As a consultant and the previous president of several operating groups at Dow Jones, Scott Schulman is familiar with working in information-intensive industries. He says that the consulting process is very much focused on using high-impact ways to display information and describe a point a view.
Using effective charts and visuals become, in many ways, the language of consultants in being able to analyze and synthesize large amounts of data from the client’s organization, from the outside world, from marketplace statistics and to turn it all into a compelling story and point of view.
Illuminating key issues and coming up with new insights are a key job of a consultant, according to Schulman. When he later led a number of businesses that provided information to businesses and businesspeople, “it was very clear that data visualization was becoming more and more important for companies to get key insights that mattered to their business.” He cites an overload of data as one of the main reason why this has overwhelmed companies today.
Not only has the introduction of digital made our business environment that much more complex, but “there’s so much information that it’s often very difficult to know what’s important and what to pay attention to.” While Schulman has worked with companies of every size, he recognizes that digital has allowed smaller companies to participate in enterprise information more effectively than in years past.
The ability to cut through all of the clutter and aggregate the best information – and then, present it in a visual way – becomes a really critical part of managing information in today’s global business world.
Schulman often sees businesses not devoting enough time or attention into figuring out what tools are most appropriate for effectively analyzing the data they have access to. Instead, many choose common spreadsheet or presentation tools – whether it be Excel, PowerPoint, or another common software tool – and they don’t get the full insight from their information.
He says that one of the biggest mistakes he sees in business is when companies don’t understand their customers well enough. However, social media can influence this by helping companies track online conversations about their brands, competitors, and industry as a whole.
I think social media is another critical way to get a read on what’s being discussed, where different markets are going, and what are some new things they’re going to have to pay attention to.
Zeroing in back on the digital era, Schulman credits the worldwide web in providing businesspeople with more tools that help them build brand awareness and reach customers 24/7. And while both online and traditional advertising has evolved, he says that the main objective hasn’t changed; “you need a strong story that’s told well and that’s based on an understanding of customer needs in the marketplace… The options have exploded, but the core needs haven’t changed that much.”
Schulman echoes the vision of iCharts when he says that “users welcome clean, well-told, visual stories.” Presenting information in both a clear and useful way is especially important with the overload of information that companies face.
There’s so much out there and not enough time to read everything that comes their way, but if you can visually present information in a compelling way, you can help cut through that clutter and get a message out very crisply to the audience.
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