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How to use data visualisation in finance

May 22, 2024

In today's digital age, where data is generated every second and in overwhelming quantities, the need to interpret and understand it quickly has become a fundamental task. And this is where data visualisation or DataViz comes in, transforming mountains of raw information into representations with a clear and understandable visual appearance. 

What is DataViz

Data visualisation, commonly known as "DataViz", is a discipline that focuses on transforming complex information and numerical data into graphical representations that are intuitive and easily understandable. In the information age, where we are surrounded by an overwhelming amount of data (thanks to, among other things, big data), DataViz acts as a bridge between the raw numbers and the stories these numbers want to tell. 

By turning this data into graphs, maps, charts, diagrams and other representations with a certain visual appeal, the task of interpreting and understanding the information is made easier, allowing people to make informed decisions faster and more efficiently.

The rise of DataViz in recent decades is largely due to the growing need for organisations and businesses to understand large data sets. These visualisations not only serve to simplify information, but also help identify trends, patterns and anomalies that may not be obvious to the naked eye. Moreover, in a world where attention is a scarce resource, engaging visual representations can capture and hold the audience's attention, making it easier to communicate and understand complex ideas.

However, DataViz is not just a tool for data experts or analysts. Its application extends to diverse areas, from journalism and education to medicine and science. In essence, any situation that requires the interpretation and presentation of data can benefit from the power of visualisation. By combining design, science and technology, DataViz has revolutionised the way we see and understand the world around us.

Key features and benefits of DataViz

DataViz is not just a data analysis tool, but goes much further. The main features of DataViz are the following:

Interactivity

In the digital age, the ability to interact with information is a valuable feature. Modern data visualisation tools offer a dynamic experience, allowing users to interact with graphs in real time. 

This interactivity facilitates deep exploration of data, allowing users to zoom in to see specific details, filter to focus on certain aspects or even modify parameters to look at different scenarios. This feature not only enriches the user experience, but also encourages more detailed analysis and deeper understanding of the data presented.

Customisation

Each dataset has its own story and each audience has its own needs. Recognising this, DataViz offers extensive customisation capabilities. 

Whether it's adjusting colours and styles to suit a corporate brand or designing visualisations from scratch to address specific questions, customisation ensures that the presentation of data is relevant and meaningful to your target audience. This adaptability ensures that information is presented in the most impactful and relevant way possible.

Clarity

In a world saturated with information, clarity is essential. Good data visualisation turns complex data sets into representations that are intuitive and easy to understand.

By cutting through the noise and focusing on the essentials, DataViz allows viewers to quickly grasp key points and important trends. This clarity not only facilitates understanding, but also saves time and reduces the risk of misunderstanding.

Accurate representation

Completeness and accuracy are fundamental to any data analysis. Visualisations must be an accurate representation of the underlying data, without distortion or bias. 

This means that scales must be appropriate, colours must not be misleading, and there must be no manipulation to fit a preconceived narrative. A faithful representation ensures that decisions are made based on facts and that confidence in the visualisation and the data source remains intact.

Why is data visualisation important?

Data visualisation, or DataViz, has become an essential tool in the financial world. Its applications and contributions in this sector are as follows:

  • Informed decision-making: The ability to visualise financial data clearly and concisely allows decision-makers to quickly understand the situation and act accordingly. Instead of analysing endless spreadsheets, a chart or diagram can show the essential information at a glance.
  • Contextualisation: DataViz allows financial professionals to see data in context. This means they can compare and contrast different data sets, understand historical trends and get a more complete picture of the financial situation.
  • Pattern identification: charts and visualisations allow the identification of patterns and trends that might go unnoticed in traditional numerical analysis. These patterns can be crucial in forecasting market movements or changes in financial behaviour.
  • Improved understanding: data visualisation makes financial information more accessible to those who are not financial experts. This is especially useful in presentations or meetings where financial information needs to be communicated to a wider audience.
  • Predictive analytics: By combining data visualisation with predictive analytics techniques, companies can obtain projections about the future based on historical data and current trends.

