularly designed for small businesses.
  • Sharing a Google data studio dashboard is as simple as sharing a Google doc.


looker dashboard preview
Looker dashboard example

Key Features of Looker

  • It’s one of the top data visualization tools, perfectly tailored for large organizations dealing with Big Data.
  • You can connect it with any SQL database or data warehouses, including Amazon Athena, Greenplum, and Microsoft Azure.
  • Since Looker has its proprietary modeling language called LookML, it’s convenient to write SQL and define queries on this platform.


qlikview dashboard example 2020
QlikView dashboard example

Key Features of QlikView

  • More suitable for large organizations.
  • Very suitable for in-depth analysis and visualization.
  • Qlik GeoAnalytics offers advanced mapping visualization and analysis options.


thoughtspot dashboard example
ThoughtSpot dashboard example

Key Features of ThoughtSpot

  • Build your Pinboards on your mobile device.
  • Using the Ask an Expert feature, users can get clarifications from other ThoughtSpot users.
  • Customized cloud infrastructure enables you to select the cloud provider, depending on the amount of memory and storage you require and your budget.

We would encourage you to take a deeper dive into these tools and features and also understand which one suits your organization. You can read further about them by following the link below –

There will be a point, when you decide to give data visualization a try.

And at that point in time, there will, at least once, be a dilemma in your head.

This dilemma is very common and one of the most interesting and popular topics of discussion – Choosing between Power BI vs Tableau

It’s been more than 5 years and the users/industries vouching for these 2 software are almost evenly split.

We also have our own say on this topic of interest and we think you would also be interested to know more about these 2 big names in the industry.

So let’s have a quick overview?

microsoft power bi vs tableau

Overview of Microsoft Power BI

Released in 2014, Microsoft Power BI started as a remarkable alternative to Excel. Preparing basic dashboards with Power BI is much easier as compared to any other tool and it also has a steep learning curve.

It has both a cloud-based and desktop interface. Being Microsoft’s product, it is available with the Office 365 Enterprise E5 version pack. Power BI comes with innumerable visual options and templates that are easy to download and implement.

It’s a perfect tool for small to medium entities, both in functionality and price, with no compromise on the ability to develop powerful dashboards.

Overview of Tableau

Tableau was introduced in 2003 and Salesforce acquired it in 2019.  This analytical platform has a higher reach in large organizations because of its agile features and its headstart over Power BI.

With Tableau, you can leverage any number of data points for conducting a critical analysis. It’s a robust data visualization tool with drag and drop features. Thus, making it easy to use for no-IT users too.

It’s a flexible tool, and if you are well-versed with calculations and statistics, you will enjoy analyzing and presenting your data with Tableau.

Power BI vs Tableau – Features comparison

microsoft power bi vs tableau features comparison table
Features comparison

We are deliberately keeping this section short since we already have a complete dedicated blog on this topic. It talks about the pros, cons, features, and our final verdict regarding these 2 tools.

If you are interested to know more about these 2 software, follow the link below –

Data visualization best practices & bad examples

Being a business owner who has or wants to implement data visualization solutions, it is very crucial that you know what you are looking at is right.

Knowing the industry standards, best practices, and avoiding the worst possible visuals aids is a big deal!

So, let’s get enlightened!

7 data visualization best practices to remember

  1. Knowing your target audience
  2. Knowing the data
  3. Maintaining the data-ink ratio
  4. Striving for consistency
  5. Following the standard design principles
  6. Building easy to understand dashboards
  7. Keeping it minimalistic

To learn more about them in detail, read the following blog –

5 Bad data visualization examples

To avoid data visualization errors, it’s required that you strike the right chord between data science and presentation.

Using too many colors, incorrect charts, and presenting too much information through one graph are some of the mistakes that data analysts often make.

And these, in turn, will make a decision maker’s life more difficult than easier!

1. Using incorrect axis ranges in bar charts
using incorrect axis ranges on bar charts

2. Trying to be over-creative
3. Not using labels
4. Using too many colors, shapes and text
bad data visualization example - using too many colors
5. Information congestion in a single visual
too much information on a bar chart

Looking at the above images, you can surely guess they are pretty bad at conveying data and lose the entire purpose of building them.

