What do we tend to do when we are too focused into something? That’s right, we tend to lose sight of what the big picture looks like, and lacking that crucial perspective can be costly when you are in charge to run and grow a business.
As the saying goes “Don’t miss the forest for the trees,” as business owners and managers, we are to be vigilant in maintaining a clear vision and a good sense of where our business currently are. Only when we managed to do so, then we would be in the position to determine where to go next and how to get there. Furthermore, it helps us to focus on the right detail, the ones that has a big impact on the business.
The good news is, there are a plethora of tools and techniques out there that can help us in this regard.
In this article, let me try to illustrate this concept using a simple example:
Take a look at the chart above. What did you notice? Bubbles, different shapes, and colors. For those of us who are data-geeks, this is one variation of a bubble chart.
Now the story behind this chart: Once upon a time, there was an imaginary theater company, who performed in their own facility, three times a week, on Monday and Thursday afternoons, and on Saturday mornings (represented on the vertical axis of the chart). Each performance slot is indicated on the horizontal axis.
So if we do a mapping between the time-slot and the day, we would find a single performance — a bubble and a number — representing the available seating for that particular performance. In other words the seating capacity of the theater minus the ones that are already sold for the performance.
Now that you know what the chart is about, take a moment and look at the chart again and let’s see what jumps out at you.
All done? Now put yourself in the position of the business owner of this theater company and let’s compare notes:
- The size of the bubble intuitively indicates the seats left (which means tickets unsold)
- The color of the bubble indicates the type of seatings available (main seatings have more capacity than the balcony or the box)
- The larger the bubble, the worst it is from business perspective, again, intuitively, you want to shrink the bubble to 0 available seats, which means a full-house performance
- What about those large negative numbers on some of the bubbles? Those indicate overbooking. Something that must be dealt with before the actual performance, otherwise two or more annoyed audiences will be the result — which in today’s world will likely translate into negative tweets and facebook posts (bad for our reputation)
- The chart represents one week, it would be easy to produce one for next week, the next two weeks, etc. In fact, the chart can be an effective planning tool for promoting the performances based on which time slot still have a lot of seatings available
- Once we have multiple of these charts, we start to see the forest, which weeks of the months is the best time to promote a particular performance. Is this the time to introduce a Season’s Pass ticket? How far are we from having to get a new building?
Do you see what we’ve accomplished? With a single chart, as a business owner, we can see:
- What is going on
- Where to focus our attentions to
- What bad things that would happen
- Which options are available for us
- How to create a strategy to do something about it
- What does the big picture look like
That is the power of Data Analytics and Visualization.
What About Real-world Scenarios?
Here is the kicker, although I created a fictitious story for the chart, in actuality, it is based on a real-world visualization that we produce for one of our clients. It is a real business tool which takes the concept of charting to a whole new level. That is, we made it a user interface where the business owner can actually reserve a seat, or upgrade it right there on the chart, without having to go through extra screens.
Our client loves this view of their business because it gives them visibility way beyond hundreds of numbers in a spreadsheet that they are used to deal with. And it make efficient use of both their time and strategic thinking, so they can arrive to better decisions, faster.
Ever wonder why military generals over the ages plan their next moves by analyzing a map?
Let us know what you think about this, and let’s work towards changing the way we see our businesses.