The Power of Visualization

August 24, 2011
by Matt Gelb
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Authored by Terry Kerscher - Partner - Wipfli's Microsoft Dynamics CRM Team

You may be surprised by these facts regarding visual learning:

• 65 percent of the population are visual learners.
• The brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text.
• 90 percent of information that comes to the brain is visual. 

We are seeing organizations amass terabytes and terabytes of data at an amazingly increasing pace -- data about products, services, prospects, customers, and more.  We see them build mass volumes of transactional data as they market to, sell, and service their customers.  They acquire market share information, competitive data, and buying trends.  They supplement information they have discovered with information about their target markets that they have purchased -- the kinds of cars people drive, their annual incomes, how many kids they have, and where they go to school.  Social media influences the way they interact with and manage our customer base.  With all this information at their disposal, the challenge often lies in presenting the most relevant information to their customer-facing representatives in a manner that will allow their quick consumption when the customer contacts them!
Many sales and service call center systems being built today are using relational data models. Users of these systems consume information in a very relational way, continuously drilling down from one data relationship to another -- to access deeper or broader levels of detail based on the question they are trying to answer or the problem they are trying to solve.  They work their way up, down, and across the relational model in an attempt to understand the overall picture of the customer and the issue at hand.  But in a typical customer interaction they may often consume less than 5% of the information at their fingertips when it is presented as text. 

Today’s visualization technologies create an opportunity to do better than that by enabling you to consume much more information in a shorter period of time.  They give us the ability to think differently about how we collect and present information for business consumption.  You are no longer held hostage by a sea of data fields packed on screens showing transactions and related items.  The example shown below for the insurance industry allows us to present a complete customer lifecycle with all relevant data dynamically populated in a timeline view. This example allows the user to zoom into a particular area of time with ease while still giving them the complete picture of the life of the customer.  

In a manufacturing setting, we can now visualize the throughput performance of a work cell on the shop floor, hovering over bottlenecks to see where the breakdowns in process are occurring.  In another insurance example, we can visually present the risk associated with a customer’s property by presenting it on a map and layering in geospatial representation of flood plains, fire station proximity, and historically destructive weather patterns.  The visualization technologies today allow us to combine multiple sources of relevant information into a single view that has many more times the impact of simply viewing the underlying transactional records.

The challenge is designing simple visual solutions that allow users to rapidly understand a situation without overburdening or overcomplicating the situation.  For this to be effective, you must consider the following questions:

• What information must our users have access to, based on their roles? 
• What additional information would be nice, but not critical, for them to have easy access to? 
• What should we be considering that we don’t even think about today because it is just too laborious to get to in the precious time we have available in any customer interaction?

Dynamically generating contextual visualization of data holds the promise of a deeper understanding of your customers beyond the transaction they are calling about.  It gives you an opportunity to understand a situation in a split second that previously was too laborious to even attempt.  It gives you the ability to turn a sea of data into information your organization’s representatives can rapidly consume and take action on. 

As you consider taking the plunge for the first time, or diving into new pools of opportunity with CRM, we can help you provide stimulating visual representations of what has historically been seen as simply rows and columns of data -- giving your organization a fresh perspective to see opportunities as they have never been seen before.