DataViz and storytelling

Data Storytelling is the art of communicating information through the combination of data, visualisations and narrative. It goes beyond simply presenting numbers and graphs; it aims to weave a story that gives context, emotions and meaning to that data. 

In the world of finance and business, where data-driven decision making is essential, storytelling can be the key to getting an audience to understand and act on the information presented. And, in this sense, Data Storytelling is a powerful tool in the arsenal of any professional working with data.

And in a data-saturated world, the ability to tell a compelling story can be the difference between being heard and being ignored.

How to implement a data visualisation strategy in your company?

The way to implement Dataviz within an organisation depends on each company, its characteristics, needs, idiosyncrasies and strategy. However, there are a series of steps common to all types of companies:

  • Employee training: Before diving into the world of DataViz, it is crucial that your team has the necessary skills and knowledge. Consider offering workshops or training courses on data visualisation and related tools.
  • Define objectives: What do you want to achieve with your visualisation? Where do you want to go? Whether you are looking to identify trends, communicate results or influence decisions, having a clear objective will guide you in the creation process.
  • Data selection: not all data is relevant for your visualisation. Filter and select only that which is essential to your objective, through big data or other tools, making sure it is accurate and up to date.
  • Design and creation: With the data in hand, it's time to design your visualisation. Think about the best way to represent the information, be it bar charts, line graphs, heat maps, and so on.
  • Interactivity: Interactive visualisations can offer a richer experience, allowing users to explore the data for themselves. Consider adding interactive elements if they are relevant to your objective.
  • Feedback and testing: before releasing your visualisation to the public, get feedback from colleagues or focus groups. Make adjustments based on suggestions and make sure the visualisation is clear and effective.
  • Publication and distribution: Once you are satisfied with your visualisation, it is time to share it. Whether in reports, presentations or online, make sure it reaches your target audience.
  • Monitoring and updating: Data changes and evolves over time. Regularly monitor your visualisation and update it as necessary to reflect the latest information.

Tools for data visualisation

There are different tools that facilitate the work of data visualisation. The most popular are currently the following:

I Tableau: One of the most popular tools for data visualisation, Tableau offers a wide range of options for creating interactive charts and dashboards. Its intuitive interface allows users to drag and drop data to create impressive visualisations in a matter of minutes.

II. Power BI: Microsoft's proprietary tool, Power BI is a robust solution for data visualisation and analysis. It allows companies to visualise and share insights across the organisation, or even embed them in an application or website.

III. QlikView: A visualisation and analysis platform that allows users to create custom visualisations and dashboards. Part of the Qlik product suite, it is notable for its focus on associative visualisation, where data is interrelated and hidden insights are uncovered.

IV. D3.js: D3.js (Data-Driven Documents) is a JavaScript library that allows developers to create highly customisable, dynamic data visualisations directly on the web.

V. Excel: When we think of data visualisation tools, it is impossible not to mention Microsoft Excel, the undisputed titan that has been at the heart of data analytics and presentation for decades. Although it is often associated with spreadsheets and tables, Excel is much more than that: it is a powerful and versatile tool that allows users to create impressive and effective data visualisations.

VI. Embat: at Embat, we have a module to manage your company's cash flow in real time. Thanks to this module, you will be able to view all your company's data related to your cash flows, debt positions and cash flow forecasts.

Conclusions

Data visualisation in finance is not just a trend, but an increasingly imperative need in the modern financial world. By transforming raw data into clear and understandable visualisations, companies and professionals can make more informed decisions, communicate information more effectively and discover valuable insights hidden in their data.

Tomas
Gil
CTO @ Embat
Tomás, with a background in telecommunications engineering, began his career in bank connectivity when he took on the role of CTO at Fintonic Latam, before joining Embat.

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