The world around us spins fast. Ten years ago software vendors had a luxury to make new releases every year. Now, there are companies that deploy new builds to production several times per day. Ten years ago there were phases like development, testing and deployment. Now we have weekly iterations and instant feedback. Products are born, rise and die faster than ever.
This acceleration generates more and more data, C-level people have less and less time to analyze it and make decisions. So today, as never before, companies need tools to extract meaningful information from the data as fast as possible. Information visualization is the fastest way to understand data. Data is useless and information is priceless.
What is information visualization? Many think that information visualization consists of fancy infographics, dashboards, and reports. That is far from true. There are many definitions, but I like this one:
Information visualization utilizes computer graphics and interaction to assist humans in solving problems.
In a nutshell, one should be able to extract the data they want, present it the way they want, and manipulate it right away.
Everything In — Little Out
There are hundreds of project management software tools on the market and most of them are relatively good at one thing — data accumulation. People add projects, tasks, time, events and everything else. In several years, any company can have a solid database with all the records. Unfortunately, all PM tools are quite bad at another important thing — transforming the data into information and presenting it in the most efficient way. It is easy to build software to add things, but it is much harder to build software that visualizes things.
Most software is about this:
There are many screens with lists and a few screens with other information presentation.
However, there are better ways.
General vs. Domain-Specific Visualization Software
Most likely, you have heard about Tableau or GoodData — these tools really shine at information visualization. You can create very complex and clever reports and visualize almost everything. There are many data sources you can connect to, so integration with existing applications is not a huge problem. It looks like the ultimate solution to the information visualization in project management domain as well. We can feed data from the PM tool and see all we need, right? Not exactly.
Let’s take the project management domain and look in depth. We’ll see quite specific activities that any PM tool should support. For example, “I want to track team progress” or “I want to create product roadmaps.” While Tableau may help with the first activity (sort of), it surrenders with the second activity. Tableau has one major flaw — there is no interactivity in visualizations. It means you can’t create roadmaps in a visual way, for example. Moreover, even if you look at a report and see a problem, you want to change things right away, but you have to navigate away from Tableau and do that somehow in a different PM tool. Repeat this process several times and you’ll see how inefficient and annoying it can become.
The solution is a domain-specific visualization software. Project management demands interactive visualizations that are quite targeted and focused on its needs. Software can visualize roadmaps on all levels, but at the same time these roadmaps should be editable, so executives can correct them right away. Software should provide various interactive visualizations, including Timelines, Boards, Lists (yes) and Graphical Reports.
The main idea is to solve common problems people have, but in a visual way: visual planning, visual progress tracking, visual roadmaps creation, visual resource allocations.
Visualization reduces cognitive load, helps to make better decisions and act faster. It plays an important role in businesses and domain-specific visualization software will prevail. It is already happening. For example, Hipmunk is a great service to plan trips and vacations and it shows flight results on a timeline. If you are looking for a software that brings visualization into project management so your organization can spot problems faster, forecast future outcomes, and make smarter overall decisions, look into Targetprocess to help your executives plan, track and complete projects seamlessly and successfully.
About the Author:
Michael Dubakov is the founder and CEO of Targetprocess. He has 14 years of experience in the software development industry and has spent the last 10 years on improving agile project management. Now, his main goal is to bring visualization into project management.