Data Visualization with No Results? Could vs Should

Frank Coleman By Frank Coleman Senior Director, DELL EMC Services April 3, 2017

I often hear people and teams complaining about their data. They have people digging in but are not getting the results they expected from a quality or quantity standpoint.

What’s wrong? Infrastructure, Tools, Skills, or all of them? Which of the following are part of your experience?


  • Stone Carvings – No centralized systems or common process
  • The 80s – More centralized but no access to the data unless you are IT
  • Y2K – Glad your computer still works. Many canned reports that are just columns and rows but still no database access
  • Drowning in Data – All the data in the world, just limited results


  • Excel – This is equivalent to the Stone Carvings above. You can survive but that’s about it.
  • You will use what I give you in Excel.
  • Reporting tools that allow you to dump the data to Excel. Starting to get there but still limited in ability to scale and automate. High risk of Shadow IT.
  • Lots of options just not sure when to use which tool and why


  • Excel – Nothing wrong with having Excel skills but you need more to advance
  • Data Subject Matter Expert (SME) – Knows all things about the data, what to use and what is broken and even sometimes how to get around it.
  • Technical but no understanding of the business – This can be a dangerous place because many folks with technical skills can create information that could be incorrect or not exactly what the business meant.
  • Analytical and business SME – Understanding the business you support and the end-to-end process in which the business operates

I listed the different stages of Infrastructure and Tools mostly to point out where many people  are now and make fun of them to highlight how far off some groups are. My timelines and dates above may be a little off : ). The further along you are with infrastructure, common platforms, and common processes the closer you are to doing more with your data. The same is true for your tools. IT can play a huge role in making this easy on you or keeping you in Y2K. I am spoiled when it comes to infrastructure because that’s what Dell EMC does. Feel free to check it out, but I’m not here to sell.

Skills is the area people have the most control of but when it comes to knowing your business it doesn’t matter how skilled you are. If you don’t understand the business you will never create value. Knowing they have different processes and use different tools is part of your knowledge. When bringing that information together you may have a suggestion back to the business around which process and/or tool delivers the most and/or best data to you. But we often find ourselves with too much work and not enough time to actually think. Then we end up with tons of charts and dashboards but no results.

So what should you do?

Step back and talk with the business you support

  1. Interview various members of the business and understand their top 5-10 pain points
  2. Meet regularly with key stakeholders to ensure everyone is in agreement with the major pain points or work it out. This will keep your resources on point and not distracted with just doing.
  3. Make sure there is a clear issue and impact based on your analysis. What questions are we trying to answer or what issue do we want to expose with this project? Most importantly, what actions can you take with this data, or do you need more data to drive action? We often create data visualization that highlights a pain point but
    doesn’t enable the business to see what’s behind it.
  4. Driver Metrics are often needed to expose what’s behind the dashboard view. But creating more metrics off metrics still doesn’t get you there. What specific actions can address what you have uncovered? What action needs to be taken? Once your data gives you this you’re on your way.
  5. When the business asks you “tell me something I don’t know”, first find out more about what they want to accomplish. What are their challenges and issues? What do they wish they could do? If you can find a project that aligns with their objectives and goals you will get a better chance of creating value.

You can create value for your business whether you’re Captain Caveman or George Jetson but you need to start with an understanding of the business drivers and issues and not just blindly jump in.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Frank Coleman

About Frank Coleman

Senior Director, DELL EMC Services

Frank is a Senior Director of Business Operations for Dell EMC Services. He is living the world of Big Data in this role, as he is responsible for using advanced data analytics to improve the customer experience with Dell EMC’s services organization.

This role keeps Frank immersed in Big Data, and he is at the cutting edge of using Big Data to solve real business problems. Frank has a strong blend of technical knowledge and business understanding, and has spent the last nine years focused on the business of service.

Under his leadership, EMC was honored in mid-2012 for the third consecutive year with the Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA) STAR Award for “Excellence in the Use of Metrics and Business Intelligence.” Prior to joining EMC, Frank worked in various fields and remote technical support roles.

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