Mico Yuk is the author of Data Visualization for Dummies and founder of BI Brainz and the BI Dashboard Formula (BIDF) methodology. She has trained thousands globally how to strategically use the power of data visualization to enhance the decision-making process, working with Fortune 500 companies including Procter & Gamble, Honda, Kimberly-Clark, Royal Dutch Shell, Nestle, Qatargas, Ericsson and FedEx. We sat down with her.
How did you start your career in data?
Weirdly enough, I actually started my career in SaaS as a data scientist. Data was my currency. Without data, you were dead in the water. My job was to create and run algorithms that delivered and proved the stats that were being published by Forbes about our high-profile college football team. A few years later, I entered the business intelligence world. What a big change! Everything in this world was Excel. No one had to prove their numbers. The realization that I had a lot of ‘data discipline’ to bring to the table and the BI industry is how my love affair with data started.
How have you seen the industry change over the last decade?
In the last 10 years, technology has changed, business users expectations has changed, but the challenges have not. The prevalence of big data coupled with disruptive tools such as Hadoop, IBM Watson Analytics, SAP HANA, Tableau, Qlikview and Domo are redefining the analytics industry. The traditional BI vendors are being forced to reinvent their old BI tools or become extinct. The emergence of IoT has created an insatiable thirst for advanced analytics, which in turn has driven a demand for data scientists that the market can’t meet. Wearable and smartphone devices continue to shrink the consumer viewing real estate, forcing the display of billions of rows of data into a single number or chart. It’s both exciting and scary.
One thing that has not changed is the business vs IT challenge. The traditional data wars of ownership versus stewardship. Many BI teams are at risk for becoming ‘BI-nosaurs’ (per Gartner) as they struggle to deliver value to the business. Ten years ago, IT teams controlled the company’s technology spend. Today most CIOs can't secure a technology or resource budget without gaining extensive business review, buy-in and approval. This has meant that lots of technical people have basically become pseudo marketers. The second hottest addition to the C-level in most progressive companies besides the Chief Digital Officer, is the Chief Analytics Officer (CAO). The creation of the CAO role signals a data revolution, where users are demanding knowledge and not just more information. I hope to see this trend continue.
What do you see as the major challenges confronting the data viz project over the next few years, and what technologies do you think will be game changing?
When used properly, a data visualization is the most powerful way to communicate data. Human being recall images 60,000xs more than they do text. However, most organizations face the same three challenges:
1) Data. Having the right data. The time it takes to validate the data. And measuring the wrong KPIs or metrics. This leads to data vizualizations that contain lots of information but no real action or insight, and ultimately a lack of user adoption.
2) Design. A lack of design and UX skills. Traditional data visualization thought leaders like Stephen Few, Rolf Hichert and others subscribe to the black and white, less is more approach. Today, users expect their business intelligence assets such as dashboard and reports to look, function and perform like the apps on their phones and desktops. Users want personalized, user friendly, aesthetically appealing, and easy to understand data viz that provide clear actions. 3) Tools. Old BI tools vs new BI tools. One uses a ‘single version of the truth’ the other promotes data silos.
The solution to these problems is not just better technology.