Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Show me the Numbers

Yesterday we had a great talk at the SDForum Business Intelligence SIG from Stephen Few called "Show me the Numbers". Stephen has created a career for himself teaching how to present business information in a way that is clear and understandable. And as he told us in the meeting he did this because he saw a crying need for better information presentation and nobody else was doing it.

One of the chief problems is that BI systems vendors compete by offering the most features and in the presentation space this is done by offering a wide variety of impressive 3-D graphs. We looked at and critiqued a number of graphs taken from vendors sales and education literature and we had a field day. For example, in one memorable graph, the months in the time dimension had been sorted in alphabetic order!

When it comes to selecting the type of graph to use, many people use "Eeny Meeny Miny Moe", or look through the list of graph types and select one because they have not used it for some time. I know that I have used this method in the past. Stephen has a well thought out methodology for designing information presentation and he started to go through it, although there was not enough time to go into depth. If you want to find out more you have to read the book.

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