But let’s not stop here by just knowing what is bad. To know the correct method of using the above visual aids, visit the link below –

We have almost reached the last part of this practical guide for business owners. Just a few more crucial elements to understand before we wrap things up!

Now that you are well aware of the benefits, tools, practices, and other things related, it’s time to make the decisions!

So, we will assist you in the decision-making process in the next and final section

Part 4: Is it worth investing in data visualization for an SME business?

Every penny counts to SME business owners! You want to utilize your resources optimally and zero down on the wastage. In such a scenario, the question of whether data visualization for small business is worth or not is quite natural.

While 97.2% of organizations have already started investing in big data and AI, there’s a huge chunk (95%) that is still groping to manage the unstructured data.

10 reasons to invest in data visualization
Credits: (bi4all)

6 benefits of data visualization for small & medium businesses

  • Save time
  • Forecast future trends
  • Better insights into data
  • Enhance decision making
  • Encourage audience engagement
  • Identify your customer’s expectations better

To gain more insights on how the above things can be achieved, do read our other blog post. It also talks about why, as a small business venturing into data visualization, you should consider Power BI as your preferred BI tool. The link to that can be found below –

Part 5: Advantages of working/partnering with a data visualization consultant

Small businesses often think that partnering with other firms is costly and simply ignore the idea. On the contrary, working together with a data visualization consultant from the very initial days helps a business deliver far better results with the least minimum resource wastage.

In this section, we will take a look at some of the business benefits of collaborating with other data viz consultants or consulting companies.

Business advantages of working with a data visualization consultant

1. Better data insights

When two entities from two different backgrounds and organizations work in harmony together, their perspective of looking at data eventually benefits the client immensely.

2. Reduce competition

When you partner with another data visualization consultancy, you make your competitor, your ally. Both parties can also benefit from each other’s brand reputation.

3. Mitigate competency gaps

When two companies join hands, each brings something unique that not just helps both the entities to grow but benefits their clients as well.

4. Access to larger client base

When you collaborate with other data visualization consulting providers, you tap into their market and share their customer base. This ultimately saves you the time, effort, and money required to acquire new customers.

5. Holistic service to existing clients

Clients are evolving and their expectations as well. They are focusing on data discovery and advanced visualizations. Partnering up can assist in providing holistic service to your clients. And you have a great opportunity to become their one-stop solution provider for data analytics.

How to select the right BI-partner?

how to select the right data visualization partner

Finding the right business partner can be tough as well as time-consuming. There isn’t a magic app or website that will pop-out a few names for you. But knowing a few key traits to consider will help in this decision making.

1 :- Associated target market

2 :- Aligned business values

3 :- Being in a win-win scenario

To know more on what we exactly mean in the above 3 points, you should head on to the following blog post –

how to select the right BI consultant or consulting company

Bottom-line: Data visualization enhances your capability in understanding the health & optimum course for running your business without slogging through heaps of data.

The ideal data visualization is one that requires no further explanation than the visual itself.

If you maintain your data and use the correct charts to answer the questions that are asked, you should be able to do so quite easily. And as the depth and complexity of your data grow, so do the options for presenting it, and your comfort in using those methods.

We have reached the end of – The Practical guide to data visualization for SME business owners.

This was our small (yet big!) attempt at trying to simplify data visualization and its know-how for business owners.

Our objective is to encourage businesses to venture and explore BI and DV and harness its power to visualize clarity in business decisions.

We hope you gained many insights into the topic and our efforts were truly worth your time.

About SR analytics

microsoft silver partner in india - SR analytics

We are a Microsoft silver partner and analytics consulting is our main forte. Our preferred choice of data visualization tool is Microsoft Power BI.

We service clients across the USA and aim to expand our services to a wider audience.

You can visit our clutch profile here – SR analytics reviews on Clutch

Visit our Microsoft profile here – SR analytics: Silver Microsoft partner

Know more about Power BI – Power BI consulting services

More than 15,000 hours of analytics consulting work delivered for various clients across domains. We can guide you to improve your bottom-line and assist in your data visualization growth journey.

Partner with us and become a data-driven business!

    how to select the right BI consultant or consulting company