Speaking the language of business intelligence with an Australian accent

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Book Review: Now you see it

Full disclosure: the author provided me with a free, pre-release copy of this book.

NowYouSeeItCover Anyone who has worked with me knows that I am big fan of Stephen Few’s work. I consider Information Dashboard Design compulsory reading for anyone who calls themselves a BI professional. In his new book, Now you see it: Simple visualization techniques for quantitative analysis, Stephen casts a wider net addressing anyone whose job it is to analyze data to discover trends, patterns and exceptions hidden within it.

The book centers around developing the reader’s skills particular to the organization, analysis and interpretation of graphical data. Few continues his quest to help readers harness the power of visual perception by presenting data in such a way that information, and the story behind it, becomes clear. Consider once more the book title and cover art: Now you see it.

The author provides a brief history of the discipline of data visualization, its importance and potential. He breaks down the attributes that make a good analytical data set, the traits of a good analyst and functionality a good analytical software package should support. Once readers are familiar with these concepts they learn how the data, analyst and software are best brought together.

Time is spent explaining how data visualization best practices and techniques can be employed in order to extract maximum value out of the massive amounts of data we find ourselves immersed in these days. Logical explanations and relevant examples are provided showing when to use particular visualizations for specific data in order to achieve maximum analytical value. Whole chapters are dedicated to individual analysis types such as time series, distribution, deviation, correlation among others. Each chapter teaches how to effectively present the data graphically as well as how to recognize, interpret and understand patterns specific to a particular analysis type.

I always enjoy Stephen’s books, I am smarter as a result of reading his work and I like his easy-going writing style. In this book he takes on the role of teacher but I never really felt like I was being “taught”. Like his other books Now you see it is full of relevant, colorful figures, illustrations and diagrams that bring the written content to life.

These days more and more people classify themselves as “analysts” - those who work with data in some way, shape or form to help a business achieve its goals. Now you see it teaches analysts, or any BI professional for that matter, how to take their data visualization and interpretation skills to the next level. Yet another highly recommended book to add to the BI library.

No comments: