Three Blind Men and an Elephant

Stephen Few, Principal - Perceptual Edge,

Revised January 2012

Business people struggle every day to make sense of data, stumbling blindly, touching only small parts of the information, and coming away with a narrow and fragmented understanding of what it means. Conventional BI tools make it unnecessarily difficult to explore data from multiple perspectives, so analysts tend to pursue only a limited set of predetermined questions. It is simply too time consuming to explore the data thoroughly, allowing fresh discoveries to lead them to comprehensive and free-flowing exploration. Without the ability to examine data from multiple perspectives simultaneously, many of the meaningful relationships that exist in our data will remain hidden.

Good tools can help us increase each of the following:

  • The amount of information that we can compare
  • The range of information that we can compare
  • The different views of the information that we can compare

Dashboards make it easy to shift from one perspective to another while exploring and analyzing data, and pursuing every question that arises during the process. Good visual analysis software, can help us overcome some of these limitations. The goal is to quickly enable as many meaningful comparisons as possible.

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About the author

Stephen Few, Principal - Perceptual Edge