The Future Of Data Visualization

Where will we be in five years time?


Data visualization has evolved dramatically over the last decade. Organizations now have at their disposal highly sophisticated software with which to present the vast amount of information they now collect. It is no longer simply a case of analysts putting up a few bars charts, rather we are seeing data presented through highly-engaging, often interactive designs that are far better for convincing decision makers of the validity of discoveries you have made from data. They draw an impactful response from users, taking them on a journey that enables them to understand the insights being presented or discover insights for themselves

These capabilities have given data visualization a new found importance across organizations of all sizes. A recent Business2community survey of data professionals found that the data science skill with the highest correlation to project success was data mining and visualization tools, and this is translating into investment. In Progress’s recent 2017 Data Connectivity Outlook Survey, 59% said they are using data visualization, and this number is sure to rise in the coming years.

The next five years promise even more exciting developments in the data visualization arena. We asked six experts in the field from organizations leading the way what they think will be the major advances.

Abon Chaudhuri, Sr. Applied Researcher, at Walmart Labs

No matter how the tech industry and its consumers evolve in the next 5 years, their collective fondness for generating and exploring data is not going to wither. Hence, opportunities for data visualization will continue to grow. The demand for visualization from a business perspective is strongly felt when new technologies in related fields gain popularity. The advent of medical imaging technologies (CT, MRI etc.) in the early 90s gave birth to several R&D companies offering medical and scientific visualization solutions. Such possibilities are abundant in today's world. For example, in the next few years, Internet of Things will make it possible to connect to and collect data from any device anytime, giving rise to an unforeseen deluge of data. A solution that offers the ability to visualize such data quickly and effectively will attract many takers. On the other hand, AI and deep learning will proliferate to new domains. Needless to say, onboarding users will embrace tools capable of visualizing these complex deep learning engines and the data churned by them.

Akash Mukherjee, Data Products, People Growth at Facebook

There are three big changes, we will see in the next five years:

1) disruptive tools with serious differentiations,

2) application in new industry verticals, and

3) cross-pollination of people from different backgrounds entering this field

Data visualization is constantly evolving. The number of analytics tools is exploding. There's a mix of two categories of products in the market. On one hand, you have rapid prototyping tools and on the other, there's a range of robust charting libraries in the market. In the next five years, we will see some of these technologies being married. We will also witness the next big disruption in the data visualization & analytics market, since the days when Tableau and Microstrategy came in and stood out from legacy tools of the 90s. So, I expect the upcoming analytics tools to seriously differentiate themselves in their offerings, instead of just playing catch-up with Tableau and Microstrategy.

In the next five years, I also think data visualization will start putting its strong foothold in different industry verticals like HR, Manufacturing, Healthcare, Education etc. We already have some specialized products for Marketing Analytics, Product Analytics, HR Analytics, etc. We will see more of these.

And finally, the real magic will happen when people from varied backgrounds, ranging from astronomy to fine arts come and join the field data science. Some of them may go through the foundational concepts of data. But, in the end, we, as a community, will gain a lot when there is a cross pollination of ideas from these very different universes.

Doug Ireland, VP of Finance at Prezi

Having data on demand in an organization is becoming a given highly technical organizations. This trend will continue to expand to more traditional industries and smaller companies. The next step will be having the correct visualizations available on demand, too, to be used and reused in multiple channels and media of communication.

Chi-Yi Kuan, Director of Business Analytics at LinkedIn

I think there will be big advances in data viz for effortless and easy to discover thanks to the information technology revolution, which enabled many players and startups to invest and innovate many disruptive tools in the past few years. More exciting advancements will be expected too, including:

- Supporting big data 3 Vs at scale: like 100X for Volume, 10X for Velocity, 5X for Variety

- The end-to-end set up time will be much shorter, the learning curve to be a data viz expert would be within days

- More flexible user interfaces with easier ways to surface complicated cases w/o any further advanced coding for discovering the underlying knowledge and relationships, such as social graphing, 3+ dimensional graphing, etc.

- More integration could happen here, such as new intelligent features in data viz application for predictive modeling, pattern discovery, automatic alerting, etc.

- Given the recent crazy popularity in AR technology for Pokemon Go, interesting data viz application to support AR or VR will soon become available and have the potential to be a hot topic down the road.

Ken Cherven, Data Visualizations Specialist at GM

A lot has been made of the self-service possibility for all business users to instantly turn into data visualizers, but I don't see this materializing. What I believe will happen is the continuing evolution where different parts of the business begin engaging in data visualization at a greater rate. This will include parts of the enterprise that are not customer-facing, but would benefit greatly from more sophisticated visualization of their business metrics. Finance, IT, and engineering functions could all function more efficiently if they can move away from databases and spreadsheets and toward visualization platforms.

Gabi Steele, Data Visualization Specialist at the Washington Post

From a business perspective, data visualization roles and teams will likely expand exponentially within most major corporations in the next 5 years but even more significantly perhaps is new business opportunities for younger companies that can position themselves in a sweet spot of harnessing data visualization in unique and highly profitable ways. Branded content is one example of a revenue driven advertising space that fits unusually well into data viz market.


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